Twitter in Developing Countries

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.

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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?

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9 thoughts on “Twitter in Developing Countries

  1. I really liked your blog post. The use of that chart added a ton of credibility as well as information to your post. I also really like how this is a pertinent issue to you, involving the country you grew up in, and you are able to see first hand the effect it has had on your country. With all social media that isn’t necessarily coming from a reliable source, there is always the issue of credibility. And as we saw yesterday, even the Associated Press Twitter got hacked and reported that the White House had been bombed. Last week, there were numerous false reports that arose from Twitter in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, including but not limited to misidentification of suspects as well as victims. As you demonstrated, Twitter can be a valuable source for gaining firsthand insight to the news within a country where the news is government regulated, but always needs to be taken with a grain of salt and questioned.

  2. We always talk in class or among our friends how technology is impacting modern society. But mostly, we talk about how it affects our lives and the way we use technology. We never stop to think of Twitter possibly being used to track down a lost cow, or even helping the governmental opposition in Venezuela have their voice heard. We use Twitter and Facebook to brag about ourselves or complain about the happenings of our day. Because of this, I am not actually surprised that social media usage is growing faster in developing countries, because it is used more vitally for them. Some people in developed countries find that it just isn’t worth their valuable time. But when it could impact your well-being, it certainly means a lot more to you. Nice post!

  3. It is really a good experience reading your blog, it really expresses ideas in your perspective as you talk about your own country and personal experiences. One thing i found interesting is that India and China, two most populated country don’t have that many twitter population. I know that China has its own “twitter” called “weibo”, just like their own version of Facebook. India somehow banned Twitter because people use it to spread scare-mongering material that threatened national security. Then going back to the situation in Venezuela, I wonder why the government don’t ban the Twitter and allow oppositions to spread ideas on it?

    PS. you can implement youtube video directly in the blog, by going back and click edit which is below the BLOG TITLE. :)

  4. It was great to read a blog post about something so relevant to your life and your home country. As allanbronzo said above, we tend to think about how social media affects our own lives; however, there are really so many different ways that social media is impacting society. Your post really helped show how Twitter can be used all around the world for different purposes. Yechenvitor interestingly pointed out that India and China, the two most populated countries, don’t have a large Twitter population. I wonder if this number will increase, and increase drastically, as individuals start to learn about the benefits of social media–particularly in developing countries. Also, do you know why Venezuela doesn’t ban Twitter? I was curious about this as well.

  5. I always thought of twitter as a site for fans to follow celebrity such as Justin Beiber tweeting things like “I love lamp”. I never really thought much of the use of Twitter until the explosions in Boston and your interesting blogpost. I liked how you related a topic we learned in class to something personal and then expanded through the use of examples of Kenya and Venezuela. Social media is such a power tool because it connects everyone, but I never really thought of twitter as that powerful of a tool just because information streams so quickly that I always find it overwhelming. After reading your blog I wonder how many people in Kenya have access to twitter. Is it a communal computer that the town share? Or does everyone have a netbook? I think with the introduction of the raspberry Pi more and more villages will be able to afford laptops so we will see an increase of people on social media. I wonder if at the time, the government will be more hesitant of social media and ban it like they did in India.

  6. Awesome post! I never really thought about how twitter would be used in developing countries until I read your blog. My personal twitter feed is filled with nonsense most of the time. Besides from the sometimes breaking news that takes over my twitter, I rarely use it for practical uses. I found it amazing how the Kenyan officer used twitter and SMS in order to contact all his followers when necessary. After watching the video and reading your post, I could see how Twitter could be used in many other developing countries in similar fashions. In the case of Venezuela, why is it that the government cannot ban twitter? If they didn’t want information to spread, banning twitter would be necessary. In the U.S., we have seen how even false information has spread so quickly. Twitter is definitely a good source of information, however, as we discussed in class, the public needs to be aware that anything can be posted, even if it is completely false. In the case of the AP tweet about the White House and Obama, the stock market dropped and it could have created wide-spread panic.

  7. This is a very interesting topic that you blogged about this week. It is weird to think that much of the twitter usage in the US is to do mindless things like follow Justin Beiber and his “I love lamp” posts, whereas in other countries the platforms is being used to assist the police or help a commuter get to work faster. Despite how we may be more developed, these developing countries seem to be much smarter than us in that they are actually using twitter as a platform to do extreme amounts of good, while we use it as a source of entertainment. This is not entirely true considering that twitter helped in so many ways in how the boston marathon was handled and leading to the eventual capture of the suspects. This article did a great job of highlighting a ingenius way that developing countries are able to use a free resource to make their lives easier. I cannot imagine this helps twitter too much though because they have to run the servers to make this platform available to these developing countries, and the people in these countries must not be the consumers I think twitter is able to make their money off of through promotional tweets.

  8. Nice post! I am actually an international studies major myself and I am actually really interested in developing countries myself! This is a great example of social media in developing countries. I also just recently did a project on social media in the Arab Spring, and this is another good example of how people use social media to escape oppression. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Once again, we are shown another way that social media can be useful in the world. Yes, we talked about how Twitter was used during the recent tragedies that hit Boston, but there are still more ways that it can be used for. Simple things like traffic and lost items can easily be tracked on Twitter by different twitter accounts, and there are millions of other things as well. Just like many other commenters, I was surprised at the fact that Twitter was increasing at a higher rate in developing countries rather than developed countries. I also think it is smart to use Twitter and other forms of social media in a place like Venezuela because it is free!!!

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