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Vaccination in Kenya has a Fake News Problem; And it is Not Happening Online

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Vaccination in Kenya has a Fake News Problem; And its Not Happening Online
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When you come across the term ‘fake news’, you will most likely think it has something to do with politics. This is because the majority of the research and attention given to fake news has been focused on its use in politics and election campaigns. However, misinformation and disinformation also presents a big challenge in other sectors. Health is one such area that our research shows is also being affected by fake news. However, it does’nt get the mainstream attention afforded to categories like politics.

As the Information Age has evolved in the era of social media, we have seen misinformation in health explode with no system of facts in place to counter the spread of falsehoods. Misinformation to do with health is uniquely delicate in that it completely suffocates the truth in many cases, exposing people to very real physiological danger. The forces behind this brand of fake news includes false advertising pushing products like waist trainers, genitalia enlargement pills, magical weight loss pills and meal replacements. The misinformation is also spread through myths and misconceptions of diseases such as ebola, as witnessed on social media whenever an outbreak occurs. In countries like the U.S, vaccine hesitancy has found a home online with the ‘anti-vaxxer’ movement gaining massive momentum in Facebook groups and other social media channels. ‘Anti-vaxxers’ believe there’s a connection between vaccination and autism, as well as other brain disorders, despite there being no scientific evidence supporting that theory. We have also seen healthcare being caught up in political tugs of war, leading to falsehoods being trumpeted by influential public figures or mainstay institutions like the church. In short, fake news is seriously damaging our health.

This phenomenon has been manifested in Kenya in the area of vaccination. The country has a long history of vaccine hesitancy and distrust, which has been mainly fuelled by the church’s skepticism towards the procedure. A survey carried out by Ipsos in 2014 found:

  • As much as 45% of Kenyan Catholics believe that the tetanus vaccine is being used to depopulate Kenyan populations,
  • While the Catholic Church are the most vocal against vaccines, in other Christian denominations as much as 65% of them also believed the vaccine is a tool for depopulation,
  • 40% of Muslims consider the vaccine to be a depopulation device, with 77% of North Eastern Province residents being in opposition to the vaccine,
  • As a testament to the power of misinformation, education was not a factor influencing people’s beliefs in whether the vaccine is a depopulation mechanism or not.

Most recently, there has been loud public debate and uproar over a national cervical cancer vaccine drive planned by the Kenyan Government and targeted at girls aged 9 to 14 years.

We conducted research around this conversation and other vaccine-oriented conversations in recent history to understand the underlying attitudes towards vaccines among Kenyans. We wanted to trace any misinformation and misconceptions being pushed online around this issue and the forces behind it. Here is what we found:

1. News stories are the trigger of conversations around the vaccine. News coverage sparks Kenyans to share misinformation around vaccines, either innocently or maliciously.

As with any other facet of public health, vaccine drives need to be supplemented by media campaigns in order to get vital information out to the public. However, the opposition to the vaccines, mainly by the Church, tends to make the vaccine drives a news item in themselves.

In our research we identified that there is no active digital anti-vaccination campaign in Kenya. No specific organisation of any kind is actively churning out fake news about vaccines to a specific target audience.

In the absence of an active digital misinformation campaign or news coverage, vaccine misconceptions largely stay under the radar. This rapidly changes whenever a story is published. Sparked by news coverage, anti-vaccine sentiments tend to bubble to the surface and online commentary increases in comment sections on news sites and on social media. From this, we can conclude that the misinformation agent happens offline and the misconceptions appear online.

Mentions across the web for terms associated with vaccinations in December 2018

2. Politicians are emerging as influential misinformation agents about vaccines.

As the government wages a tug of war with the church over vaccines, the debate rapidly becomes political and invites other parties to weigh in on the matter. This is how an influential voice like ODM leader, Raila Odinga ends up holding a press conference to state that the tetanus vaccine led to the sterilization of over 500,000 women. This effectively makes the media a conduit for fake news. The data we collected shows how much conversation Mr.Odinga triggered by making one statement about vaccines.

Key word density graph for comments on news stories about vaccines in 2017

Raila appears prominently in conversations about vaccines from news data gathered, garnering more mentions than even the Church.

Examples of some of the comments we found

Politicians wield large influence over Kenyans and having them actively participate in spreading misinformation about the vaccine could have far-reaching effects. Our research shows that very few politicians so far, have shared views digitally about vaccines. But as with everything in politics, this could change in an instant.

3. Prominent coverage of misinformation agents by mainstream Kenyan media lends credibility to the information and spreads it beyond Kenya’s borders.

Kenya has become a leading case study among anti-vaccination communities around the world. Many have used information reported on mainstream Kenyan media to lend credence to their claims of vaccines as tools of depopulation. Videos of the Raila Odinga press conference on the tetanus vaccine were shared by anti-vaccine sympathisers across the world. The content has been used to create several videos on Youtube, with the most popular having over 93,000 views.

Infowars, the infamous conspiracy theory website founded by Alex Jones, also picked up on these claims and wrote an article and even did an entire video which is also available on YouTube.

4. Several members of the public often make attempts to correct the misconceptions of others that they see in the comment sections of vaccine stories.

In the absence of a proper system of fact checking to counter the vaccine misinformation and misconceptions, we are seeing members of the public trying to correct misconceptions when they encounter them. However, while this is positive, it also runs the risk of misinformation being countered with more misinformation.

Methodology:

Data collection: Historical Keyword data collection off of Twitter to do with terms relevant to vaccines
Facebook: Data collected from Daily Nation, The Star and Standard Facebook pages by mining stories to do with vaccines then collecting the comments in the comment sections.

Time period: 2016–2018

Odipodev is a data analytics and research firm operating out of Nairobi. They can be contacted on team@odipodev.com

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Odipodev is a data analytics and research firm operating out of Nairobi.

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Toa Kitambulisho! Evolution of Registration of Persons in Kenya

Under the Registration of Persons Act (Cap.107), it is a requirement by the law of Kenya that a Kenyan citizen who attains the age of eighteen must have an Identity card facilitated through the Department of National Registration Bureau.

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Kipande

In 1915, the colonial government enacted the Native Registration Ordinance but it was not until 1919 and 1920 that it was implemented. The registration was an instrument to control and regulate the recruitment of African males into colonial labour. It contained a registration certificate and fingerprint of the holder. The Ordinance made it mandatory for all adult males aged 16 and above to be registered. Upon registration, they were issued with registration papers kept in metallic copper containers attached to a chain commonly referred to as “Kipande.” The Kipande was worn around the neck like a dog collar. The Kipande contained the wearer’s tribe, their strengths and weaknesses and comments from his employer on his competence, therefore, determining his pay or whether or not he would be employed.

The government used the Kipande to curtail freedom of Africans and monitor labour supply. It also empowered the police to stop a native anywhere and demand to be shown the document. For Africans, the Kipande was like a badge of slavery and sparked bitter protests.

Passbook

In 1947, the Kipande was replaced by an identity booklet which had fingerprints but not the bearers portrait. A new law, the Registration of Persons Ordinance, was passed to make it mandatory for all male persons of all races of 16 years and above to be registered. But under this new law, the identity cards issued distinguished between the protectorate and non-protectorate persons. Although the Ordinance sought to remove discrimination based on race, it made no attempt to remove gender-based discrimination. The trend continued even after independence until 1978 when an amendment was made to what has become the Registration of Persons Act (Cap 107, Laws of Kenya) to include the registration of women who had attained the age of 16 years and above. A further amendment to the Act was made in 1980 to raise the age of registration from 16 to 18 years.

The first generation Identity Cards

In 1980, legislation was amended to include women and the booklet was replaced by the “First Generation” paper identity card with subtle security features embedded in the new document. The document design contained the bearers portrait and fingerprints. Raphael Musau, who was the officer in charge of National Registration Bureau and driving the whole process, witnessed the handing over of the new generation national identity card to the former president Daniel Arap Moi. In 1977, Raphael Musau was requested by the then vice president Daniel Arap Moi to design a new Kenyan Identity card which was to replace the blue colonial passbook. His first port of call, accompanied by Principal Registrar of Persons, was De La Rue, Company in London who eventually were tasked with making the new design.

The second generation card

The first generation identity card was replaced in 1995 by the smaller credit-card size “Second Generation” card, that was in essence, a laminated paper card. The card includes basic information [name, sex, date and place of birth, date and place of issue] a photo, a signature and an image of one fingerprint.

Plastic card

In 2011, the second generation card, in turn, was upgraded to the present plastic card without fundamentally changing its features. The current generation of IDs therefore date back to 1995, the last time that the population was re-enrolled.

The card includes basic information [name, sex, date and place of birth, date and place of issue] a photo, a signature and an image of one fingerprint. It also includes a sequential 8-digit national ID number (just a sufficient number of digits to cover a population the size of Kenya’s) as well as a 9-digit serial number. The information on the front of the card is machine readable on the back. Since 2007 there have been intentions to move to a “Third Generation” e-ID card with a chip and enhanced security features, but these have not materialized because of financial constraints.


Under the Registration of Persons Act (Cap.107), it is a requirement by the law of Kenya that a Kenyan citizen who attains the age of eighteen must have an Identity card facilitated through the Department of National Registration Bureau.

The National Registration Bureau (NRB) is responsible for collecting biometric and biographic information and issuing National IDs (NIDs). The NRB also operates the Automated Fingerprint Identification System that checks for duplicate or multiple registrations.

The Kenyan NID is mandatory and must be acquired when an individual turns 18, and is issued free of charge. The Kenyan NID does not have an expiration date. Thus far, Kenya has issued 24 million cards, but this total may include duplicates as well as the inactive cards of deceased individuals. There are about 1.2 million new registrations each year. Foreigners who remain in Kenya more than 90 days are required to register as an alien and get an alien registration card.

Every citizen in Kenya not previously registered has to go through the first category which is the initial registration of applying for an identity card. At this stage, no fee is paid to access this service. In Duplicates – resulting from lost, defaced or mutilated cards. National Registration Bureau charges a service fee of Kshs.100 with effect from 16th March 2018 for replacement and change of particulars resulting from a change of name(s) and residence which attracts a fee of Kshs.300 and Kshs 1,000 (depending on the request).

The requirement needs for the first stage of ID application by Kenyan citizens include a birth certificate or baptism certificate, both parents identity cards and copy, two passport size photos and a school leaving certificate.

Huduma Number

On 19th September, 2005, the Head of Public Service appointed an Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on Integration of Population Register Systems (IPRS) in line with the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) recommendation on the fast-tracking of the integration of the registration systems. The Taskforce made several recommendations one of them was the introduction of a unique national number – Personal Identity Number (PIN) for all individuals resident in the country. That the number be assigned at birth for all residents and serve as the control number for all registration systems, Establishment of a National Population Register, containing information of all residents and serve as a central reference for all population registration systems, a central database. Development of nationwide ICT infrastructure backbone to link government agencies for purpose of information sharing and verification.


According to  
Kenya Law Reform Commission, the recommendations of this taskforce formed the basis for the formation of the Integrated Population Register System (IPRS) to serve as the single source of truth for the population data in the country. Although IPRS was a good step towards the integration of population data, it was limited in capacity since it only consolidated data from primary population registration agencies, these being Civil Registration Department (CRD), National Registration Bureau (NRB) and Department of Immigration Services (DIS), which are established by different legal regimes. Further, IPRS did not seek to validate the information received from primary agencies by getting information from the source, Kenyans. There were a number of shortcomings of IPRS hence the Government took up the challenge. In order to improve and build upon the progress made by IPRS, the Government initiated the  National Integrated Identity Management system ( NIIMS) programme under Executive Order No. 1 of 2018. NIIMS was subsequently approved by the National Assembly vide the Statute (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act, No 19 of 2018.

The purpose of NIIMS project is to create and manage a central master population database, which will be the ‘single source of truth’ on a person’s identity since it will contain information of all Kenyan citizens and foreign nationals residing in Kenya and will serve as a reference point for personal data for Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and other approved stakeholders. NIIMS involves registration of all Kenyans both locally and abroad and also all foreign nationals who live in Kenya. Upon registration, the enrolled persons will be issued with a unique identification number referred to as Huduma Namba and later a multi-purpose card referred to as Huduma card, which will substitute the current inefficient identity cards. The Huduma Namba, being a unique identification number, will be used to identify all persons in the country and thus will be used while accessing government services and identification both by government and the private sector. It will waive the need for issuance of multiple registrations of the same person and will be used from cradle to death. NIIMS will be the single source of foundational data about a person and all government agencies will tap into it. The Huduma card will contain the integrated personal and foundational data of the cardholder. The mass registration for Huduma Namba began in March 14th 2019.

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Kenya’s Ticking Debt Time Bomb

Fellow Kenyans, it will take CS Rotich approximately 1 and a half hours to read the #BudgetKE2019 speech. In that time alone, Kenya’s debt will have accrued an interest of Kshs.62,737,200

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Kenya's Ticking Debt Bomb
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Fellow Kenyans, it will take CS Rotich approximately 1 and a half hours to read the speech. In that time alone, Kenya’s debt will have accrued an interest of Kshs.62,737,200.

See the Debt Clock

Odipodev is a data analytics and research firm operating out of Nairobi. They can be contacted on team@odipodev.com

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Nairobi Commuter Train System: In the Shadows of the Lunatic Express

Whether true not, the demand for commuter trains in the country is ballooning and to think that Nairobians religiously use the commuter trains to and from work is refreshing.

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Nairobi Commuter Train System: Is the Government Doing Enough?
Photo: Flickr/yusunkwon
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In March 2018, social media in Kenya was awash with images of old rickety Spanish trains that the Kenyan government was allegedly planning to buy at a rough estimate of between Sh71 million and Sh137 million per train to supplement the need for the Nairobi commuter train demand.

According to a media report, the Kenyan government was planning to import at least 11 diesel multiple units (DMU) of trains from Spain, with some as old as 25 years. The Transport Secretary, Esther Koimett, however, refuted the claims while sharing images on Twitter of what she said were the actual DMUs that government is planning on shipping to minimise the traffic congestion in the city.

“These are the actual DMUs we are getting. Cost for the 11 DMUs is Sh1.5 billion NOT Sh10 billion. They should serve us for another 20-25 years,” said Ms Koimett.

Whether true or not, the demand for commuter trains in the country is ballooning and that Nairobians religiously use the commuter trains to and from work is revealing. In March for instance, tens of thousands of commuters were heavily inconvenienced due to delays on the Nairobi commuter railway service (NCRS) schedule caused by the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron in the country.

“Dear customers, please note that the evening commuter train services will tomorrow (13/03/2019) experience delays. Syokimau 1 will depart at 1845 hours while Embakasi train will leave at 1900 hours. The other evening trains will run as scheduled,” read a notice by the Kenya Railway Corporation (KRC).

It was on the same day that the French President was conducting a station tour of the Nairobi Central Railway Station off Haile Selassie Avenue with commitment of funding the proposed development of a commuter rail service to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. This is aimed at decongesting the city as well as reducing the time taken between the central business district (CBD) and the airport.

The proposed JKIA commuter rail service, which is set to be completed by 2021 is part of a Sh340 billion public and private infrastructure trade deal between Kenya and France.

The Transport Ministry documents that over 13,000 Nairobians use the Nairobi Commuter Rail Service (NCRS), which was unveiled last December, every day. The NCRS is part of the Nairobi Metropolitan Transport Master Plan, which aims at decongesting the city.

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) on the other hand keeps the data of revenues collected from ticket sales. It, however, does not report the number of travellers who use the NCRS in a day.

The data below shows the amount of money in millions that KRA collected from NCRS in terms of number of tickets sold in the period 2013 – 2016.

The NCRS operates 20 trips every day as shown in the below schedule, with average fare costs of between Sh30-Sh60. The Nairobi Transport executive Mohamed Dagane said in an interview last December that the commuter trains move over 40,000 different people daily contradicting reports by the Ministry of Transport.

“When the full complement is in they will enable us to transport around 132,000 people a day compared to the 13,000 we do today,” said Ms Koimett.

KRC in December said the NCRS project dubbed Nairobi Railway City (NRC) was part of its efforts to decongest the city roads. It is co-funded by the government and the World Bank.

To this effect, 10 new stations were to be completed to facilitate the plan. The Dandora, Mwiki, Githurai, Kahawa, and Ruiru were among the new stations. They complement the existing ones – Kibera, Imara Daima, Syokimau, and Makadara.

But the commuter train services in Nairobi are not a new thing. The services were introduced in the 1980s to provide a low-cost public transport alternative to the urban poor in the city, following the crippling economic inflation the country was experiencing at the time.

The long-distance passenger services had also been in operation between  Nairobi and Mombasa, as well as to  Kisumu, since the railway service went into operation in 1903 and as a result, the Kenya  Railways Corporation did not therefore have to acquire any new passenger wagons for the new services.

Despite the addition of the new wagons, the capacity is still limited as more and more Kenyans choose the trains over matatus, mainly because of time constraints and convenience away from the public service madness on the Kenyan roads.

Commuting to the city centre by train is much faster than by road, and more affordable. The trains carry sitting as well as standing passengers, with some hanging at the doors, and the more daring riding on the roof especially for passengers plying the Kibera route.

Most of the new stations constructed in the 2000s contain parking facilities allowing personal vehicle owners access to the stations.

Commuter train schedule

The commuter trains operate on weekdays twice during rush hours in the morning and evening. Some routes like the Nairobi – Syokimau also have afternoon services.

The service is not available on weekends, public holidays,  and during certain times of the day mostly non-peak periods.

The train picks up commuters at designated stops and takes approximately 20-30 minutes between stations. This includes a stoppage of two minutes at halts to pick up or drop commuters.

The current commuter rail network is so dilapidated that the average speed on some sections is as low as 15 kilometres per hour due to broken rails, unstable tracks and insufficient ballast.

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