Interview: The State of Urban Planning in Nairobi Creating vibrant urban communities in large cities: Kilimani Project Foundation Placemaking Week: Can Nairobi create “Places’ out of ‘Spaces’? Nairobi City: Moving Backwards in Mobility and Access? NTV Kenya Documentary on Nairobi Transport Upper Hill, Nairobi: Growing as Africa’s Financial Capital! African Cities, Please Change the Narrative on Non Motorized Transit! Likoni Cable Express Line: Transforming Coastal Mobility The Nairobi Pedestrian: An Unwanted Species Blog Awards: Vote for #MjiWetu: Mixed Land Use is not Random Land Use #MjiWetu: Do Walls improve the Security of our City? Nairobi: Mixed Use Zones are Redefining the City Is Nairobi Central Business District DEAD? Nairobi, Kenya, faces a Growing Challenge of Noise Pollution Kenya: Teaching Public Service Drivers First Aid and Safety Any Future for Nairobi’s Dandora Dump Site? Nairobi, Kenya: No BRT due to Poor Planning? Nairobi and the 100 Resilient Cities Programme Nairobi’s Long Rains: A failure in Urban Resilience? Intern at The Global Grid Participation: Using Social Media in the Urban Planning process Nairobi Public Spaces: Viable or open for Grabbing? Kenyan Blog Awards: Blog Needs your Vote! Nairobi: How can buses help decongest? Public vs Private Urban Housing, what direction for Nairobi, Kenya? Aerial Cable Transit: Urban Gondolas for African Cities? How Sustainable are the emerging Private Cities around Nairobi, Kenya? Urban October: Public Spaces for All Nairobi’s Tom Mboya Street: User Friendly or Not? Countering the Increasing Energy Consumption in Growing Cities Kenya: Two Railway Lines Running Parallel on Different Gauges Mi Teleférico: Worlds Highest Cable Car Transports over 42,000 people daily Cable Cars: Introducing the Likoni ‘Air-Line’ in Mombasa, Kenya Planners: Does Security in Urban Centres begin with you? Moving Urban Dwellers through the Air to alleviate Traffic Congestion When the call to drive at 30 kph in Nairobi, Kenya is necessary! Land use management in Nairobi, Kenya is key to reducing congestion. Nairobi, Kenya: Neglect of NMT makes it less safe, less convenient and less attractive. Nairobi, Kenya aims at Regularizing Unauthorized Structures How can Nairobi, Kenya deal with its ‘Buildings of Death’ ? Harmonizing Initiatives: Nairobi, Kenya works towards developing an NMT Policy

Participation: Using Social Media in the Urban Planning process


Bio: Constant Cap has a Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Nairobi, Kenya. He holds an undergraduate degree from the same university. He writes about urban planning issues online and in local dailies. Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya he passionate about the planning issues facing African Cities. He has a deep interest in sustainable transportation, urban resilience and new urbanism. He is also a Graduate Member of the Town and County Planners Association of Kenya. He has previously worked at the Strathmore University Advancement Office. He currently works as the Executive Director of Kilimani Project Foundation.

Nomination-Badge-BAKE-Awards-2016The role played by communication and participation in urban planning cannot be underestimated. Without proper communication to various stakeholders, plans and projects can easily fall prey to misunderstandings or be swayed by opponents and selfish interest groups. This predicament has been witnessed worldwide in various transportation, housing development and even urban renewal projects.

As a result, planners have to find tactful ways of engaging stakeholders in different spheres when coming up with various development plans.

The impact that social media has on society cannot be overlooked when considering the modern urban life context. Politicians, mainstream media and even educational institutions have not been left behind in using social media to develop and drive their message, and to engage stakeholders. Urban planners have to keep up as well.  

A recent IBM report on smart cities indicated that the spectacular growth of social media has also increased expectations related to transparency and the right to participate in the policy-making process. As a result of this, leading cities in the world are already tapping into social media to obtain data from citizens. A good example is Coventry, where the application CovJAm  obtains and shares real time information on mobility. Users can share their views, make suggestions as well as help planners understand the mood of the moment. In Nairobi, Kenya, traffic forecasts and real time traffic situations are regularly shared via the Twitter handle @ma3route (ma3 being short form for a local public minibus ‘matatu’). In the UK, @riotcleanup attracted several followers and volunteers in a drive to clean up cities that were affected by the London riots in 2011.

Various tools in social media have already been utilized towards ensuring more public participation in urban development. In Nairobi, Kenya, virtually every neighborhood association has a ‘WhatsApp group’ where matters of security, garbage collection and urban services are discussed. This has also helped neighbours get to know each other. Interestingly, it is the need to resolve various ‘problems’ that often brings urban residents together faster.

Although the biggest advantage derived from social media data is that it is real time and provides an impression of the ‘mood of the moment, this does not preclude social media data from being applied to long term planning. Recent research at Carnegie Mellon University indicates that when combined with new kinds of analytics tools, geotagged social media data, will, in a cheap, scalable, and insightful manner, let urban planners and other professionals explore how people actually use a city. . Such data can be used for mapping Socioeconomic Status, Quality of Life, Mobility and to identify known “Design Patterns� for Cities. These initiatives attempt to utilize current social media data and convert it into a spatial form that can be used to understand city trends.

Ben Berkowitz, CEO of (an application that allows citizens to play an integral role in service provision) states that they had over 2,000,000 issues reported since 2008 and about 60% of them have been fixed; ranging from potholes, broken sidewalks and even lost pets. Residents in Nairobi have likewise established the ‘’ communications platform that has similar goals where they can report matters concerning municipal service provision and maintenance within urban wards. This promotes ‘tactical urbanism’, which is a strategy that aims at getting community- driven short term projects completed as soon as possible while working towards a future urban vision.

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It is said that the main characteristics of a smarter social media city are: engaging, transparent, nimble and secure. With the correct tools, increased web presence in cities globally and use of social media by residents can be utilized to and enhance participation, research, communication, urban planning and sharing of ideas. However, social media also poses the danger of non-representative data as usage tends to be by selective groups (based on age and social status).

In what other ways can web based technologies be used to achieve closer service provision and urban development? Have you used any web based or social media tools for planning in your city?


Credits: Image by Constant Cap, Bake; Video and Data linked to cources.


  1. So true. The power of social media in driving an agenda for positive change with regards to urban planning cannot just be underestimated. Indeed the social media has the power to shape opinions and the influence it has can be so instrumental in driving these changes. We have a choice to be agents of change across all social media platforms we find ourselves in.

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2016 African City Planner