How texting and GoogleMaps helped Kenyans survive a crisis

By Emmanuel Narokobi

Okay I’m going a bit TED crazy here, but found another hot video here from White African, Erik Hersman. In his video he presents the remarkable story of Ushahidi (which means ‘Testimony’ in Swahili), a GoogleMap mashup that allowed Kenyans to report and track violence via mobile phone texts following the 2008 elections, and has evolved to continue saving lives in other countries as well.

Below are some of the countries and projects that are using the first generation of the Ushahidi Engine:

  • Vote Report India is a collaborative citizen-driven election monitoring platform for the 2009 Indian general elections.
  • Al Jazeera uses Ushahidi in their “War on Gaza” website covering the activity happening in Gaza in January 2009.
  • Peace Heroes: Unsung Peace Heroes is a campaign developed by Butterfly Works and Media Focus on Africa Foundation. The goal is to nominate people who helped do positive things during and after the post-election violence in Kenya. Kenyan heroes are ordinary people who did extraordinary things for their fellow citizens or their country.
  • Congo (DRC): Deployment to the DRC Congo happened on Nov 7, 2008 – the week after our initial release of the alpha version of the new Ushahidi Engine software.
  • Kenya: The initial mashup, used to track reports of incidents of violence around Kenya.
  • South Africa: Used to map xenophobic attacks perpetrated against non-South Africans.

So I was just wondering if maybe something like this could be used for crime and tribal fights in PNG.

You can also read Erik Hersman’s latest blog post on Mobile Phone Access and Usage in Africa, which holds no surprises considering that one of the observations was that, ‘Lower levels of ICT access and usage in Africa can be attributed to weak telecommunications infrastructure, generally low economic activity, irregular electricity and a lack of human resources.

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