March 9, 2011
Collecting, aggregating and visualizing geospatial data from on-the-ground sources are three critical features of Ushahidi, a crowdsourcing application which has been used to aggregate information in the aftermath of the earthquakes in New Zealand, Chile, and Haiti, as well as wildfires in Russia.
For those who set out to use this open source software, it’s become even easier to deploy thanks to a new service by the Ushahidi organization called Crowdmap.
Ushahidi is easy to install – if you know your way around a LAMP stack. If you have the desire to organize and want to do it very quickly (a few minutes) and/or don’t have the technical expertise, Crowdmap is the answer. It is a hosted solution that allows people to set up a site to crowdsource virtually any type of geospatial information from cell phones, news and the web and display them on a map with a timeline to share the data in an open way. The goal of this product is to reduce the time necessary to get a website utilizing the Ushahidi platform up and running from a few hours to a few minutes.
Ushahidi’s roots are in Africa. Kenya-based bloggers Ory Okolloh, Erik Hersman, Juliana Rotich and David Kobia united in 2008 to create a website that collected eyewitness reports of post-election violence in Kenya sent in by email and text-message – and placed them on a Google map. This website, which successfully crowdsourced reports on the ground, became the open source project called ‘Ushahidi’, which means “testimony” or “witness” in Swahili. Since early 2008 the team has grown from an ad hoc group of volunteers to a focused organization comprised of individuals with a wide span of experience ranging from human rights work to software development.
Crowdmap is not only for use in crisis situations – the team suggests using it for monitoring elections, curating local resources or perhaps the most crucial – chronicling an apocalyptic zombie invasion.
If you’re heading to Austin, Crowdmap is one of the featured startups at our SXSW Accelerator Kickoff on Sunday.
Interested in reading more about the tech scene in Africa? We recently interviewed Erik Hersman of Ushahidi about AfriLabs, a network organization working to associate and connect the African technology community to further promote the growth and development: http://tech.co/afrilabs-africa-technology-entrepreneurs-2011-02
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