Media Pyramids, Information Warfare & Digital Elections


That's hello in Hausa.

Welcome to August's first edition of The Letter N, which we plan to have delivered to your inbox with more consistency than the unpredictably temperamental weather we've had in Nairobi so far this month.

To kick us off, we did some research on Kenya's #WeAre52pc movement and I remain in awe of it. Women solidified a hashtag to hold government and power to account for implementing the two-thirds gender rule in Kenya. Of the one's I've seen recently, this post in Awaaz Magazine is a good place to get clued in on the backstory.

Google Station, over 200 Wi-Fi hotspots across Nigeria, launched last week. High-speed access in public parks, markets, bus stations across five cities. Other announcements included Google Go which will also now read web pages out loud to web browsers, YouTube Go will allow downloaded videos to be viewed in the gallery offline on phones.

If you're not already building (or rebuilding) your mobile app for Google's low-end “Go” version of its Android operating system, now's the time to make plans for that. Consider it the equivalent of Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and Twitter's Lite variants found on the Google Play Store.

If you're reading this from somewhere on the continent, you've probably used USSD (think of the *100# commands that you dial on your phone). These are used to transfer money from your bank, check your airtime or data balance, purchase minutes, megabytes, and more. Quartz published a look at the unique position this 20-year-old mobile technology has on the continent and why, with some great insights and background in this piece by Africa's Talking's own Wiza Jalakasi.

Hopefully, those links have whetted your appetite for what's on the tasting menu:

What to Sip (<30 sec read)


Strategic communications planning considers context, channel effects, historical profitability, and numerous other criteria beyond target audience, cost, reach and frequency when developing a communication and investment plan.

In part four of a series on the Media Pyramid, Faris Yakob explores how marketers, organisations and brands can communicate more effectively, as broken down in this pyramid. I can't wait to do a Kenyan version, let me know if you have any suggestions or want to collaborate on that.

  • RED (INFO-TOXIC-ATION): Media that brokers in falsehoods and divisive speech should be avoided.
  • ORANGE: Media that is passively grazed for long periods, through a single algorithmic or broadcast stream.
  • YELLOW: Direct marketing [personal communication] and broadcast television work together.
  • BLUE: Media in which one chooses specific content to consume or is otherwise actively engaged in the content.
  • BROWN: Media which increases our moral and intellectual capabilities.
  • GREEN: Media in which we seek our best selves.


What to Nibble (<5 min read)

A sobering read from Wired on what they call The Information War, framed in the context of online meddling by Russian troll farms and similar entities. This is an information war, writes Renee Diserta, and the adversaries will evolve. This “is one of the defining threats of our generation, [and] social media platforms cannot, and should not, be the sole defenders of democracy and public discourse.”

In Kenya, there's been a lot of talk of SIM swapping and identity theft among the telecoms companies. The conversation shifted for me with an unconfirmed Twitter thread that suggested that what the Department of Criminal Investigation had come across was a click farm. Whether the information is for identity theft of information warfare, a room full of SIM cards, connected devices is part of a new assault in our attention-deficient and information-hungry world.

What to Bite (<20 min read)

A report published by the Tactical Tech Collective, researched and written by Grace Mutung'u examines how data and digital technologies were used in Kenyan politics in 2017 makes for fascinating reading, the overview of which can be seen here, with the full report also available as a PDF.

This section of the selected findings especially stands out:In a shift from the 2013 election, data-driven election campaigning in 2017 evolved from broader demographic targeting to more personalised approaches.

  • Closed groups on messaging platforms such as Telegram and WhatsApp were a significant feature in 2017 and ranged from groups for core supporters, where political content and logistics were coordinated, to groups where people were added by supporters – often times without their consent.
  • Targeted advertising on social media and search platforms was deployed by parties and candidates in a move to diversify away from traditional media strategies, such as billboards, radio, television and newspapers.
  • Professional digital election campaign consultants were used by all sides during the election and ranged from international firms such as Cambridge Analytica (UK), Aristotle, Inc. and Harris Media (USA) to national media and communications consultants and social media influencers. They provided services ranging from negative campaigning to creating and spreading viral content, hashtags and memes to selected groups of supporters and voters.


The folks at Avandu — a Nairobi-based collective that focuses on games, comics and animation — just launched Rovik in partnership with Movie Jabber. Set in the Star Wars universe Rovik is a fresh Kenyan chapter to the long-running space saga, and you can read the comic here.

From one example of creative, groundbreaking Kenyan work to another — this time Too Early For Birds as featured by Nieman Lab.

This piece looks back at the production's origins on Owaahh's blog and the challenges, growth and reception since culminating in Brazen, the most recent shows that were once again a huge success.

My wife and I attended Brazen and a couple of the previous shows (with the exception of the StoryMoja one, for the diehard readers who might write to me saying “I never saw you there...”). I find the production entertaining, provocative and immersive theatre. Highly recommend it if you've never been and will give the caveat that it is far from family-friendly, so expect cursing and suggestive themes in the show.

I try to end with some call to action, so if you want to wrestle your data back from all the places it rests or find out your digital footprint, try Tactical Tech Collective's 8-day data detox.

As always, I'm at your service (though I'll admit I've been behind on my email of late) but appreciate all feedback and whatever way you can share this newsletter. In case you didn't know, we republish this on Twitter as a thread and on our Facebook Page as a Note and here on our blog, so you can always search and share via email or otherwise. Tell a friend.

Let me know if there's something this sparks and whatever's on your mind. The team and I are all ears and we appreciate the feedback we get back.

Until next time,

Mark & Team Nendo.

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