Frena La Curva: Connecting spanish speakers with critical resources around them

Angela Oduor Lungati
Mar 25, 2020

This is a guest blog post by Pablo Ruiz-Muzquiz, FrenaLaCurva Maps Technical Coordinator on how they're using Ushahidi to help spanish speakers connect to critical resources during Covid 19 lockdowns

FrenaLaCurva (Spanish for "stop/slow down the curve"),is a citizen-driven initiative that started thanks to institutional and governmental support and quickly evolved into a grass-roots project aimed at helping people cope with the COVID crisis and the necessary lockdown. It started as a carefully crafted forum where dozens of volunteers collected online resources, curated information and ideas to bring insight and tools to the general public. Once that was launched, we looked elsewhere for more collaborative power and we decided that we needed to evolve into a map. Plenty of maps show the virus spread, our map would show, instead, how help between people was also spreading even faster. Our new goal is, therefore, twofold, Provide useful online resources and map the needs, help and public services around you.

We are trying to accelerate the rate at which the general public understand that, even in partial lock-down, they can fight against the dire consequences of this confinement for many vulnerable people. The elderly, the disabled, the homeless or simply the infected people that cannot exit their houses, all these people need help and they need it fast. Even if they are not in a life-threatening scenario, this lock-down is expected to last many weeks and we need to establish a geographically relevant safety net in which individuals but also NGOs and public services can be effectively summoned.

Ushahidi was one of the few platforms we analyzed 10 days ago. We were expecting similar initiatives from local governments and councils (the first to announce "apps" or "webs") but when we saw that these platforms were oriented to the self-diagnosis of covid19 symptoms or how to proceed with lock-down measures, we saw the need to go for a full-fledged Map.

Ushahidi is helping us in many ways. First, it's map-centric, exactly what we need, and you can quickly zoom in into your particular area of interest. Second, it's very easy to create surveys (we renamed them in Spanish as tipologías) and attach them meaningful colours. Third, we can create specific teams to review specific incoming requests and so allow knowledgeable people to attend what they understand best. Finally, we are quickly exploring the Collections module as we can see its potential for the mid-term where having dozens of thousands of points will require smart segmentation, like thematic maps.

We have been able to collect 1200+ data points in just 72h and it's accelerating every hour, most of them coming from individuals offering help to their neighbours ("I can do the groceries for you", "collect some medicine", "counsel by telephone", etc), which is consistent with the current situation, as most people needing info are unaware of this platform and there are many more people in "good condition" to help. In terms of "feeling", we are seeing much support from people applauding the initiative as we have been very sensitive with privacy and digital divide, creating the "Need through proxy" survey where someone acts on behalf of the person in need, so that person, most probably vulnerable enough already, can stay away of the platform and still benefit from it.

One outcome that is about to feel tangible is that we have developed all this for Spain with our friends in Latin America in mind. We are already working together with similar FrenaLaCurva national teams in most Latin America so we can replicate both the server infrastructure (one server per country) and the social protocols we have defined, which are behind our current traction.

At the moment we don't need support per se. We have committed individuals and organisations working together to bring this Map to as many people as possible. But I would like to take the opportunity to say two things:

  1. if you have few cases of COVID-19 reported in your country, congratulations, you've got a bit more time than us. Start working now on citizen-driven platforms that might work for you and

  2. any neighbourhood-oriented support net only works if every healthy and networked individual starts unearthing all their nearby needs. It may well be that you can sort those out yourself or perhaps you will need to share them using something like FrenaLaCurva, but, do something about it.

Ushahidi has proven to be an amazing platform. It has some limitations but also many strengths. It's definitely more than enough, especially if we, the people, regardless of a map or not, play our part.