New Technology Helps Map Areas of Violence

December 3, 2009

When violence broke out in 2007  during the Kenya’s elections,  one blogger, Ory Okolloh, wrote about the disruption she witnessed that December.  But after fleeing Nairobi, she wondered if it would be possible  to map  the region she was reporting from.  With help from other members of the blogosphere, Ushahidi was developed.

Swahili for “witness”, Ushahidi allows text messages, tweets, and emails to be mapped by time and location.

Global Voices discussed how the program was used to help monitor last weeks elections in Namibia and provided one example of a report they received.

“Last Friday evening between 20hoo and 21hoo in Eveline Street in the Goreangab suburb of Windhoek, fighting started between a group of 15 Swapo party and 7 RDP supporters after the former singing ‘We are Nujoma’s soldiers’ removed a RDP poster from a municipal light pole. Members of the Wanaheda Police precinct rapidly intervened and no further incident occurred that evening.”

Ushahidi isn’t the only nonprofit group using maps to do good.  Other nonprofits, governmental and human rights agencies have also started using the innovative technology.

But Utne Reader writes that according International Network of Crisis Mappers (INCM), founder Peter Meier, “these organizations are notoriously bad at sharing data” which is the reason he created INCM, to connect people and organizations using maps.  The article goes on to state, “When a natural disaster strikes or violence breaks out in a country, a map can change the nature of that crisis. The simple act of getting people in front of a map and asking for input can build consensus between warring parties. Maps can also ensure that humanitarian resources are used more effectively and get to the people who need them more quickly.”

In the Global Post Jen Ziemke, the co-founder of the International Network of Crisis Mappers (CM*Net), describes Ushahidi as “one of the best examples of next-generation crisis platforms.”


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