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From War & Health : Ten months ago, War & Health discussed a little known, but promising, project called Ushahidi. Born from the 2007/2008 electoral violence in Kenya, Ushahidi is a new way to report and gain low-level, real-time intelligence in crisis zones. Today, Ushahidi, in partnership with some NGOs, took a big step forward and deployed their system in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In a nutshell, Ushahidi allows individuals to report instances of violence, looting, and other incidents via local SMS messages. The report is then displayed on a web-based map using the Ushahidi engine. A more detailed explanation is offered in the diagram below:
I am a strong supporter of Ushahidi and I believe it will become a standard part of any humanitarian’s toolkit. That said, the project still has work to do. Presently, while the project is an innovative technological tool, it has yet to be connected with the interests of the policy folks. How well Ushahidi’s crowdsourcing methods mesh with the operations of NGOs? Of international peacekeepers? Does the project offer a value-added service to existing local health information networks? What is the potential for armed groups to exploit Ushahidi’s crowdsourced design? How best can the raw information collected be converted into reliable and actionable intelligence? In the coming weeks, War & Health will publish a series of articles looking at Ushahidi from a political science / policy perspective. Stay tuned.