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Published on April 5th, 2013 | by EJC

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Featured Tool: Ushahidi

1) In a nutshell

  • Tool: Ushahidi, meaning “witness” or “testimony” in Swahili, is an open-source mapping tool to easily crowdsource and visualise information on an interactive map. The result is a near real-time overview of on-site information about an event. You can find Ushahidi maps on just about any sorts of disasters, humanitarian crises and emerging events. If not, you can set up a map on your own.
  • Information: The maps can be used to visualise election monitoring, natural disasters, as well as local/community activities.
  • Data: Data is collected from multiple channels, including SMS/MMS, e-mail and Twitter. Users can also directly submit their information. Anybody can contribute information and the platform is accessible worldwide.
  • Technology: Users make and add to maps by downloading the Ushahidi platform.
  • Accessibility: The maps can be viewed on computers and through smart phone applications.

2) Case study
Ushahidi is one of the most widely used open-sourced mapping tools by various types of stakeholders. One of the most noteworthy Ushahidi maps that was ever created is the Syria Tracker. Launched within a few weeks after the protests broke out, it gathered over 1500 reports including cases of murders and eyewitness reports.

This map launched by the Media Council of Kenya gathers identified cases that deemed to infringe on press freedom in the country.

In order to have an overview of the recent mapping projects using Ushahidi, it is recommended that you take a look at the Deployments of the Week page.

3) Media use
Ushahidi has also been used by mainstream media outlets. Al-Jazeera has used Ushahidi to track violence in Gaza (2008-2009) as well as more recently, snowfall emergency in the Balkans and Uganda Speaks to crowdsource the local voices on the Kony campaign in 2012.

4) What’s in it for journalists?

  • The Ushahidi platform is constantly improved upon, its use is up-to-date and very close to real time.
  • The map can be used for crowdsourcing the ground information whenever unexpected/emerging events happen.
  • Journalists can either use the hosted Crowdmap by simply setting up an account here, or host their own map by downloading one from the Ushahidi website, customising the code and installing it on their own server. Another notable Ushahidi initiative is SwiftRiver that enables curation and verification of crowdsourced data from channels such as Twitter, SMS and RSS feeds.

Also see: http://wiki.ushahidi.com

Photo: Ushahidi

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