NAIROBI, July 17 (Xinhua) -- Bernard Ochieng switched on his smartphone on Wednesday and found that he had been added in a funeral social network group.
With him in the group were tens of other people, some he knew, others he had no idea who they were.
After going through the discussion in the group, he realized that an old school mate had died and the group was for fundraising.
"A few of the people in the group had already sent cash and the figures were posted in real time," said Ochieng, a pharmacist in Nairobi.
The funeral group is the third he has been added to in about a month as Kenyans embrace social media networks to fundraise, mainly to cater for funerals and medical bills.
Once someone dies, family members or close friends create WhatsApp groups in which they enroll the affected person's friends and their friends. The more the number enlisted the higher chances of raising more funds.
The group is then used to fundraise and at the same time update members of the funeral arrangements in real time.
The cash is sent mainly via mobile money, a technology which when combined with social networks has made fundraising more efficient and quicker.
"In this era where nearly every one owns a smartphone, using social media networks is the easiest way to involve as many people as possible in fundraising," said Julius Komen, a media worker, who formed a funeral group last week.
He has so far raised 60,000 Kenyan shillings (600 U.S. dollars) for the relative's funeral, whose burial is scheduled for next week.
"But you don't just create the group and expect money will come through. You must rally the members by posting the things needed and targets set," he offered, adding everyone who contributes must be acknowledged, a thing that not only helps to make them feel appreciated but also psyches those who have not donated to contribute.
But as the culture picks up, some Kenyans are finding the practice intrusive since one is added in the groups without their consent.
"You wake up and find that you are in a funeral group of a person you don't know anything about. It can be annoying and it borders on intrusion into one's privacy," said Beatrice Ngatia, an office administrator.
Bernard Mwaso of Edell IT Solution attributed the popularity of the new fundraising method to mobile money efficiency.
"People need not meet physically to give their donations but send it via the phone therefore one reaches many persons including those who are in diaspora. The model is not only efficient but cheaper, time-saving and transparent because members of the groups are updated on the contributions," he said.
Mwaso noted that fundraising is a culture in Kenya that is deeply entrenched in the society and technology is giving it a new lease of life.
As at March 31, the number of active mobile subscriptions in Kenya stood at 51 million, up from 49.5 million at the end of 2018, according to the Communications Authority of Kenya. Most of the mobile subscribers have smartphones. Therefore, they access social media networks giving fundraisers a huge base to tap into.