Mapping the world: An African tool for crisis situations

By Lloyd gedye | June 22nd, 2013
Mapping the world with Ushahidi: An African tool for crisis situations

Designed to help report and map the violence in Kenya after the disputed elections of December 2007, Ushahidi has already had a massive impact far beyond East Africa – being used, for example, after the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010 and the Japanese tsunami in 2011.

“I cannot overemphasize to you what Ushahidi/Haiti has achieved,” said US Marine Clark Craig, who added. “It is saving lives every day. I wish I had time to document to you every example, but there are too many and our operation is moving too fast.”

Since its use during the post-election violence in Kenya, Ushahidi has been used 25,000 times for crisis mapping. Currently, it has been adapted to map casualties in the civil war in Syria and sexual harassment in Egypt as well as to help fight corruption in Nigeria.

Ushahidi, which means ‘testimony’ in Swahili combines Google Maps technology with crowd-sourced information. The Ushahidi platform – as it exists today – is a collaborative project created by volunteers and managed by a core team of Ory Okolloh, Erik Hersman, David Kobia and Juliana Rotich, who originally started Ushahidi in Kenya in their free time.

Ushahidi’s co-founder and executive director Juliana Rotich says she is thrilled that global citizens have found ways to use the platform for their own social needs. And that is why Ushahidi has had such an impact because it is a superb tool – a tool that can be tweaked to suit different circumstances and to map very different issues. An African tool that can be used anywhere in the world to provide critical information in crises.

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