10 years of innovation. 10 years of global impact.

Ushahidi was created 10 years ago when a group of Kenyan bloggers built a tool to answer the question, “What’s happening on the ground, and how do I keep people safe?” when violence erupted across Kenya after a close contested election . Ten years later. Ushahidi – “testimony” or “witness” in Swahili – remains an innovative platform that has been used more than 150,000 times in over 160 countries, crowdsourcing more than 50 million reports from citizens across the world. Ushahidi has grown into a social enterprise with a global team of 30 highly-skilled and diverse experts from 10 different countries, building on their open source roots. Ushahidi builds technology to help marginalized people raise their voice and get the help they need. These are people in the midst of destruction due to hurricanes or earthquakes, whose human rights are threatened, and others witnessing violence, corruption or harassment. They are also groups of people who have been excluded from conversations and decision-making in matters affecting them. Technology empowers them to be heard so those who can help can respond better.

This week, we are releasing our official 10 year impact report. Over the next few weeks we will be sharing insights from this report and our work.

At Ushahidi we believe that technology can help marginalized people raise their voices and get the help they need. We see our work as creating four types of impact that reinforce each other in a cycle, which have helped to frame this report: raising voices, informing decisions, stopping suffering, and influencing change.

Raise Voices

We built Ushahidi to give people in the most dire situations a better way to communicate and share information with rest of the world. Our community across 6 continents and 160 countries have used Ushahidi to share and record critical status updates and images in the midst of earthquakes and hurricanes, political crises like election violence and extra-judicial killings, and through many other forms of human rights violations that no human should suffer. The people who use Ushahidi often represent groups who have been excluded from conversations and key decision-making processes in matters immediately affecting them. Technology gives them a voice and a platform to get help, to demand better, or simply to record for posterity the truth and the facts.

At Ushahidi we believe technology should reach people where they already are. On Ushahidi citizens can report using embeddable web forms or mobile apps (available for both iOS and Android) that operate offline, or via SMS, email, Twitter, and Facebook Messenger. This allows individuals to bear witness no matter their technology constraints.

Making elections more open, honest, and peaceful was the impetus for starting Ushahidi, and it remains part of our core mission. One example of this is in Nigeria, where tension and anxiety have always surrounded the pre-election atmosphere throughout the country.

Since 2011, Reclaim Naija has run Ushahidi as a national platform for ordinary citizens and organizations to work together to engage the country in encouraging a peaceful, free and fair pre- and post-election era. Citizens are encouraged to report any incidents through the platform so electoral and security authorities could respond by reallocating resources to specific polling stations. Since 2015 over 17,700 citizen reports about election transparency in Nigeria have been published. A randomized control trial found that the use of Ushahidi increased voter turnout increased by 8% because of increased trust in the process.

Inform Decisions

Often people know a problem exists, yet there is a lack of objective information to highlight the need for change. Organizations face roadblocks in obtaining first-hand accounts of an incident because people may be afraid or do not have the means to raise their voice. The Ushahidi platform is designed to reduce these barriers and empower people to come forward. This matters because when people are heard, organizations, governments and anyone in the position to help can make informed decisions. For instance, when city governments are able to do better street lighting and protection based on reports of harassment from harassmap.org or safecity.in. Or when the 2012 Obama Campaign uses Ushahidi to report on and validate voter suppression at the polls, allowing give US states to make the decision to keep polls open longer and allow 100,000s of Americans their constitutional right to vote.

The Ushahidi platform manages crowdsourced data from multiple sources so whoever is administering the platform can find, search and visualize relevant information and export it however they like. With Ushahidi first responders can pinpoint where people are trapped after an earthquake, for example, and authorities can see where there are reports of corruption, unrest or security concerns. This helps them make better decisions on how to keep people safe and how to govern more efficiently and fairly. For example, The United Nations (UN) uses the Ushahidi platform for peacekeeping. Internally they call their Ushahidi deployment “SAGE—Situational Awareness Geospatial Enterprise.” The UN peacekeeping field teams use Ushahidi to report what they see throughout the day back to homebase, allowing homebase to make better decisions about where to send other missions and field staff. Over 100 reports are filed per day in each of the eight countries where it is currently being used. Ultimately, this allows the UN peacekeeping forces to have a better understanding of what’s happening on the ground.

“I am very much pleased to see all this Ushahidi technology and ideas are being used by the United Nations operations elsewhere. I was just told that the Departments of Field Support, Peacekeeping Support, are using your ideas, your technology, your systems and many other places are, too.” - UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon

Stop Suffering

Ushahidi is not on the ground providing medical assistance to those who are hurt. We are also not decision makers who can change processes or policies. But we are building the technology to give people in critical situations a way to ask for help. In the wake of a hurricane, political revolution, or earthquake, for example, it is difficult to collect real-time reports from people on the ground. Destruction is everyone and some areas may not be accessible at all.

The Ushahidi platform has now been deployed in tens of thousands of crises over the past ten years around the world. During crisis situations it is used to collect real-time reports of people buried under rubble, shortages of medical supplies and food, and changes to the environment. This information is placed on a map so emergency responders can direct resources to the right locations immediately.

For example, On April 25, 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated Nepal killing more than 9,000 people and injuring over 23,000 people. Much of the infrastructure around the country was severely damaged, leaving hundreds of thousands without shelter or basic necessities.

Kathmandu Living Labs (KLL), an organization dedicated to the co-creation and implementation of mobile and internet-based technology solutions, used our Ushahidi platform to collect reports from the ground to help direct relief efforts. Since there were no formal channels for citizens to report urgent needs, the Nepalese Army directed the country to use the Ushahidi platform they called Quakemap. Agencies could see what was happening, what kind of relief was needed, where it was needed, and was even able to verify the reports to make sure aid was actually delivered.

For example, 18 trekkers from a relief center were stranded between dangerous landslides in Dobhan. They were evacuated within 48 hours of receiving the report, and food supplies were distributed to more than 60 others living in the area. Another report called for urgent relief in Chayarsaba where roads were blocked and residents had no access to clean water. Using the Ushahidi platform, the KLL team verified the location, what was needed and followed up to learn the roads were cleared, new water pipes were installed and that they had multiple food drops.

That week over 2,500 incident reports were collected and triaged and over 700 helicopters were dispatched to rescue people.

“The wounded were air-lifted by the Nepal Army. See report 1902. Spoke to local personnel. One medical team had reached staying one night at Sunkhani and the next at Sundravati Villages.” - A direct report from Quakemap

Influence Change

Over the last 10 years we have seen our technology build trust into the election system. We have seen governments take action due to reports of corruption and human rights violations. We have seen lives saved because organizations using our tools have helped pinpoint accurate locations of people in need.

When our Ushahidi platform is used, it collects information that tells a real-time story that brings global attention to humanitarian and development challenges. People use technology to be heard and this aggregation of voices can influence change.

For example, Safecity, created by The Red Dot Foundation, uses the Ushahidi platform (who also inspired their name) to crowdsource personal stories of sexual harassment and abuse in public spaces. This data can be anonymous and is aggregated as hot spots on a map indicating trends at a local level. This way the data can alert individuals, local communities and local administration to see the identify factors that causes behavior that leads to violence and work on strategies for solutions.

A rape occurs every 20 mins in India. Yet most women and girls do not talk about this abuse for a multiple of reasons – fear of society, culture, victim blaming, fear of police, tedious formal procedures etc. Women keep silent and this data is not captured anywhere so the problem is not visible to find effective solutions. This is why the Red Dot Foundation Group use Ushahidi to run Safecity in India, and later Kenya, Cameroon and Nepal.

Since its launch in 2012, over 10,000 stories from over 50 cities in India, Kenya, Cameroon and Nepal have been collected. Change is underway. Community leaders and neighbours are addressing these issues through local campaigns that have led to more street lights, awareness campaigns, women’s walking groups, and better city resources to protect women.

“I was able to get Safecity up and running in a few hours, without a technical background or team, because I could just use the Ushahidi platform.”

-Elsa D’Silva, Founder, Safecity,

Award speech at UN Solutions Summit 2016

Ushahidi envisions a world in which technology is used to help solve issues of inequality, not exacerbate them. We build technology to help those who do incredible work saving lives, speaking truth to power, or protecting human rights, do it even better.