My February 2011 video clip of the month features the founders of the nonprofit Ushahidi (Swahili for “testimony” or “witness”) discussing the revolutionary free and open source software they created for crowdsourcing and democratising information. If you haven’t been following Ushahidi and crisis mapping, you’ve got to check the video out. The Ushahidi story is amazing.
Ushahidi collects eyewitness reports sent in by e-mail and SMS/cellphone, allowing “everyone to create the narrative,” and places them on an interactive Google map to create a temporal and geospatial pattern of events. Originally developed to map reports of violence in the aftermath of Kenya’s disputed 2007 presidential election, it has since been used in disaster relief in Pakistan and Haiti, and other scenarios from the London Tube strike to election monitoring to mapping snow cleanup in Washington, D.C.
As Clay Shirky wrote in Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in A Connected Age:
“Like all good stories, the story of Ushahidi holds several different lessons: People want to do something to make the world a better place. They will help when they are invited to. Access to cheap, flexible tools removes many of the barriers to trying new things. You don’t need fancy computers to harness cognitive surplus; simple phones are enough. But one of the most important lessons is this: once you’ve figured out how to tap the surplus in a way that people care about, others can replicate your technique, over and over, around the world.”
Enjoy the video below and imagine all the possibilities.
What do you think the most exciting use of Ushahidi is? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.