January 26, 2012
The key role of Twitter in the people’s revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia a year ago is well documented. Young people embraced the immediacy and freedom of the new social networking system to escape the constraints of censorship and the security apparatus, to organise and communicate.
The vital part that Twitter played in bringing down these autocratic regimes is already being widely studied. But it has rather obscured the explosion in its use across the rest of Africa.
For Twitter is, by no means, the exclusive tool of political activists in North Africa. It has been adopted enthusiastically by young people right across the continent who are adapting it for their own far more varied daily needs.
These are the findings of the first ever attempt to map comprehensively Twitter traffic across Africa. They are part of a revolution which poses challenges not just for Governments who want a dialogue with their citizens or for businesses who want to talk to their consumers but to everyone for whom communication is important.
Twitter, which started in the United States, may have been in existence for less than six years but it has swept the globe. Over 300 million people took the opportunity last year to use their smart phones or computers to post and read short messages or “Tweets” every day. One in three does so every day, sending over 250 million Tweets – a number increasingly daily.