Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Open Source GIS Series - The Ushahidi Platform

What is the Ushahidi Platform? from Ushahidi on Vimeo.

Ushahidi(meaning testimony in Swahili) was created in the beginning of 2008 in order to map incidents of violence and peace efforts after the Kenyan elections. The project could effectively handle mobile and web submissions by 45000 users in Kenya. According to the project website, the platform was later rebuilt for effective deployment.
Even in the alpha stage of development the project saw deployment in War on GazaVote Report India (to monitor the 2009 elections) and Pak Voices (to map incidents of violence in Pakistan). The platform currently in the beta stage is available for free download, as Mogadishu v1.1. Ushahidi apps are also available for various smartphone platforms in the same page. Important fact to be noted about Ushahidi platform is it being open source - which essentially means it can be expanded and customized.

How it works?
It is basically Crowdsourcing Crisis Information. A citizen can report incidents by SMS, MMS, email, by filling out a web-form or even tweeting with a specific hashtag. Usually an incident specific website is hosted which has instructions as the case may be. Above were the ways to report incidents in the Indian Elections 2009. The messages so received are mapped for everyone to see. Mapping platforms used are Google Maps, OpenStreetMap. SwiftRiver is another open source platform to manage real time data which enables filtering and verification of data.This step is crucial to avoid fake messages being mapped.

Role Played
Ushahidi played a major role in all recent natural disasters, be it the post-earthquake crisis in Chile and Haiti, to monitor elections in Sudan, for tracking wildlife in Kenya. In post disaster situations Ushahidi helped in mapping the relief requirements, find missing people, tag real situation photos on maps and so on. Affected people could text their location and ask for help. All this happened in real time. While people in distress sent information the volunteers in office validated and mapped the information.

Impressed by this Global GIS leader Esri has decided to partner with Ushahidi team to improve crisis map recently.

More Information
  1. Ushahidi Home Page -
  2. Twitter - @ushahidi
  3. Ushahidi on Facebook
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