Can Phones Build Relationships? A Case Study of a Kenyan Wildlife Conservancy’s Community Development

★ Can Phones Build Relationships? A Case Study of a Kenyan Wildlife Conservancy’s Community Development

★ Best Paper Award ★

Authors:
Matt Ziegler (University of Washington)
Morgan Wack (University of Washington)
Nancy Ingutia (Ol Pejeta Conservancy)
Ian Muiruri (Ol Pejeta Conservancy)
Nicholas Njogu (Ol Pejeta Conservancy)
Kennedy Muriithi (Ol Pejeta Conservancy)
William Njoroge (Ol Pejeta Conservancy)
James Long (University of Washington)
Kurtis Heimerl (University of Washington)

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/3378393.3402279

Session: Opening Session

Abstract: Wildlife conservancies across the globe are increasingly recognizing their need to support their surrounding communities to sustainably operate. Rapidly shifting environmental and sociopolitical climates increasingly stress existing resource and service provisions, forcing wildlife conservancies to co-manage with local communities shared resources like water, wildlife, soil, pollinators, and security. This work presents a case study in Laikipia, Kenya on Ol Pejeta Conservancy’s use of text-based technologies to provide services and build relationships with the many widely-dispersed communities on its borders. Through technology deployments, staff interviews, and community focus groups, we investigate a potential role for basic mobile phone services, like SMS and USSD, to help conservancy personnel disseminate accurate and timely information, gather community feedback, address grievances, and improve accountability. Our findings show that communication with locals requires intense and ongoing effort from conservancy staff. Partially successful deployments of phone services provide a proof-of-concept for their utility in community relations but highlight particular design challenges for wildlife conservancies; having critical needs for broad inclusive engagement; clear, deliberate communication; and careful trust-building.