By Paul Ndiho
Ushahidi is a crowd-sourcing company that originated during Kenya’s 2007 and 2008 post-election violence. It is having an impact on the world and it may also help African voters protect their votes.
Ushahidi’s crisis-mapping software was first used in early 2008 to track violent outbreaks related to the disputed Kenyan election of 2007, and it has been used since to coordinate everything from disaster relief following the earthquakes, elections in Nigeria, to snow cleanup in New York City.
Ushahidi’s executive director Daudi Were explains.
“Now 6 – 7 years later Ushahidi has over 90,000 deployments around the world. It’s been used in over 150 different countries, it has been translated into more than 50 different languages, and we’re talking about 6.5 million people with direct impact and indirect impact of over 17 million people. We truly are global technology company but made in Africa.”
Citizens may use any mobile device to send information to a volunteer technical team responsible for mapping data. Ushahidi offers products that enable local observers to submit reports using their mobile phones or the internet while simultaneously creating a temporal and Geo-spatial archive of events.
“The biggest user cases are about 73 -75% deployments are in the areas of citizen-government engagement, so people doing things link election monitoring, there are in the area of disaster response, for example, there was a big Ushahidi deployment that was used to coordinate response around the Nepal earthquake earlier this year. So we have maps for example in Egypt which has been monitoring incidences of sexual harassment on the streets of Egypt for the last 5 years.”
Ushahidi’s executive director, Daudi Were says the Kenyan technology company continues to do very in a market that is highly competitive is simply because their technology is having an impact in the world. For example, their software was used to monitor the election in Nigeria.
Ushahidi builds and utilizes digital tools and runs programs to give marginalized people a voice. Since 2008, the Ushahidi platform has grown to be a world-class open source tool for human rights activism, crisis response, and civilian empowerment.
“This is a place where you can have a positive impact on the world. You talk about building and utilizing tools for marginalized voices, we build stuff that allows people to raise their voice, people who may not have the opportunity to engage in important conversations or maybe marginalized from those conversations. So people come here because they’re passionate about their communities, they want to have a positive impact and want to do meaningful stuff in an innovative space to move and develop quickly.”
Ushahidi has experience in building tools for anti-corruption initiatives around the world. From Brazil to Morocco — and Indonesia to Kosovo people are using Ushahidi to increase transparency and accountability in their communities.
“If we talk about a Kenyan example, a couple weeks ago our president reached out to the Kenyan Tech community and said can any of you innovators help us build platforms that can tackle corruption. As Ushahidi, our tool has been used to fight corruption in numerous countries around the world. So we are working to customize it so that we can build partnerships and the networks so that we can deploy it right here in Kenya and that way we contribute to our society from the platforms and the tools we build.”
Ushahidi has never accepted government funds; instead, it relies on grants from philanthropic organizations and generating revenues through custom deployments of its software for clients worldwide.
The company recently launched a cloud-based version of its basic mapping platform that can be deployed quickly and easily and is hosted on Ushahidi’s servers. The basic service is free but the company has developed plug-ins and upgrades that will have a cost.
Analysts say advances in technology and crowd-sourced data only help in dealing with a crisis. Daudi Were says the most important facets remain to have a community, both local and international, to identify and respond to a crisis and then having the commitment to help those affected.