Re-imagining Citizen Engagement


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Ushahidi introduction: Re-imagining Citizen Engagement

Webinar provided to the Urban Sustainability Director's Network (USDN)
By Heather Leson

February 24, 2012

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  • Ushahidi is a global free open source software provider. We create tools for information collection, visualization and interactive mapping. \n
  • 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?”\n
  • We are committed to support those who want to use the 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. \n
  • Ushahidi is software, a community and a movement. These are some of the projects from around the world. The people who worked on these range from international development experts, environmentalists, health science (doctors), software developers, journalists, civil society groups and NGOs. The topics range from environmental issues, fair trade shopping, floods, emergencies, elections and even burgers.\n
  • One major use is Disaster Response including mapping the Christchurch Earthquake and creation of A team of OpenStreetMap Foundation Japan and various other digital communities collaborated to monitor the fallout of tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan. \nVolunteers from the NZ map and others helped Hal Seki. They mapped over 10, 000 reports. Most of them collected via twitter because the phone lines were unavailable. There is a global community of crisismappers which are building this field. See for more community details. Also, here is a podcast on the topic of Crisismapping:\n
  • It’s also been used for Citizen Media like HarrassMap (HarrassMap helped bring awareness to sexual harassment in Egypt.) \nCommunities and city building (place making) is becoming powerful with CIC in Monterey Mexico, in Chisnau (Moldovia) or By the City in NYC.\n
  • How are reports collected? Multiple channels - phone, email, web, sms. Twitter, Facebook and more are possible. These can be used for outreach and data collection. But, with data comes responsibility and action. We call it, thanks to our volunteer Chris Blow, the 90/ 10 rule. Ushahidi is most effective: 90 percent is the plan, 10 percent is the tech. How to plan? See: . Because data can be imported and exported, you can add open data as layers. And, it can work with ESRI . See the plugin:\n
  • In order to help show the city-building potential, I am going to demonstrate using a map for the city of Monterey, Mexico. The CIC team with Citivox, private and public sector support as well as civil society group participation is a full project collaboration. CIC aggregates and visualizes citizen reports using multiple communication channels in both English and Spanish. It is highly customized. The team determined which types of information they wanted to track = categories. Then they did an outreach program to collect reports = all the red dots on the map are reports. \n
  • Project Tehuan (meaning in Nahuatl is “us”) is a CIC pilot initiative that aims to promote broad based citizen participation via a a social collaboration platform.  Enabled by this platform, citizens will be able to send their reports on anything and everything that needs attention in their community via Twitter, email, SMS and web, including potholes, flooding, medical emergencies, traffic accidents, observations of suspicious or illicit activity.\n\nThe primary goals of this initial phase for Project Tehuan are the following:\n\na) Facilitate a means for citizens to report incidents or events in their community that require citizen and public service agency attention\nb) Consolidate, organize and publish citizen reports to promote and facilitate collaboration among citizens and between citizens and public service agencies\nc) Send near real-time alerts and notifications to citizens regarding citizens reports based on the geographic and topics of interest\n\n
  • For the web form, they have designated 5 simple steps to filing a report. This form can be customized by the designer. By identifying the information you wish to collect and geolocate, you can start to build your visual story. But again, this particular project has action tied to the reports. Once reports are collected, they reside in a dashboard. The administration team can then decide whether to approve and /or verify the report. The process of verification is up to the project team and their criteria. The CIC team has highly trained people to ensure that accurate reports are added to the map. Verification for online information is a large topic. The teams, a volunteer network, has procedures around how to best verify and geolocate information. At Ushahidi, we also study this and blog frequently about best practices. \n
  • The CIC team recreated Android and iphone apps. They took our free open source mobile code which is “white-labelled”. This means that they could rebrand it with their marketing and name. And, the report forms can be highly customized. Download the Tehuan app for review: . Prepared by Centro de Informacion Ciudadana, A.C. Having mobile options for collecting reports is key to engaging citizens. If you are asking them to collect information about their city while they are living and using it, there is a best chance of them having access to a phone than a laptop when a report is necessary. There are also options for SMS like FrontlineSMS. Or, if it is possible, a short code or telephone number for reporting. Each of these options require user education with outreach. And, of course, people to verify and add the reports to the map. \n\n\n\n
  • We are at the beginning of location plus citizen building. Thank you for the opportunity to provide an introduction to the potential of Ushahidi for city building. Please contact us if you have any further questions. \n\,\nMore deployment examples can be found:\nQuestions to @ushahidi @heatherleson\n\n
  • Re-imagining Citizen Engagement

    1. 1. Re-imagining Citizen Engagement Heather Leson USDN @heatherleson Urban Sustainability Directors February 24, 2012
    2. 2. Ushahidi = TestimonyBorn out of the post-election violence in Kenya in2008, used to map reports of violence and peaceefforts throughout the country.
    3. 3. Social ImpactEnabling the wider coverage of crisis, elections and politicalmovements that would otherwise be unreported orunderreportedCreate an easy-to-use tool that is freely and instantlyavailable to individuals, NGOs and other organizationsallowing them to focus on mobilizing the content and theresponseFacilitate transparency and accountability by amplifyingcitizen voices with a consumer-focused tool, designed withareas with limited access in mindDeveloping ability for stakeholders in a particular situation toshare and find data
    4. 4. Disaster Response Election MonitoringMarch 2011 - 10,000+ reports, 144,974 views August 2010 - 1525 reports, 20,000 viewsMonitor fallout of tsunami and nuclear crisis Monitor Kenya referendum election
    5. 5. Citizen Media Communities By the City / For the City (NYC) Integration of social media into placemaking practices, which are community centered, encouraging publicHelp bring awareness to sexual harassment in Egypt participation, collaboration and transparency.
    6. 6. Thank you.