Innovation That Matters

Citizen journalism, from text message to map


A shining example of crowdsourcing at work, Ushahidi is mobilizing citizens to report and map conflicts. The project began as a way for Kenyans to log reports of violence during the post-election fallout of early 2008; a period when mainstream media was banned. A new Ushahidi engine is currently in development that will allows users to SMS, email or an online form to submit reports that are then flagged on a map that anyone can view to gain a speedy understanding of where issues are happening. Reports are broken down into categories that include deaths, looting and peace efforts. Ushahidi works with NGOs to verify reports, helping ensure that content is as accurate and complete as possible. Reporting in this way promotes peace efforts, increases awareness of violence and provides a permanent log of events, referral to which may help in future conflicts and ensure that what happened is not forgotten. Ushahidi plans to release the tool as a downloadable application that is both open source and plug-in friendly, meaning it can be customized for different needs and locations. As we’ve seen before, crowds are more than ready to adopt applications like this when the cause is right, fully aware that it increases the transparency of events receiving limited or skewed media coverage. (Related: Front page rivalry–pros versus citizen journalists.) Spotter: Kevin Rombe



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