Ushahidi – meaning “testimony” in Swahili – is an African nonprofit organization that was created during the 2008 post-election crisis in Kenya. The goal of this organization is to help citizens become citizen journalists, and enable them to report on and learn about local episodes of violence, riots, political unrest and other crises as they actually occur in real-time.
According to its website, Ushahidi provides a digital platform that enables its users to send alerts in real-time via mobile phone, email or the web. The information is aggregated and presented on maps, timelines, charts, etc. to inform the local public, as well as spread the word to the national or global media.
Check out this video from Ushahidi’s website:
Jennifer L. Schenker, founder and editor of Informilo and former BusinessWeek correspondent,describes the importance of Ushahidi during the 2008 post-election crisis in Kenya:
Visitors to Ushahidi’s website [during the crisis] could call up a digital map of [Kenya], locate the flashpoints, and read accounts of what was happening. Color-coded markers helped identify the locations of government forces and refugees, pinpointing where riots, looting, rapes, and other acts of violence were occurring.
Since this crisis, Schenker continues, Ushahidi’s platform has been utilized across the globe to “monitor elections in Mexico and India, track the spread of swine flu, and alert authorities to shortages of medical supplies in several African countries.”
You can find a complete list of past and current examples of Usahidi being used here.
Ushahidi’s beta application is open source, and available for free download here. Their idea is to share the technology so that individuals and organizations across the world can implement and use it to bring awareness to any politically, socially or violently unstable region worldwide.
David Reich is co-founder and CEO of SixEstate, blending a background in traditional marketing and public relations with over 5 years of experience managing hundreds of online marketing campaigns for all kinds of organizations — from small businesses and nonprofits to public companies. David is responsible for keeping SixEstate and its clients at the forefront of the rapidly evolving search and content marketing landscape. Connect with David on Twitter, Google+ or via email.