|Tax ID No.||2652079|
|Founder(s)||Erik Hersman, Ory Okolloh, Juliana Rotich, David Kobia|
|Key people||Erik Hersman, Juliana Rotich, David Kobia,|
|Method(s)||mapping and geospatial|
|Motto||Crowdsourcing Crisis Information|
Ushahidi, Inc. is a non-profit software company that develops free and open-source software (LGPL) for information collection, visualisation, and interactive mapping. Ushahidi (Swahili for "testimony" or "witness") created a website (http://legacy.ushahidi.com) in the aftermath of Kenya's disputed 2007 presidential election (see 2007–2008 Kenyan crisis) that collected eyewitness reports of violence reported by email and text message and placed them on a Google Maps map.
The organisation uses the concept of crowdsourcing for social activism and public accountability, serving as an initial model for what has been coined as "activist mapping"—the combination of social activism, citizen journalism and geospatial information. Ushahidi offers products that enable local observers to submit reports using their mobile phones or the internet, while simultaneously creating a temporal and geospatial archive of events.
The Ushahidi platform is built on the Kohana web framework, a fork of the CodeIgniter framework. It includes support for Nexmo wholesale SMS API and Clickatell SMS Gateway. Furthermore, the official Ushahidi-hosted websites use the commercial service. Ushahidi provides the option of using OpenStreetMap maps in its user interface, but requires the Google Maps API for geocoding. Ushahidi is often set up using a local SMS gateway created by a local FrontlineSMS set-up.
Releases and codenames
- 1.0 Mogadishu – 10 December 2009
- 1.2 Haiti – ~22 January 2010
- 2.0 Luanda – 22 November 2010
- 2.1 Tunis – 9 August 2011
- 2.2 Juba – 13 March 2012
- 2.3 Juba – 24 April 2012
SwiftRiver is a suite of intelligence and real-time data gathering products that complement Ushahidi's mapping and visualization products. Often referred to as the SwiftRiver Initiative the goal of the project is "to democratize access to the tools for making sense of information". The project attracted a lot of interest from newsrooms. In a recent blog post, Ushahidi seemed to indicate that the project was no longer in active development. "We feel as though we have a great product, that is finally shipped, but lack the resources to keep it going in-house," wrote Hersman.
SwiftRiver is a free and open-source platform that helps people make sense of a lot of information in a short amount of time. It was born out of the need to understand and act upon a wave of massive amounts of crisis data that tends to overwhelm in the first 24 hours of a disaster. There has been a great deal of interest in Swift for other industries such as newsrooms, political analysts and marketers as an open-source alternative to more expensive, proprietary intelligence software platforms. The SwiftRiver platform offers applications which combine natural language/artificial intelligence process, data-mining for SMS and Twitter, and verification algorithms for different sources of information.
SwiftRiver has three primary functions:
- Structuring unstructured data
- Conditional filtering and prioritization of real-time content
- Adding context such as location
Crowdmap is designed and built by the team behind Ushahidi, a platform that was originally built to crowdsource crisis information. As the platform evolved, so did its users. Crowdmap now allows users to set up their own deployments of Ushahidi without having to install it on a web server. Since its release in 2010, prominent deployments of Crowdmap have documented the global Occupy movement and the 2011 London anti-cuts protest.
On 31 December 2010, the Ushahidi team announced Crowdmap: Checkins, a geosocial add-on to Crowdmap that allows users to create a white-label alternative to sites like Foursquare and Gowalla. Rather than filling out submission forms online, checkins allow Crowdmap users to expedite data entry to their deployment, focussing first on location and adding more detailed information later. Ushahidi describes the effort as "checkins with a purpose".
Beginnings in Kenya
Ushahidi (Swahili for "testimony" or "witness") is a website created in the aftermath of Kenya's disputed 2007 presidential election (see 2007–2008 Kenyan crisis) that collected eyewitness reports of violence sent in by email and text-message and placed them on a Google map. It is also the name of the open source software developed for that site, which has since been improved, released freely, and used for a number of similar projects around the globe.
The Kenyan site was developed and run by several bloggers and software developers, all current or former residents of Kenya. They include Erik Hersman, Juliana Rotich, Ory Okolloh, and David Kobia. The site was initially proposed by Okolloh, developed cheaply, and put online within a few days. International media, government sources, NGOs, and Kenyan journalists and bloggers were used to verify eyewitness testimony. The site was later also used to facilitate donations from abroad.
An analysis by Harvard's Kennedy School of Government found that Ushahidi was better overall at reporting acts of violence as they began. The data collected by Ushahidi was superior to that reported by the mainstream media in Kenya at the time. The service was also better at reporting non-fatal violence as well as information coming in from rural areas.
Post-Kenya crisis uses
Soon after its initial use in Kenya, the Ushahidi software was used to create a similar site to track anti-immigrant violence in South Africa, in May 2008. The software has since been used to map violence in eastern Congo, beginning in November 2008. Ushahidi is used in Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, and Zambia in June 2009 to track pharmacy stockouts in several Southeast African countries. Finally, it was used to monitor elections in Mexico and India, among other projects. It was also used by Al Jazeera to collect eyewitness reports during the 2008–09 Gaza War.
In 2010, due to the earthquake in Haiti, Patrick Meier launched a joint effort between Ushahidi, The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University, UN OCHA/Colombia and the International Network of Crisis Mappers (CM*Net) to start the Haiti implementation. A few hours later many humanitarian/tech workers joined this initiative. Nearly 40,000 independent reports were sent to the Ushahidi Haiti Project of which nearly 4,000 distinct events were plotted.
Only a month after the Haiti earthquake, the 2010 earthquake in Chile prompted Patrick Meier to launch Ushahidi-Chile within hours of the initial quake. The Chile site is co-managed with the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University in the United States, supported by Chilean Americans.
Starts the localization of the platform, due to Elena Rapisardi, first step to its knowledge and diffusion in Italy, and then in Europe. Same Rapisardi, together with Giovanni Lotto, launch first Italian crowdmap Open Foreste Italiane in order to list and map information to prevent and manage forest fires; the meaning of this project has been reported on the Ushahidi blog. Though OpenForeste did not completely achieve his goals, it showed importance for two reasons: (1) unlike previous instances, the platform was utilized in absence of acting crisis or emergency, but to collect, map, share and spread information in order to manage future and potential emergencies, thus joining the awareness of the possibilities of Web 2.0 and different approach to natural risk prevention; (2) it brought to Italy the knowledge and potential of Ushahidi, crowdmapping and social use of crowdsourcing, then used in following years in several instances, both private and public, especially from local Civil Protection structures and based on the new approach to Ushahidi platform (see here a non-complete crowdmap of Italian Crowdsourcing Projects).
Ushahidi was used in Russia to set up a "map of help" for voluntary workers needed after the 2010 Russian wildfires.
Using Ushahidi, the Christchurch Recovery Map website was launched less than 24 hours after the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. The site maps locations of services such as food, water, toilets, fuel, ATMs, and medical care. Information was gathered via Twitter using the #eqnz hashtag, SMS messages, and email. The site was founded by a group of web professionals, and maintained by volunteers.
- Middle East
This software allowed pro-democracy demonstrators across the Middle East to organise and communicate what was happening around them in early 2011. On 2 March, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) requested that the Standby Volunteer Task Force be activated for Libya. The Task Force's Tech Team set up a password protected Ushahidi platform almost immediately and several days later launched a public version at OCHA's request. This allowed users to contribute relevant information about ground conditions as they occurred.
India Citizen Reports has been using Ushahidi since 2011 to collect and disseminate reports in various categories like civic problems, crimes and corruption. TelecomMap.com uses Ushahidi to map 3G network quality and Wi-Fi hotspots.
- United States
The MightyMoRiver Project used Ushahidi's hosted service Crowdmap to track the Missouri River floods of 2011.
Transparency Watch Project is using the Ushahidi platform to track corruption reported cases in the Republic of Macedonia. PrijaviKorupcija is a joint project by Transparency International and the Center for International Relations allowing citizens to report cases of corruption via ONE by sending SMS from their mobile phones, sending an email, using the web form, the hashtag #korupcijaMK on Twitter or by reporting via phone call.
- Balkans (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia)
Ushahidi announced Ping in response to the attacks on Westgate Mall in Nairobi. The software was used to map out all the blood drive center locations in Nairobi and let users quickly identify places to donate, see which blood types were in demand, and identify whether equipment or volunteers were needed at any locations. Among the goals of this map was to help ensure that when the Kenyan population came out to donate blood, they would know which donation centers needed their blood type the most.
Ushahidi has received several awards in recognition to its effectiveness and creativity, latest being The MacArthur Award. The awards received by Ushahidi so far include the following:
- The MacArthur Award – 2013
- Global Adaptation Index Prize – 2012
- Funding of $1.4 million from the Omidyar Network 
- "Top50 Private Web Companies".
- Megha Baree (20 November 2008). "Citizen Voices". Forbes Magazine. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
- "SMS Helps Provide Instant SOS During Times of Crisis – Clickatell and Ushahidi Urge Support to Haiti".
- Kirwan, Peter. "SwiftRiver: Tagging a Crisis". Wired.co.uk. Retrieved 15 October 2013.
- "Shipping It, a 2013 Ushahidi Update".
- "Crowdmap Puts Any Data on an Interactive Map".
- "The Tech Tools of Political Revolution".
- "15 October 2011".
- "Announcing Checkins for Ushahidi and Crowdmap".
- "Checkins with a Purpose". ReadWrite.
- "Ushahidid launches Crowdmap Checkins".
- "Ushahidid tests 'checkin' Funciton". CNN. 23 August 2010.
- David Adewumi (15 January 2008). "Kenyan tech bloggers launch crisis-report site". VentureBeat. Retrieved 16 January 2010.
- Chris Chambers (12 May 2008). "Mapping violence in Kenya". Radio Netherlands Worldwide. Retrieved 16 January 2010.
- Peter Smith (31 January 2008). "Cellphone and Internet access helps – and hinders – accurate reporting in Kenya". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 16 January 2010.
- Dorcas Komo (3 July 2008). "Kenyan Techie Honored for Role in Tracking Post-election Violence". Mshale. Retrieved 16 January 2010.
- Shirky, Clay. 2010. Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age. New York: Penguin Press. 16.
- "Google hires Kenyan activist Ory Okolloh as policy manager for Africa". Los Angeles Times.
- "Stepping Down as Ushahidi Executive Director".
- "Anti-immigrant violence spreads in South Africa, with attacks reported in Cape Town". The New York Times. 23 May 2008.
- Alka Marwaha (10 December 2008). "Web tool maps Congo conflict". BBC News. Retrieved 16 January 2010.
- Ken Banks (31 July 2009). "Mobiles Help Put a Stop to Drug Stock-outs". Pc World. Retrieved 16 January 2010.
- Rebecca Wanjiku (12 August 2009). "Technology elevates Africa's global status". Computerworld. Infoworld. Retrieved 16 January 2010.
- "War on Gaza – Experimental Beta". Labs.aljazeera.net. Retrieved 2010-05-01.
- Ekine, Sokari (9 January 2009). "Ushahidi Platform Used to Document Congo, Gaza Crises". MediaShift. Public Broadcasting Service. Retrieved 19 March 2011.
- "Crisis Mapping Kenya's Election Violence".
- "Digitally Networked Technology in Kenya's 2007–2008 Post-Election Crisis".
- "Conflict and Fragility : Preventing Violence, War and State Collapse" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-05-01.
- Mackey, Robert; Corasaniti, Nick (12 January 2010). "Tuesday and Wednesday's Updates on Haiti's Earthquake". New York Times. Retrieved 16 January 2010.
- Monica Hesse (16 January 2010). "Crisis mapping brings online tool to Haitian disaster relief effort". Washington Post. Retrieved 16 January 2010.
- [2.pdf "Independent Evaluation of the Ushahidi Haiti Project"].
- Net puts Kenya at centre of Chile rescue efforts, Jonathan Fildes, BBC News, 1 March 2010
- "Ushahidi Chile". Chile.ushahidi.com. Retrieved 2010-05-01.
- Giridharadas, Anand (12 March 2010). "Africa's Gift to Silicon Valley: How to Track a Crisis". New York Times. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
- "Who's Behind This?". Snowmageddon: The Clean Up. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
- Monica Palmeri (5 May 2010). "Ushahidi Used in Italy to Prevent Forest Fires". Ushahidi Blog.
- See speech at Web 2.0 Expo on 2009
- "The Volunteers Behind the Libya Crisis Map: A True Story".
- "Using the New Ushahidi Platform to Crisis Map Libya".
- ABC's crowdsourced flood-mapping initiative abc.net
-  Snjezna oluja nad Balkanom
- "Software company Ushahidi uses open source skills to help during Kenya mall siege". opensource.com. 24 Sep 2013.
-  Official blog from Ushahidi
-  The MacArthur Award
-  Global Adaptation Index Prize, May 2012
-  Funding from Omidyar 1.4m