SIMElab hosts second annual International Symposium on Social Media

By Prof. Patrick Wamuyu

Last week, SIMElab Africa held a two-day international symposium on social media, held on Wednesday, November 4, 2020 to Thursday, November 5, 2020.

The theme of the conference was Social Media Consumption: Advances in global social media landscape: Trends and newly emerging narratives. The two-day event saw participants take part in keynote addresses, academic paper presentations, a demo of social media data analytics and panel discussions.

The session was opened with an address from the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Paul Zeleza, who noted that the Symposium was a representation of one of USIU-Africa’s key hallmarks, quality research.

“This symposium is proof that USIU-Africa is committed to its mission of providing lifelong learning by encouraging both our faculty and students alike to take part in the production of innovative research. This participation in research helps us to gain new skills, meet others with similar interests and engage in the University’s intellectual culture, “he said.

Also present at the launch was the Press Attaché, US Embassy, Nairobi, Ms. Emily Fertik, who highlighted the growth of new social media platforms during the pandemic, which formed critical areas of study, as social media use continues to grow even further, as the pandemic continues to last.

“With the emergence of COVID-19, we have seen the rise of Zoom and Microsoft Teams, and it will be fascinating to see whether they continue playing an important role in Kenya,” she said.

“What would be even more interesting to know is whether the continued use of social media during the pandemic has made people more susceptible to fake news. It would also be interesting to note how the world is adapting to the use of previously unknown platforms, like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, “she added.

One of the interesting presentations was by Dr. Bukola Onashoga, who presented a paper on the Security and Privacy trends on Social Networks. In her paper, she explored various cyber security threats, noting that due to the pandemic, many more people were reporting cyber security attacks.

“With the pandemic raging on, more and more people are turning to the internet to seek information about COVID-19. Cyber criminals are taking advantage of this in many ways, chiefly through developing of malicious applications that harvest your information unknowingly,” she said.

“Many networks are being compromised, especially through phishing and ransomware attacks. The only way to prevent these attacks is by being vigilant, because there is no single solution to fight cyber threats,” she added.

Other speakers during the course of the two-day event included Caroline Jerotich Kimutai??, Managing Editor – Digital, The Standard Group PLC, Dr. Aparna Pavani Siddhabattula, Assistant Professor at K.L. University, Parvathipuram, Andhra Pradesh, India, Martin Mwegi Magero, ICT Technical Trainer in Kajiado West Technical and Vocational College, Anastacia Cheruiyot, Program Officer - Agribusiness Development, African Women in Agribusiness Network (AWAN) – Africa and Dr. M. S. Narayana, Professor of Management, K L University, India.

The first day of the symposium had four paper presentations, and a panel discussion on “Building Brand Awareness on Social Media: Effective Social Media Marketing Strategies” and the panelist were Mina Okuru Addico, Communications Manager, Ghanaian-German Centre for Jobs, Migration and Reintegration, Ghana and Jignesh Thakkar, Social Media Strategist at KrishaWeb, India. The moderator was Caroline Khamala Digital Communication Specialist and Public Relations Practitioner in Nairobi. Day one ended with a social media data analytics and insights demo, facilitated by Kelvin Jonck, Managing Director YOUKNOW Digital, South Africa.

The second day of the symposium had three paper presentations, and a panel discussion. The panel discussion was on “Stigma and Stereotypes on Social Media: Use of social media to cause emotional pain, stigmatize people and reinforce stereotypes” and the panelists were Dr. Leah Jerop Komen, Deputy Director, Directorate of Research & Postgraduate Studies Daystar University, Dr. Charity Waithima, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Coordinator of Doctor of Psychology Program and Philip Ogolla, founder Digital Humanitarian. The afternoon session had five paper presentations.

The Social Media Lab, funded by the U.S. Embassy Nairobi, is an interdisciplinary center formed to undertake research in big data and social media analytics by blending theoretical frameworks and analysis from academia with the experiences of businesses, government, and civil society. It provides consultancy services to support a wide range of research such as impact evaluation, advocacy, training, and education.

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