Ushahidi in the era of COVID 19

Angela Oduor Lungati
Mar 29, 2020

We initially built Ushahidi as a response to our own issues in Kenya, and then realized that others needed a tool that they could do the same with for their own problems. That’s why Ushahidi is an open source platform that anyone can use. We’ve made a cloud version of it so that the less technical people can get up and running to coordinate and communicate within their own community far faster than ever before.

Ushahidi as Support

This pandemic has wreaked havoc at an unprecedented scale, with requests for support coming in from nearly every country in the world, simultaneously.

In the last week alone, there have been more than 200 maps created on our hosted service, and many other self hosted ones. They’re collecting information, organizing their communities, and making sure that those who need supplies, food, or help are connected to those who can give it. And this number is growing daily.

These deployments are being run by non-Ushahidi staff, using our platform. This is important, we’re a small team of 11 full-time staff, which means we have a binary choice to make: dig into a single deployment of the software (as we’ve done with elections in Kenya and the locusts invasion) or support many at a global level. We’ve chosen the latter: to effectively serve everyone who needs our support.

The team (myself included) have spent hours on calls with deployers, helping them get set up and customise their maps, amplifying their work within our networks, and connecting people to each other to prevent duplication of effort. Being a remote team, and being global, we have the benefit of working round the clock to make sure our tech and servers are stable, developing features urgently required, and being on hand to support deployers using our tools.

Who is Doing What, Where?

There’s been a herculean effort around the world by community organizers, city councils, non-governmental organizations, and private companies to coordinate and help those in need. We’re tracking some of them here. Here’s a list of some of them:

Italy - Ensuring a steady supply of food, medicine and other subsistence goods to vulnerable communities in Italy

Nigeria - Documenting the Coronavirus outbreak in Nigeria from verified sources.

Peru - Flattening the curve, “I stay at home”

Global - Documenting global COVID-19 testing.

Spain - Locating needs, offers and resources during lockdowns

Europe - Show solidarity in times of COVID19

Brazil - Tracking COVID-19 cases in Brazil

Here, in Kenya

While we’re all over the world as a team [Kenya (7), Sweden (1), Hungary (1), Uruguay (1) and the USA (1)], we think of Kenya as our home. Of the 200 maps mentioned earlier, 14 are in Kenyan, some public and some private. It’s heartwarming to see other Kenyans deploying the software and using it to offer food, sanitation and other resources to informal settlements in Kenya.

Here are a few examples of some that have gone public, and will be needing your support:

Map Kibera: They’ve set up a deployment to keep track of cases of #COVID19, other related stories & activities in Kibera and other parts of the country. You can help by sharing information and news you have on their deployment.

Liquid Telecom/KEPSA: set up a self hosted deployment to gather information to help support business and community. They’ve been collecting data on people’s experiences working from home, or from those self isolating, in hopes that they can use this data to help businesses adapt to this crisis now and in the future.

There are more coming up that we will share in the coming days.

We need your help!

First, help us run a deployment. We are ready, and willing to work with anyone who has the capacity to manage a country-wide deployment to track resources required, and match those in need, with those who can help. If that’s you, please get in touch. We’re absolutely happy to have a chat and run you through what this entails, and work with you to make it successful. The hosted version is available for free, and you can sign up here.

Second, are you running one? Talk to us about your experience. Share a blog post and help others learn from your experience. Be that giant on whose shoulder your friends can stand on.

Third, if you have some engineering experience and can help with squashing bugs or building features, jump right in.

The team and I are committed to playing our part in helping us all get through this crisis, and look forward to working with you. We’ll continue to share updates as regularly as we can.

Stay sanitized, stay safe, stay sane.

(Also on medium)