In the first of our two-part Get to Know Ushahidi posts, we shared the genesis of Ushahidi. Today, we talk about the ‘Exodus’ of Ushahidi. Derived from the Greek word Exodos, which literally means "the road out." What has been Ushahidi’s road out since the genesis?
First step: 2008
Born out of a crisis, we took the first step in 2008 and out of the collective overwhelming voluntary support for the cause, we made our code open source - freely sharable with and by the public. Open source, by its nature, ensures our platform is thus built for a variety of use cases, environments, and users. This means more options resulting in greater flexibility and lower customisation costs in the long run. Further, if you consume open source, you should give back to the community, e.g. by advancing the code which improves the platform and enhances it for our users. It’s a never-ending cycle of giving.
Seeing the potential for Ushahidi’s replicability, Humanity United, a philanthropic organisation dedicated to cultivating the conditions for enduring peace and freedom, funded us with a $200,000 grant. The funding was to develop the platform further as our view was that Ushahidi could in the future help local and international NGOs working in crises: from early conflict warning to tracking a crisis as it evolves and facilitating response.
First test: 2010, Haiti earthquake
This was a large-scale earthquake that occurred on January 12, 2010. The initial shock registered a magnitude of 7.0, with multiple other aftershocks, including one of 5.9 magnitude hitting eight days later on January 20th. It was estimated that some three million people were affected by the quake—nearly one-third of its total population. Of these, over one million were left homeless in the immediate aftermath, and in January 2011, Haitian officials announced the revised figure of 316,000 deaths.
Capturing over 40,000 reports, the Ushahidi Haiti Project (UHP) was set up for search and rescue operations and to deliver aid where it was most needed. This deployment addressed vital information gaps in the response during the first days and weeks post-quake before UN and other large organizations were operational by:
Providing situational awareness and critical early information with a relatively high degree of geographic precision
Providing situational information for smaller NGOs that did not have a field presence in Haiti
Helping smaller, privately funded responses to more appropriately target needs and
Facilitating private citizen actors.
Catch the backstory of the deployment here.
Others that have trusted Ushahidi include:
Louisiana Bucket Brigade used the platform to map over 3000 eyewitness reports and photos of pollution in the Gulf Region from affected citizens, NGO’s, government agencies, and the parties responsible for the pollution following the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Ushahidi enabled complacent communities to speak out about how oil, petrochemical, and other fossil fuel pollution threatened their livelihood, health, and the ecosystems they rely on. The documentation of the extent of the devastation helped argue for greater regulation in Louisiana.
Reclaim Naija. A deployment set up in Nigeria to enhance the participation of grassroots people, organisations and local institutions in promoting electoral transparency, accountability and democratic governance in Nigeria. A research on this deployment found that the number and nature of reports generated by citizens was significantly correlated with increased voter turnout (by 8%) in the 2011 Nigerian presidential election as a result of providing officials with improved information about the functionality of local polling stations (controlling for some factors).
The United Nations Department of Field Services (UN DFS), the peacekeeping operations, use Ushahidi to run their UN Situational Awareness and Geospatial (SAGE) program. SAGE is an incident reporting and situational awareness tool used to manage day-to-day activities across countries where peacekeepers are deployed.
2008. The Knight-Batten Awards (now ended) for Innovations in Journalism reward news and information ideas that significantly enhance opportunities for digital engagement. Ushahidi was honoured for its novel efforts towards public participation and meeting information needs creatively.
2011, Webby Awards
Established in 1996, The Webby Awards is the leading international award honouring excellence on the Internet and is presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (IADAS)—a 2000+ member judging body. Ushahidi received the Special Achievement Award.
Back to the question at the start, ‘What has been Ushahidi’s road out since the genesis?’ It’s been one of many firsts. And on this foundation, we persist.
Even so, the accolades are not what keep us going, but rather, the many stories of people’s lives that a Ushahidi deployment has impacted. Join us as we write the next chapter of the Ushahidi story to empower and strengthen communities with our tools to improve their lives.