Ushahidi Lessons Learned

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Lessons learned from Ushahidi deployments 2008 to 2011

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Ushahidi Lessons Learned

  1. 1. Lessons Learned –March 2011Author: Sarah GeorgeUshahidi 1100 North Glebe Rd. 22201 http://ushahidi.com
  2. 2. Ushahidi Inc.Framing the DiscussionAt the International Conference on Crisis Mapping (ICCM) last September Sabina Carlson, an Ushahidi Haitivolunteer and liaison with Haitian diaspora, explained “People don’t speak in terms of data sets. They say‘I’m Hungry’.” Her point is that the need for translation does not only refer to language but also applies to theneed to translate information into action. In the following discussion of crowdsourcing, it’s important to keepthis fundamental challenge in mind.Crowdsourcing is a general concept – and various Ushahidi implementations apply the approach in criticallydifferent ways. While crowdsourcing broadly implies information generated by many for the benefit many,there are three distinct audiences or stakeholders for any individual campaign: • Deployers (whether a group of citizen volunteers, an individual organization, or a multi-agency partnership) • Users (generating and/or actively using the content) • Viewers (passive consumers of the shared information, similar to viewers of broadcast media)While each audience is unique, they may also overlap. Many of the best crowdsourcing campaigns anticipatethe needs of all three audiences while others target a specific audience. Identifying stakeholders in advanceis important to the success of a campaign and will influence decisions during implementation. In addition, it isimportant to consider a few key strategic distinctions: • Local vs remote (virtual) deployment • Permissive vs hostile environment • Short term vs ongoing campaign • Situational awareness vs direct / tactical response • Direct reports and/or curation of (social & mainstream) media reports • Trusted and/or anonymous public reportersAgain, recognizing these distinctions in advance will help determine what methodology to adopt duringimplementation and will help establish clear and attainable goals.Finally, when considering lessons learned it is also helpful to distinguish between different types ofdeployments such as: • Crisis Response • Election observation • Social / environmental advocacy campaigns • Media / journalismLessons Learned, March 2011 2
  3. 3. Ushahidi Inc.Different types of deployments will incorporate different implementation strategies and target differentaudiences.ChallengesQuantity of information Too much information can be problematic, especially in campaigns that tap into the flood of social media (ie via Twitter or Facebook). Information overload is a serious concern. Underreporting can lead to a dearth of reports in campaigns that rely on direct reporting from the public. Barriers can include: lack of incentive, lack of awareness, lack of literacy, fear of intimidation or reprisal, socio-cultural constraints such as reticence to share information / self-censorship, cost of SMS if mobile is primary reporting mechanism, technical hurdles, the habit of public to passively consume rather then produce information, etcQuality of information Reports from public may not be relevant or detailed enough to be actionable. Insufficient training of trusted reporters in the field can yield poor data. Need to structure data for easy adoption and to mitigate rather than exacerbate information overload. Need for information management (incident tracking) and data analysis.Human capacity Insufficient and/or inconsistent staff and/or volunteers to moderate (approve, geo-locate, verify). Incoming reports can cause a critical delay as well as uneven quality of categorization / geo-location. Lack of local language proficiency. Lack of response capability. Sustainability of large pools of volunteers needed to crowdsource translation, geo-location, report moderation in large scale deployments.Technical capacityLessons Learned, March 2011 3
  4. 4. Ushahidi Inc. Localization, customization and troubleshooting of software platform. Low internet bandwidth on the ground. When visualizing data, underlying map may lack detail.Situational issues Difficulty of navigating a field crowded with multiple agencies / responders (ie, Haiti and LABB). Lack of reliable electricity / internet. Cooperation of telecommunication companies if using mobile reporting.Financial issues While technology and raw data may be free, cost of hosting site, SMS, publicity, personnel, etc can be prohibitive for small organizations / volunteer groups.Security Privacy protection is critical in repressive environments and in vulnerable populations such as children.Lessons Learned, March 2011 4
  5. 5. Ushahidi Inc.Lessons LearnedCrowdsourcing platform must be easy to deploy, intuitive, simple to localize / customize Strong correlation between successful campaigns and technical capacity. Crowdmap has reduced dependence on technical proficiency Important to consider need for additional functionality and/or appropriate technology When soliciting reports via SMS, procure a shortcode if possible Use phone number recognition to auto-post reports from trusted sourcesStart early Complete technical work prior to trainings and conduct testing prior to public deployment. Establish protocols / clear workflows in advance. Haiti pointed to need and Libya demonstrates. Also, need clear security protocols in repressive environments and when working with vulnerable populations. Invest in training of field reporters and site moderators / administrators to improve quality of data Integrate into emergency preparedness strategy, ie too late to educate an impacted population during crisis (Orciano 2010 civil protection exercise, BushFire Connect, OCHA Colombia earthquake simulation) Anticipate how a campaign will evolve, ie in Crisis from Response to Recovery to Rebuilding; in elections from campaign / voter registration to Election Day to results announcement to post-electionGet the word out Several deployments point to the importance of advance publicity / outreach via media coverage, advertising, workshops & demonstrations. Recognize that media may be reluctant to cover a campaign until after data is published and supports a “story”, ie Stock Stopouts campaign received significant press coverage by adopting a publicity strategy that included a post-implementation press conference to announce results. Encourage media to use data as a source for their own reportingLessons Learned, March 2011 5
  6. 6. Ushahidi Inc. Uchaguzi and Plan International both suggest that real life demonstrations can to improve local “take up.” Similar outreach efforts could be used with beneficiary populations and humanitarian orgs / responders. Consider the use of SMS Blasts. However, consider capacity issues. For example the Mission 4636 project decided not to send an SMS blast out of concern that systems were not in place to handle the potential influx of information. Radio can be an effective means for raising awareness and educating the publicMake Friends Perception of independence (or lack of) may influence the public’s willingness to report. Consider how to develop mutual trust. Clearly define roles and responsibilities In crisis response, “plug-in” to existing humanitarian response network. UN OCHA invitation to create Libya Crisis Map suggests potential for “buy-in” Partner with local NGOs who can create a feedback loops by both generating and applying data Partner with local media (BBC Tubestrike, ABC Queensland Flood, Washington Post Snowmaggedon)Local Matters Utilize linguistic and geographic knowledge of local (and diasporan) population Encourage capacity for local citizen response (Russian Wildfire HelpMap, Holoda.info HelpMap, New Zealand earthquake) Local populations can provide “eye-witness” accounts Provide a channel for local population to articulate needsInformation Please In addition to information aggregation and visualization, the need for data management tools Provide “value added” information analysisLessons Learned, March 2011 6
  7. 7. Ushahidi Inc. Ask the right questions, ie PakReport asked public to report “What they See” rather than “What they Need” Humanitarian organizations and responders need structured information Consider using trusted reporters in addition to crowd Sufficient human capacity to process, manage and analyze data Anonymous reporting is crucial in repressive environments / in vulnerable populations Consider “low-tech” solutions such as paper and voice reporting Conduct rigorous quality assuranceMotivation Incentivize public participation by closing the feedback loop. London Tubestrike deployers noted that a simple “Thank You!” in response to a public report would encourage subsequent reporting Make sure that information returned to public is meaningful, useful and timely. Utilize volunteer crisis mapping community to make social media actionable, ie crowdsourcing report moderation, translation, geolocation, approval and verification in addition to reporting. Universities for Ushahidi and the Standby Volunteer Task Force are confronting the need for a sustainable, replicable, reliable and predictable pool of volunteers in large scale / ongoing deployments Crowdsourcing is effective in exposing gaps in official response / monitoring. Crowdsourced data can be used to evaluate veracity of official data (StopStockouts, Cuidemos el Voto) Crowdsourcing campaigns can serve as repository of eyewitness accounts / testimony (LABB) Crowdsourcing can be used for long-term monitoring of environmental / health affects Citizen reporting works when and where traditional media coverage cannot – ie inherent bias ofofficial sources or inability to effectively cover thru traditional reporting, ie London Tubestrike US Marines used UHP to identify “centers of gravity”Lessons Learned, March 2011 7
  8. 8. Ushahidi Inc. NYC Medics were able to identify a hospital with capacity to utilize the resources they could mobilize Geolocation services used in SAR operations Be open to unexpected outcomes / application of data ie correlation between spatial distribution of structural damage and report clustering in Ushahidi Haiti + direct communication between Mission 4636 volunteers and people on the ground may have had impact thru direct interventionLessons Learned, March 2011 8

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