The Ushahidi platform has been used by people all over the world to report information on large-scale hazard events in real-time. Ushahidi enabled people in Pakistan during the intense flooding in 2010 to report information via SMS about where help was needed. It has also been used to track national elections creating visualisations of data on the web or sent via mobile devices. Ushahidi also created SwiftRiver, which can be used to analyse information about emerging disasters online that are communicated via text messaging.
This is a valuable tool for aid workers as well as journalists who are pressed for time when reporting on an ongoing disaster or crisis. The software platform also has the ability to ‘crowd source’ information to assess trustworthiness of messages or other sources of information coming in. It was used during the aftermath of the 2010 Haitian Earthquake and began in 2008 with tracking the spread of post-election violence in Kenya. While it can be used virtually anywhere, the software is clearly very useful for people in developing countries who have access to the internet and/or use mobile devices.
Ushahidi is also behind CrowdMap which aggregates information about a particular disaster or other event allowing it to be visualised on a map and timeline. CrowdMap does not require any software installation and seems both straightforward and easy to use. What makes CrowdMap and other Ushahidi software platforms particularly powerful for the user is that they can create their own ‘Deployment’ that allows them to report information about a disaster both locally and internationally. Here are a few examples of how CrowdMap has been used to report on disasters.
Flooding in Thailand in late 2011. https://thailandflood.crowdmap.com/
Hurricane Irene that hit the East Coast of the US. https://irene2011.crowdmap.com/
Kathmandu Valley Earthquake in Nepal. https://ktmeq.crowdmap.com/
As you can see, reports about a disaster can be sorted by category and gives the location of each source. There are also apps available for the Ushahidi platform for both iPhone and Android.
There are of course limitations when depending on multiple sources of information that cannot always be authenticated, however, SwiftRiver was designed for this very reason so it may allow more accurate information to become available to people who need it most. The Ushahidi software can be downloaded for free from their website. CrowdMap is also available for free.