Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Ushahidi- a powerful tool for information sharing

Ushahidi- a powerful crowdsourcing tool for information sharing
Ushahidi, which translates to “testimony” in Swahili, was developed to map post-election violence reports in Kenya after 2008. Since then, thousands have used the crowdsourcing tools to raise their voice. They are a technology leader in Africa, headquartered in Nairobi, with a global team. Ushahidi has 90,000 deployments, 6.5 million posts and 20 million population reach.
Who can use Ushahidi:
Anyone can use Ushahidi, but traditionally it has been a tool used by Crisis Responders, Human Rights Reporters, and Citizens & Governments (such as election monitoring or corruption reporters). They also serve environmental mappers, asset monitoring, citizen journalism, international development, and many others. Ushahidi partners with leading foundations and organizations to increase access to information, empower citizens, and protect marginalized communities. For details visit Ushahidi also supports and trains community based organizations to engage with local government using open-source tools. The Ushahidi tool empowers any person to post the information which they consider important. 150 such posts are free. Thereafter, they charge a nominal fee. Ushahidi has enterprise version tool also. The information collected are used by a few TV channels also like Al-jajira.
Main functionalities of Ushahidi:
  1. Data Collection: Ushahidi gathers information from anyone, anytime, anywhere. It has multiple sources to receive reports like SMS, email, API, RSS, MMS and Twitter. Ushahidi Collect posts via SMS when anybody connects with an SMS gateway or SMSsync. Ushahidi is going to deploy android and iOS apps very soon which will enable smartphone users to submit information and view reports with maps from their mobile apps.
  2. Data Management: Ushahidi manages and triage reports with filters and workflows. They retrieve the right data with filters and save search to pick up where anybody is left off.  They send posts through multiple stages, so that anybody can respond effectively. They keep the data manageable by grouping data sets into collections. They make team collaborations ensuring multiple user roles to make sure everyone sees only what they need.
  3. Data Visualization: Ushahidi platform allows anyone to gather distributed data via SMS, RSS, email or web and visualize it on a map or timeline.  Messages are crowd sourced based on location map. The goal of Ushahidi is stated to create the simplest way of aggregating information from the public for use in crisis response. Ushahidi has a map tool to visualize data at exact location. The map tiles including street and satellite are provided by Open Street Maps, MapQuest, and more. They also map and visualize data streams from third parties like Twitter, Twillio, SMSSync, Nexmo. Frontlinesms and emails. The data can be configured and visualized in charts. This activity stream gives a single dashboard to get an aerial view of deployment.
  4. Special deployments:
    1. Automatic Alerts in Crisis: Ushahidi sends automatic alerts to all users in respect of any crisis or emergencies like flood, hurricane, violence, civil war, terrorist attacks etc. They are working for push email to all citizens of a geographical area in case of such crisis.
    2. Data branding: It can be configured for alerts which helps us in a particular situation like message alerts for keeping out of crowd.
    3. Private Deployment: Ushahidi is allowing the private deployment for a lot of agencies in Africa and Middle East. Some of private deployments in 2015 are Albanian Election Monitoring , Burundi 2015 , Burundi Elections and Discrimination Map (Sweden) . With success stories of these deployments many Government/Public Sector/ Private Sector organizations are considering partnering with Ushahidi for public services. For example:
      1. Disaster management Agency working under FEMA needs immediate reporting of any disaster through multiple channels. Ushahidi helps to set up such platform.
      2. The women empowerment nonprofit organization may need to set up a deployment for mobilizing women to document incidents of sexual harrassment so that they can create consciousness of how prevalent the behavior is and create data necessary to obtain donor funding around education in the effects of harrassment.
        It may be noted that Ushahidi is a tool, not a strategy. The decision to deploy Ushahidi must be preceded by a larger set of questions about what anyone wants to accomplish. This section will take through a process of building and the design of campaign to reach goals.
  5. Ushahidi blog is also a part of the first steps of a whole new initiative. This is exciting and spending the time to think first about goals regardless of technology can set up for success.
Since that catalytic moment in 2008, Ushahidi has grown into a very powerful platform used in crises around the world, supporting 35,000 maps in 30 different languages. It has been utilized in disasters such as the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and the 2011 tsunami in Japan, Ushahidi has also been used to organize emergency responses in real-time. Less than an hour after the 2011 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the Ushahidi platform was used to spotlight areas of refuge. Most recently, Ushahidi has enabled crowd mapping of violence in Syria’s civil war. It aggregates information through crowdsourcing and crowd mapping which is used for evidence in a human rights campaign or election monitoring project and also used to build situational awareness around a crisis. It is active across the world. The Government/Public sector can use the Ushahidi platform for gathering information about various public services.


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