WhatsApp as 'digital publics': the Nakuru Analysts and the evolution of participation in county governance in Kenya
The growth and penetration of the internet in Africa, coupled with the popularity and ubiquity of the mobile phone, have positioned social media platforms as new spaces through which Kenyans organize and imagine political discourse and action. This article highlights the varied roles played by a WhatsApp group in Kenya's Nakuru County in convening citizens for political discussion and collective action around County government affairs. In the context of political and economic devolution in Nakuru County, this article shows how Nakuru Analysts (NA), a Nakuru based WhatsApp group, uses the platform to convene citizens and elected county authorities in one digital space. Although not exceptionally unique as a political WhatsApp group in Kenya, this article argues that what marks out NA for scrutiny as a digital public is not merely how it is constituted, or how voice is deployed to shape local political agendas, but largely on how it mobilizes around grassroots politics - where online discourse shifts to offline collective action. In the process, this analysis reveals the complex ways through which digital publics develop and nourish unique forms of 'political personhood' in the Counties.