Kenya has taken a leading role in Africa by embarking on effective use of Mobile Internet to expose acts of political violence, murder and torture, Ory Okollo the founder of Ushahidi.com told Biz-news.com
In an interview on the sidelines of Mobile Web Africa conference in Sandton recently, executive director of Kenya’s Ushahidi, Ory Okolloh, said her organization was primarily established to expose crisis situations to empower Africa.
“In brief, Ushahidi means testimony. The name was derived from Swahili language and Ushahidi was developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post election fallout at the beginning of 2008.
“This is basically about creating technological platform to enable anyone from around the globe to capture reports by mobile phone, web or email. With time, we would want this to work with other online tools,” said Okolloh.
She said Ushahidi was an open source application which could be downloaded, used or implemented, to bring awareness to regional crisis prevailing on the continent.
Already some countries such as Uganda, war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Malawi and Zambia are tapping into Ushahidi project to improve and track near real-time stockouts of medical supplies at pharmacies.
Even renowned international television channel, Al Jazeera, is reportedly using some of the technology from Ushahidi in its work to expose elements of violence from around the globe.
Ushahidi.com site collects “testimony” on violence as people see it. They can send reports using cell phones and computers to the site.
The information is logged and registered according to the type of violence (riots, deaths, property loss, rape, looting, etc.) using Google Maps.
In places and moments when reporting is dangerous and difficult, this kind of program uses information from ordinary citizens to record violence as its happening. Ushahidi was put together by a lawyer/activist, Okollo and a small group of Kenyan, blogger/techies while the post-election violence in Kenya was going on in the early part of 2008.
It was then used in South Africa to track xenophobic attacks against foreigners, and then in the Democratic Republic of Congo. All these instances can be viewed on the website.
In addition to offering a method of tracking violence, Ushahidi also serves as a bloggers’ space to talk about new uses of technologies in Africa. Videos produced on the spot that can be uploaded also add to the testimony. It is cutting edge technology married to a citizen empowerment project.
The collected data is useful for all kinds of people and purposes from NGOs, media, human rights workers, aid organizations to ordinary citizens who want to know what is happening in times of crisis.