Ushahidi - Crowdsourcing Democracy, From Kenya To The World

Jonathan Lin | Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies (IEET) | October 19, 2012

Platform that promotes humanitarianism and citizen journalism emerges from Kenyan civil strife; now it instigates economic change and social activism internationally.

...This intersection of technology and members of the public is called Crowdsourcing, or Crowdmapping with regards to Ushahidi’s geographical visualization. Kenyans from around the country could text reports of violence from their mobile phones or supply information via email. Ushahidi would then assemble these reports onto an online map and add new ones as they came, thus rapidly organizing a visual forum that compiled a more complete picture of the conflict than any other media outlet or organization.

One of Ushahidi’s founders is Ory Okollah, a lawyer. In an interview in late 2010 she explained that Ushahidi started out as “an ad hoc group of technologists and bloggers hammering out software in a couple of days, trying to figure out a way to gather more and better information about the post-election violence.” The underreporting of certain events by traditional media thus prompted the need for local actors to step in and provide coverage and witness. Ushahidi became the spark for citizen journalism, where amateur reports from the crowd contribute news in a much quicker and reliable way than traditional media. Okollah did not want this mobilization of the crowd to fade away as the election event and the chaos dissolved into the past. “When the crisis comes to an end we don’t want what happened to be swept under the rug in the name of ‘moving forward’”, she said. “For us to truly move forward, the truth of what happened needs to be told. Ushahidi is our small way of contributing to that.”...