In the midst of a violent election in 2008, a group of bloggers based in Kenya came up with an idea to use  crowdsourcing to track a fast-moving crisis. They collected eyewitness reports of violence sent in by email and text-message and placed them on a Google Maps map.

Ushahidi – meaning testimony in Swahili – was born. It offers an open-source platform that uses the concept of crowdsourcing for social activism and public accountability, serving as an initial model for what has been coined as ‘activist mapping’. Ushahidi kept Kenyans current on vital information and provided invaluable assistance to those providing relief.

How it works

  • Anybody can contribute information. Whether it is a simple text message from a SMS-capable phone, a photo or video from a smartphone, or a report submitted online,
  • Ushahidi can gather information from any device with a digital data connection.
  •  After a report is submitted, it is posted in near real-time to an interactive map that can be viewed on a computer or smartphone.
  • The most powerful feature Ushahidi offers, is the ability to take the core application and deploy it yourself to suit your communityʼs needs. Since Ushahidi is open-source, anyone can improve the service in anyway they see fit.

Since its inception, it has been deployed 12,000 times across the globe, from earthquakes in Haiti, New Zealand and Australia to the tsunami in Japan in 2011. It has been a way for people all over the world to tell the story of what was happening to them — or around them — during a disaster or emergency.

  • Read about how Ushahidi was deployed after a bomb in Mumbai, India in 2011. 
  •  See how Ushahidi was used to monitor elections in  Brazil in 2010
  • It was deployed in the DR Congo to monitor unrest.
  • Al Jazeera used it to track violence in Gaza.
  • It was used to help monitor the 2009 Indian Elections.
  • It helped gather reports globally about the wine Flu outbreak.
  • Other successful cases were the coverage of the natural disasters in Chile and Haiti. Ushahidi was used to map areas affected by the earthquakes, which helped in the rescue of survivors, in the distribution of humanitarian aid, and reconstruction of the most affected cities.
  • Ushahidi came in handy in Madagascar, where the platform was installed to denounce violence by the government, which was selling land to South Koreans without revealing its true value and also promoting an increase in the price of food. The case drew the attention of the United Nations and Amnesty International.

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