Monday, November 17, 2008

Ushahidi, Crowdsourcing Crisis Information in Africa and Worldwide!


In case you have not been staying abreast of the crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC], we urge you to! DRC's women and children are being raped, robbed, and murdered. Ladybrille June 2008 main feature, DRC fashion model Noella Coursaris, who if you recall, recently established a non-profit school for girls in DRC, has been keeping us abreast of happenings in the DRC, among other sources.

We URGE you to view Co-founder of 'Friends of the Congo' Maurice Carney's interview with Democracynow.org below to stay informed and get involved. http://www.friendsofthecongo.org/

Watch Maurice Carney's Part II Interview HERE.


For our Ladybrille DRC readers with friends and family in East DRC, where the crisis is taking place, the pressing questions for them are, "What has happened to our loved ones???" "How do we find out the well being of our loved ones?!" "How do we know what is going on?!" In the midst of alarm, uncertainty and confusion, Ushahidi provides answers to the aforementioned questions. LADYBRILLE.com recently chatted with Erik Hersman one of the co-founders of Ushahidi to see how Ushahidi works. Ushahidi's DRC deployment can be found at http://drc.ushahidi.com/, and the mobile number to send SMS reports to is +243992592111. Please be sure to forward the above info. to as many as possible, especially your DRC friends and their families.

LADYBRILLE.com: Hi Erik! For those who might not know about you, please tell us a bit about your background. What do you do?
Ushahidi:
I grew up in Sudan and Kenya, and write about technology in Africa. Specifically, I cover low-tech ingenuity at AfriGadget, and high-tech mobile and web developments in Africa on my personal blog, WhiteAfrican. I'm also a co-founder of Ushahidi, a web application created in Kenya to crowdsource crisis information.

LADYBRILLE.com: How did Ushahidi come about?
Ushahidi:
Ushahidi, which means ''testimony'' in Swahili, is a website that was developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout at the beginning of 2008. A group of Kenyan bloggers and technologists came together to create the website, and it grew from there into being a global platform for use by anyone, anywhere in the world.

LADYBRILLE.com: Let's try a practical application of Ushahidi that we can all understand. We've been hearing about the violence in the DR of Congo. How does Ushahidi come in to help friends, family and the world at large keep track of the happenings in DR Congo?
Ushahidi:
We actually deployed into the DRC last week on Friday. We're still working at getting the news out to everyone on the ground in the Eastern Congo about Ushahidi and the local number there that they can all SMS messages and incidents into. What Ushahidi does in the DRC, is it allows the rest of the world to see at a glance what is going on in that part of the world. It's no longer just the media reports, but real people talking.


LADYBRILLE.com: What are the strengths of Ushahidi?
Ushahidi:
We are expanding into new areas. The fact that it's made to work in Africa, thus it can work anywhere.

LADYBRILLE.com: What are its shortcomings?
Ushahidi
: We've just launched the new alpha software, so it's very new and there are still a lot of bugs with it. There's a very strong development team on it though, from all over Africa, so we're sure we can make good headway on fixing problems and adding features.

LADYBRILLE.com: I know you are very into the fusion of Africa and technology both on a national and global scale. What new applications/technologies are you building to make Ushahidi even more efficient?
Ushahidi:
Ushahidi sits in a unique place, as it is born in Africa, yet a global project and product. That means that though most communication from ordinary people in Africa would be through a basic mobile phone, we also have to develop tools that work on the smart phones in the rest of the world. There's a mobile team of programmers who have already created an Android, iPhone and J2ME application for Ushahidi. So, it's very cutting edge work, though that type of device won't be used that often in Africa. What we're looking at is the possibility of it deploying to somewhere like the US or Asia in case of a hurricane or other disaster.

LADYBRILLE.com: Can you forecast for us technology trends when it comes to Africa?
Ushahidi:
Hah! I wish I could. It used to be all about mobile phones, but now when I talk about that it sounds so cliche. One thing I will say is that I think we are coming to a point in Africa [generally speaking], where the intersection of mobile-provided bandwidth makes certain types of mobile applications even more accessible. I think we'll see more ways to create content via mobile phones - in ways that connect Africa to the rest of the world.

Ushahidi: Thanks Uduak! It's always fun to talk, and I love what you're doing with Ladybrille.
LADYBRILLE.com:Thanks Erik!
~by Uduak Oduok

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