Mobilisation and Reinforcement: Assessing Modalities of Internet Use in Kenyan Politics
Nyabuga, George Morara
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This ,study assesses modalities of Internet use in Kenyan politics. Holding that the . Internet has significant political potential, this study however argues that its political uses and effects vary from individual to individual, state to state, institution to institution, and hence its consequences are not homogenous. Even then, this thesis argues that whilst the Web can mobilise or stimulate political interest and engagement, it can also reinforce existing political structures and behaviour. The ambivalence notwithstanding, Web use is largely 'neutral' meaning that the utility accruing from Internet usage depends on individual or institutional rather than' collective modes of use. This thesis also argues that whereas there is a vast body of literature detailing the political applications and implications of the Internet, most of these concentrate on Western countries where diffusion and use are widespread. By comparison, the political uses and possibilities of the Internet in Third World countries, particularly Africa, are minimal, albeit growing. Using Kenya as a case study, this inquiry tests the ,validity of mobilisation and reinforcement theories suggesting that the Internet has the capacity to mobilise and stimulate political activity, or that it can reinforce and even exacerbate, existing political structures respectively. In particular, it focuses on four key political themes: political commuriication, political efficiency, political participation, and political accountability. It argues that despite limited Internet penetration in Kenya, political actors - the government, political parties, civil society and 'ordinary' citizens - are using the Internet for political purposes even though not always directly. In this respect, this thesis contends that the Internet cannot work in isolation, and, in most instances, it mostly complements 'older' media. In essence, the Internet remediates or refashions traditional media and should therefore not be seen as a replacement for establishÃ‚Â¢ media.