Even though 50% of Kenyans own cellular phones, many Kibera residents cannot afford them. Oral communication networks primarily rule the Kibera society, even with SMS use increasing among youth. Logistical communications for such things as CFK soccer practices are primarily delivered verbally from coaches to youth coordinators who will then pass on messages to players and siblings for delivery to parents. Kiberans often borrow the phones of friends and neighbors and give out that number as if it was their own requiring the cell phone owner to verbally deliver the message, which most are more than happy to do. Even as mobile phone use in Kenya continues to increase rapidly, there seems to be no substitute for old fashioned word-of-mouth communication – especially in a community like Kibera.
While cell phones are becoming more commonplace in Kibera, there is never a guarantee that a person you need to contact a) has a phone b) has the phone with them and c) has credit to use on the phone. Therefore, if you need to speak to someone in Kibera, you often have to go on a wild goose chase. During my time in Kibera, I took many long and exciting journeys trying to find one person or another, just to ask a simple but important question. While Kibera occupies an area of about one square mile, I sometimes ended up walking miles and miles through back pathways only to never find a person and have to wait until the next day. Because Kibera is such a dynamic community, a person you want to speak to could be at their place, or at their sister’ s place, or at their friend’ s place, or at the store, or at work, or at a soccer match, or at the school, or...you get the idea. In our world, in America, a person is always just a phone call, an email, a facebook message, or a tweet away. But this is not the case in Kibera and it can be extremely frustrating at times. Despite this, I often found that having to search for someone made an interaction more personal and even more worthwhile.