(I’m not a huge fan of press releases, but sometimes it really is a good vehicle for communication of big news.)

CRISIS MAPPING PLATFORM RECEIVES $200,000 GRANT AND BETA RELEASE FOR BROADER GLOBAL IMPACT

ORLANDO, Fla. (May 7, 2009) – Crisis-mapping platform Ushahidi, a mobile-phone and Web-based tool, received a $200,000 grant to aid in further development of its platform. Ushahidi is also expanding its global offering of crisis information by releasing the open Beta of its platform as well as information collected from citizen reports, most recently used to report cases and locations of the swine flu (see http://swineflu.ushahidi.com).

The $200,000 grant Ushahidi received from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation allows it to continue developing its platform for the duration of 2009. An initial grant from Humanity United funded Ushahidi’s development and progress since 2008; the recent funding from the MacArthur Foundation is critical to Ushahidi’s growth and sustainability.

While continuing to refine the core architecture, Ushahidi will also focus on new initiatives, including Swift River. Additionally, the funding allows the company to add more developers and enhances its ability to plan for long-term growth and sustainability.

“This funding is a great measure of confidence in us as an organization,” says Ory Okolloh, Ushahidi Executive Director. “We’ve already achieved so much in the past year, and we know the best is yet to come.”

Moreover, the open Beta release of the Ushahidi code base, which can be used worldwide to crowdsource crisis information and visualize that data, is now available for free at http://download.ushahidi.com.

Ushahidi provides individuals and organizations around the globe with a simple and effective platform to manage SMS and Web-related news. Users can report information shared by the public, which is used to quickly disseminate crucial information during events such as political disruption or natural disasters and epidemics, such as earthquakes and the swine flu, as experienced around the world in the past week.

Though Ushahidi has been in Alpha since October, it has been deployed in several unique environments. Using Ushahidi, two-dozen Alpha testing organizations now have deployed it to Web sites around the world, from Madagascar and Pakistan to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya.

As of late, Ushahidi is mapping confirmed and suspected cases of the swine flu around the world while allowing citizens to report information related to the crisis. More information is found at http://swineflu.ushahidi.com.

Earlier in 2009, Al Jazeera’s new media team used Ushahidi to gather and map information related to the conflict in Gaza: http://labs.aljazeera.net/warongaza. Currently, Ushahidi plays a key role in the 2009 Indian elections: http://votereport.in.

Developed by a group of volunteer developers and designers, Ushahidi benefits from representatives located in Kenya, South Africa, Malawi, Ghana, Liberia, the Netherlands, Canada, India, Pakistan, Qatar and the United States, Ushahidi’s extensive global roots aid in its growth and utilization.

About Ushahidi
Ushahidi is a nonprofit organization founded with the goal of creating a free and open-source platform to help with early warning by aggregating and visualizing citizen reports in disaster and crisis scenarios. Ushahidi, which means “testimony” in Swahili, was originally deployed in Kenya during the post-election violence in January 2008. It continues to grow with a strong African-driven development team from around the continent. Learn more at www.ushahidi.com/newsroom.

About the MacArthur Foundation
The MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society. More information is at www.macfound.org.

About Humanity United
Humanity United is an independent grant-making organization committed to building a world where modern-day slavery and mass atrocities are no longer possible. Humanity United supports efforts that empower affected communities and address the root causes of conflict and modern-day slavery to build lasting peace. Learn more at www.humanityunited.org.