After last Tuesday’s class, where we talked about the importance of social media in dangerous or stressful circumstances, I started to think about how social media, especially Twitter, has made our lives easier. I specifically thought about my home country, Venezuela, and all other developing countries. Did you know that social media networking is growing faster in developing countries than in developed ones? This is happening despite the fact that the developing world has less access to the internet, which means that whenever someone from these countries has the possibility to go online, they will use that access to be in the social media. But, why? What is it that developing countries have that makes it so important to their people to use social media?
As I went online to search for reasons, I found the example of Kenya. Local Kenyans use Twitter to track and control crime. Through a SMS platform, workers and their chiefs are able to publish any information or request relevant to the Kenyans. A local Kenyan didn’t know anything about Twitter until her cow disappeared one evening. She was suggested to use the platform and her cow was found within 30 minutes of sending the tweet. In a country where the value of a cow and crops is much higher than in other countries, social media has become more and more valuable.
For those countries whose media is strictly controlled by the government, Twitter has become their main source of news and freedom of speech. As I said last week in class, Venezuela represents a perfect example. In Venezuela, there only exists one channel that is openly in opposition to the government. It is the only channel that shows news as they really are. Nevertheless, it has been constantly threatened with the annulation of its operating license. Thus, even if they are the voice of the opposition, its news are self-regulated in fear of losing their TV spot. Consequently, Venezuelans use Twitter to voice their concerns and to let other know what is actually happening in the country. Twitter’s value in Venezuela comes from the window it offers to Venezuelans to see reality as it is.
In Caracas, the capital city of Venezuela, Twitter usage is extremely important for every Venezuelan also when they are about to hop into their cars to commute to their jobs, schools, or other places they have to go. Several twitter accounts have been usefully created to advice drivers which is the fastest route, or which streets to avoid. It has also been a good way to announce any type of accident that requires immediate help, because police stations and hospital constantly check these twitter accounts.
Social media, especially Twitter, has served as a tool to fix or cover the faults many developing countries have. I guess that is the primary reason why social media is growing so fast and why we have countries like Venezuela ranking among the countries with most Twitter and Facebook users. I am aware that some of these examples of Twitter usage are also seen in developed countries. However, the importance these have on developing societies is that they are vital, and cannot be replaced with anything else.
Do you know of any other example? What are your thoughts?