Ushahidi has helped to connect people from across the world and reported on conflicts, earthquakes and created a network of information for citizens.
Ushahidi was set up in 2008, to report on the violence in the fallout of the Kenyan elections that year.
The platform has since helped people to report disasters across the world online or through text messages to keep people in the loop about what is going on.
Juliana Rotich, the executive director of Ushahidi, explained at the FutureEverything festival in Manchester that they realised live broadcasts were not giving people the information: “The view that we saw from our own eyes was vastly different than what we saw on TV. It allowed us to collaborate and find info, about where the threats were. We wanted to know what was going on.”
The platform used geomapping to show were the riots were happening and began to train non-governmental organisations and people to collect and manage the information, something which is called crowd-seeding. She said that trust and information are big issues and having people to control the data meant they could manage the information correctly.
The tool is open source software, meaning that anyone can use and adapt it. She said: “When you create open source tools and leave it people to use they often come up with ideas that you could never think of. The best use of technology is something you could never think of yourself.” The platform has been used to inform people about the Japanese earthquake, the Christchurch earthquake, and looking at the violence against women in India.
Juliana explained that crowd sourcing gives people a voice. After the Kony 2012 video went viral, many Ugandans gave their opinion: “You can’t just talk about Uganda like they don’t have a voice anymore. It’s complicating the conversation, there are many more stories and many more viewpoints to the issue. It’s not simplistic anymore.”
Crowd sourcing bring together people from all areas including experts in software, she said: “Geeks also want to save the world. With their skills now they can.”
She finished by saying that the software works because it is open source and because it creates a community. “People create community based on different things, its something really hard to do.
It’s not that easy, but actually it’s the future of collaboration and the future of business. "The challenge is to have enough critical mass of people who beleive in open source and to build up the open source movement.”