Juliana Rotich from Ushahidi

Ushahidi is a non-profit software company that is revolutionizing the way governments and international organizations respond to unrest, crises and humanitarian disasters: it uses mobile technology and social media to let citizens report and visualize, using interactive maps, what goes on around them first-hand. This past year it has been employed by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to “crisis-map” Libya, and will now be used to monitor elections in Liberia.

How was Ushahidi conceived?

In 2007, there were contentious elections in Kenya, a country that had been heretofore very stable in East Africa. What we saw with our own eyes greatly differed from what was covered in the media, and coverage focused more on urban as opposed to rural areas, though the violence was widespread. We were all bloggers, and wanted to do something to help in terms of collecting and disseminating information for our country.

How does the technology work exactly?

To set up an interactive map you download the basic, open source platform, and put it on your own servers, which requires some technical know-how. It allows for aggregation of data from different sources: SMS, email, web reports, Twitter and mobile application reports, physically plotting this data on the map. This way, you can contribute to the interactive map in different ways. For people who are not tech-savvy or who do not want to set up their own server, we have developed a cloud-based service called CROWDMAP. This allows you to collect information and to visualize it on a map in three minutes or less. We provide this service for free. The third element is SWIFT RIVER, a platform that attempts to organize and filter the immense amount of information – SMS, Twitter, and so on  - which overwhelms in the first 24 hours of a crisis.


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by The Global Journal