From Ushahidi To Al Jazeera: The Role Of Mobile In Kenya’s Elections

Stuart Thomas | Memburn | March 4, 2013

The people of Kenya will today start voting in a presidential election. Things have been tense in the lead up to polling day and mobile will play a critical role in both the monitoring and reporting of the situation on the ground. The poll is set up to be a race between Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga, the sons of Kenya’s first president and vice president respectively, and is expected to be one of the most important in the country’s recent history.

During the last elections in 2007, the polls descended into violence. The majority of the Kenyan people will want to avoid a repeat of that, although the killing of at least four police officers near the port city of Mombasa won’t have helped.

When telling the story of the last Kenyan presidential, it’s impossible not to include one of the most important mobile innovations of the 2000s: Ushahidi (Swahili for “testimony” or “witness”). The free and open source software company started out life collecting eyewitness reports of violence sent in by email and text-message and placed them on a Google Maps map...