Ushahidi

Ushahidi

Infobox Software

Ushahidi, (Swahili for “testimony” or “witness”) is a website created in the aftermath of Kenya's disputed 2007 presidential election (see 2007–2008 Kenyan crisis) that collected eyewitness reports of violence sent in by email and text-message and placed them on a map 1). It is also the name of the open source software developed for that site, which has since been improved, released freely, and used for a number of similar projects.

Ushahidi uses the concept of crowdsourcing for social activism and public accountability, serving as an initial model for what has been coined as 'activist mapping' - the combination of social activism, citizen journalism and geospatial information. Ushahidi provides a mechanism for local observers to submit reports using their mobile phones or the internet, while simultaneously creating a temporal and geospatial archive of events.

After realising the need for a crisis mapping tool Ushahidi grew from an ad hoc group of volunteers to an organisation. Funding, $ 200.000 USD, to re-build the framework from scratch came in August 2008 from Humanity United.

Ushahidi is built on the Kohana web framework, a fork of the CodeIgniter framework. It includes built-in support for Clickatell SMS gateways, and the official Ushahidi-hosted websites use the commercial service 2). Ushahidi provides the option of using OpenStreetMap maps in its user interface, but requires the Google Maps API for geocoding. Ushahidi is often set up using a local SMS gateway created by a local FrontlineSMS set-up.

Beginnings in Kenya

The Kenyan site was developed and run by several bloggers and software developers, all current or former residents of Kenya: Erik Hersman, Juliana Rotich, Ory Okolloh and David Kobia 3). The site was initially proposed by Okolloh, developed cheaply, and put online within a few days 4). International media, government sources, NGOs, and Kenyan journalists and bloggers were used to verify eyewitness testimony 5)6). The site was later also used to facilitate donations from abroad.

Post-Kenya crisis uses

The software has since been used to map violence in eastern Congo7) to track pharmacy stockouts in several East African countries,8) and to monitor elections in Mexico and India, among other projects 9). It was also used by Al Jazeera to collect eyewitness reports during the 2008-2009 Gaza War10).

The post election violence in Kenya was the subject of a Harvard Humanitarian Institute study and mentioned in a Berkman Center report 11)12)13).

2008

Kenya

  • Kenya: The initial mashup, used to track reports of incidents of violence around Kenya.
  • Peace Heroes: Unsung Peace Heroes is a campaign developed by Butterfly Works and Media Focus on Africa Foundation. The goal is to nominate people who helped do positive things during and after the post-election violence in Kenya. Kenyan heroes are ordinary people who did extraordinary things for their fellow citizens or their country.

Congo (DRC)

Deployment to the DRC Congo happened on Nov 7, 2008 - the week after our initial release of the alpha version of the new Ushahidi Platform.

South Africa

Used to map xenophobic attacks perpetrated against non-South Africans. Soon after its initial use in Kenya, the Ushahidi software was used to create a similar site to track anti-immigrant violence in South Africa.

2009

Kenya

Wildlife Trackers is a citizen science project to track wildlife in Kenya.

Kenya, Uganda, Malawi and Zambia

Stop Stockouts is an initiative to track near real-time stockouts of medical supplies at pharmacies (in a medical store or health facility) in Kenya, Uganda, Malawi and Zambia.

USA, Atlanta

Atlanta Crime Maps tracks crime in the Atlanta metro area.

Global

  • Connection GeoMap, managed by Survivors Connect seeks to create a space to share critical information about trafficking and anti-trafficking activity globally, promote transparency in our efforts, engage communities and learn best practices, current challenges and needs in our global effort.
  • The Ushahidi organisation set up a site to track the Swine Flu reports coming in from official and unofficial sources. They have also created a way for citizen reports to be submitted which remain unverified.

Philippines

The Computer Professionals' Union in the Philippines created the initiative called TXTpower, an effort to keep an eye on the mobile phone companies by ordinary citizens.

Mexico

The Cuidemos el Voto mashup is an independent platform to help monitor the federal elections of 5 July 2009 in Mexico.

India

Vote Report India is a collaborative citizen-driven election monitoring platform for the 2009 Indian general elections.

Gaza

Al Jazeera uses Ushahidi in their "War on Gaza" website covering the activity happening in Gaza in January 2009.

2010

Haiti

In 2010, due to the earthquake in Haiti, Patrick Meier launched a joint effort between Ushahidi, The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University, UN OCHA/Colombia and the International Network of Crisis Mappers (CM*Net) started the Haiti implementation. A few hours later many humanitarian/tech workers joined this initiative 14).

Chile

Only a month after the Haiti earthquake, the 2010 earthquake in Chile prompted Patrick Meier to launch Ushahidi-Chile within hours of the initial quake 15). The Chile site is currently co-managed with Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs in the US, supported by the Chilean diaspora.

USA, Washington, D.C.

In the wake of winter storms, the Washington Post and the web development company PICnet used the software to create a site mapping blocked roads and other information 16)17).

Sudan

Sudan Vote Monitor is a Sudanese civil society initiative that used SMS to monitor the elections in the Sudan.

Italy

Open Foreste Italiane is a project that is designed for information and knowledge sharing among the public and several institutional and volunteering organizations involved in risk prevention and management activities surrounding forest fires.