When Francis Kariuki got a 4 a.m. call that thieves were breaking into a home in his Kenyan village, he turned to a technological tool for help -- Twitter. He put the word out in less than 140 characters.
Minutes later villagers gathered and the thieves fled, the Associated Press reports. Shooing thieves isn't the only way that Kariuki, an administrative chief in the west Kenyan village of Lanet Umoja, has deployed Twitter. His tweets range from philosophical ruminations to alerts about missing sheep:
What Kariuki is doing is part of a wider trend that challenges stereotypes about who uses social media and where.
Though Twitter is often associated with the Arab Spring uprisings, countries like South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria each send out more tweets than Egypt, according to a recent study by Portland Communications and the trend-analysis group Tweetminster called "How Africa Tweets."
Kenya, the second most prolific country for tweets on the continent, sent out nearly 2.5 million tweets in three months. Most of the African Twitter users surveyed in the study said they used it to communicate with friends. But 68% said they also used it to get news, especially international news.
Want to see which countries tweet the most? Here's a map created by Portland Communications:
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: Chief Francis Kariuki, left, is shown a gap in a fence that thieves escaped through by village elder Peter Ndungu in the Kenyan village of Lanet Umoja on Monday. Credit: Khalil Senosi / Associated Press