Ushahidi is a global free open source software provider. We create tools for information collection, data visualization and interactive mapping. Our team is committed to support the communities of people around the world. In fact, we are delighted and a touch overwhelmed by their efforts. My name is Heather Leson. I started as volunteer within the community and then happily joined in July 2011 as Director of Community Engagement.Today I will share stories about how people use our software and, more specifically, highlight how Universities and university students can connect to change the world.
We are over run with signal to noise. It is important to consider all the information channels including the context of use. Peter Drucker wrote years ago about the Art of Information. The point that struck me the most was the rise of the knowledge worker and how powerful that is in the evolution of society. Ushahidi is one platform and community in this ecosystem. What does it mean to be a civil society? How can we be more global and connected? How can we use the power of our brains, our networks, our communities within or external to existing institutions.
Ushahidi is Swahili for “ Testimony ” and started in 2008. The co-founders believed that citizens have a voice and will use it if you give them a platform to share it. At the core of this are two questions: “ What do you see? ” and “ What do you need? ” People provide their information using multiple communication channels often in real-time.
We are committed to support those who want to use your software to encourage transparency, build accountability and, most of all, share their community with the world. While a map (location plus information or layers of information) is not always the right solution. It can be very effective in providing supplementary story telling. But it is only as effective as the project plan and the audience around it. Plus, the complexity of using this as part of the communication toolkit is still being defined. So, we encourage research, review and iteration.
And the number of Ushahidi deployments keep on growing, now with over 15,000 maps
A bit more about our growing community and software. Ushahidi is free open source software, we are widening the toolkits to meet the diverse mobile tools and information needs. Last year we launched Crowdmap ( A cloud-based service) This has been widely accepted. So, we are working to expand the plugins and extend the software to serve the needs. Languages are important. We are growing localization and are very fortunate to have community members provide translations on an ongoing basis. We even crowdsource this via twitter. Just last week we got more help for Korean translations. (One of our staff actually lives in South Korea and is learning the language while being the Director of Crowdmap.)
It ’ s also played a key role in Disaster Response. This winter was a busy time with the Christchurch Earthquake and creation of eq.org.nz. This was closely followed by the map team of OpenStreetMap and various other communities collaborating to monitor the fallout of tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan. Volunteers from the NZ map and others helped Hal Seki. There is a global community of crisismappers which are building the knowledge.
It ’ s also been used for Citizen Media like HarrassMap (HarrassMap helped bring awareness to sexual harassment in Egypt.) and Plan International ’ s VAC map in Benin or Shemeer ’ s Maps4Aid focused on Violence against Women map in India. Communities and city building (place making) is becoming powerful with CIC in Monteray Mexico, alert.md in Chisnau (Moldovia) or By the City in NYC.
These are some of the projects from around the world. The people who worked on these range from international politics, environmentalists, health science (doctors), software developers, journalists, and NGOs. ANd more.
How does it all fit together? Each of these groups have roles and actions. Sometimes a project can be done by one person or hundreds. A project is 90 % and the tech is 10 %. The Knight Foundation funded the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative to help us create evaluation toolkits.
Problem : Too costly and time consuming to retrain volunteers with each new disaster. Solution : A group of 220+ dedicated volunteers in over 30 countries that can be activated on short notice to help humanitarian groups. First deployed in New Zealand during the February earthquake eq.org.nz Note, Stand-By Task Force is part of the community although it is not an official arm of Ushahidi
On March 2nd, UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) requested the Stand-By Task Force be activated in Libya. This was a very difficult map to volunteer and execute. Next week at the Crisismappers conference in Geneva, that team will present their analysis and lessons learned. The initial map was password protected to ensure safety of reporters, but later made publicly accessible. The SBTF is training people around the world to prepare. And, they are building on each exercise, activation and volunteer deployment.
I ’ ve mentioned a number of products and projects. U4U is core to today ’ s talk. Ushahidi for Universities is a program lead by a number of former students from Fletcher School, Tufts. This is a program that we feel very strongly about. And, we are working to expand our relationship with academics, researchers and embed it in the classrooms.
Columbia University, Fletcher School of International Affairs at Tufts, Simon Fraser University, Grant McEwan College (University of Alberta), Royal Roads, Goldsmiths (University of London, CAST), and more. These are just some of the universities that already including Ushahidi as part of their curriculum. It is not a comprehensive list because often we find out after the class. Courses range from International Politics, Software Development, Emergency Management, and Communications/Media Technology. We want to do everything we can to encourage and support this type of growth.
Can it fit into your programs? Here are some the use cases that we have found for using Ushahidi. But, we are constantly surprised by the extendability of the software and people ’ s desires to try new things. We are here to support those efforts. In fact, we like to have people mentor each other. And, we will do our best to great them started. Some complex projects need a deployment partner or a trusted core developer. We have a number of these people within our community.
We have a two strong academics embedded into our team - Patrick Meier and Heather Ford. I actually think that each deployment should have an academic or a student embedded to ask “ Why? ” to a deployer ’ s “ What if? ” . A map is only as useful as the lessons learned and built on. And, it outcomes, analysis and a call to action are not included, then it is just shiny dots on a map. A community of thinkers and knowledge workers would be best to work around it. We answer research questions frequently. Datasets are available on the site and we keep a record of all the research on Ushahidi. As well, we are looking for critical thinking blog posts that might be useful to our greater community and their audiences.
I ’ d like to take credit for the timing, but we are a team at Ushahidi who are all focused on building relationships with academics. This will be recorded tomorrow for future use. We hope to continue to build relationships with academics and researchers. And, encourage feedback into our software to improve and meet people ’ s needs.
There are volunteer communities in this space that need students, NGOs and academics to support their mission to create open source software for good. I encourage you to contact me about Ushahidi or one of our collaborators: crisismappers, rhok, crisiscommons, geeks without bounds, frontlinesms, meedan, sahana, openstreetmap, InSTEDD,Huridocs, Mozilla. As well, RHoK Zurich is in December. I will be meeting with the team this coming Saturday. We will talk about Ushahidi and Rhok in general. One of the core wins for RHok, is that many have been held within academic institutions. And, it is a great chance to mentor and share with people to test problem definitions and exercise collaboration. Who knows what people can create when they share and drop the barriers!
Please feel free to inquire for other resources. [email_address]
Thanks! Here ’ s to more universities, academics, students and researchers being engaged.
What ’ s in the toolkit?
Using Ushahidi for development, research and beyond
Heather Leson @heatherleson [email_address] North-South Centre for Research for Development Annual Conference, ETHz November 10, 2011
Disaster Response March 2011 - 4,000+ reports, 144,974 views Monitor fallout of tsunami and nuclear crisis sinsai.info/ushahidi uchaguzi.co.ke Election Monitoring August 2010 - 1525 reports, 20,000 views Monitor Kenya referendum election
Citizen Media December 2010 - 319 reports, 156,859 views Help bring awareness to sexual harassment in Egypt harassmap.com urbandesignweek.org By the City / For the City (NYC) Integration of social media into placemaking practices, which are community centered, encouraging public participation, collaboration and transparency. Communities
Volunteers Public /Victims Public / News Consumers Responders Public / News Producers Advertisers Funders Donors Activists Government Policy
Stand-By Task Force (SBTF) “ We are the people who map for three hours at night instead of watching TV. We are the people who wake up early before work, log into Skype and add a few reports to the map. We are the people who may drop everything to map for four days. We are communications and friends. ” - Heather Leson, SBTF volunteer standbytaskforce.com
Libya Crisis libyacrisismap.net The Libya Crisis Map deployed by request of UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)