The Edgelands Research Sprint 2023 explored the challenges and opportunities of increasing the digitalization of security in Nairobi, Kenya. This 8-week program was carried out in partnership with the Lawyers Hub, a Pan-African digital law and data governance think-tank headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya serving the Global South. The group of 12 individuals who took part in the Sprint were drawn from Journalism, Law and Arts programs, all keen to understand security challenges along with the emerging technologies utilized in surveillance.
We had weekly insightful conversations with global experts discussing the historical and current context of security, coexistence, and surveillance; privatization of security and surveillance in the city; approaches to public security policy in urban spaces; digital surveillance's pivotal role in deterring crime, identifying suspects, and collecting evidence; citizen surveillance, Digital IDs in Africa, and the use of biometrics in surveillance for safety and security and among other topics, the intersection of data, democracy, and digital life.
The Anchoring sessions with experts were followed by a weekly hands-on research program where the young researchers explored the existing security interventions and surveillance in Nairobi County. While working in groups, the individuals received guidance and in-person research assistance from their mentors Victor Ndede and Mercy King’ori, both seasoned researchers in law tech policy.
Research Sprint outcomes
Our Sprint in Nairobi was concluded with two podcast episodes independently curated by the researchers with recording and direction provided by the Lawyers Hub media team. This exercise allowed the Sprint participants to acquire new skills in relaying empirical research through an audio medium, with valuable information that is now accessible to the dwellers of Nairobi County and the Edgelands’ Community.
Titled “Unintended consequences of tech-assisted Surveillance” the first group’s podcast episode comprising Margaret Muga, Dorcas Nyamweya, Magdalene Waithera, Harmony Afandi, Cephas Doc and Ziana Odero discussed the state of security and interventions by law enforcement officers to curb crime. Through a perceptions survey and desktop research, this group delved into the existing security legislation, surveillance technology as a deterrent to crime and the subsequent legal and ethical issues.
The second group including Akinyi Omondi, Ibrahim Oduor, Roselyn Mugo, Waceera Kabando, Justin Okara and Joseph Kiburu explored ‘Digitised Nyumba Kumi’, how community policing in Kenya has leveraged social media.
Nyumba Kumi is a strategy designed for citizens to know their neighbours and is anchored on the premise that citizens know their areas very well, and are indeed able to spot and call out any suspicious or unusual activities in their surroundings. This concept was initiated following terrorist attacks in 2013 and changed how persons who live and work in the city view security. WhatsApp groups and other social media platforms are commonly used in neighbourhoods around the city to monitor, report and intervene in various security challenges, complementing the work of law enforcement.