In September 2015, we launched a new overhauled version of the Ushahidi platform. In the last three years, we made improvements to the system architecture, as well as design and user experience of the software as a whole, inclusive of a new SaaS business model. However, in that time, we’ve also seen reduced contribution to the open source tool, owing in part to gaps in existing technical resources, unclear contribution pathways and difficulties in onboarding.

Earlier this year, Ushahidi was awarded a catalytic grant by the Digital Impact Alliance Open Source Center, with the goal of helping us to jumpstart/increase contribution to the platform by

  1. Defining and clarifying pathways for volunteers to contribute
  2. Improving our technical documentation and
  3. Developing video walkthroughs for ease of learning for volunteers.

As part of this larger effort to achieve these goals, we sent out the Ushahidi Open Source Survey 2018, to get a better understanding of who our open source user and contributors are, their experience using and contributing to our tools, and what we can do to improve your experience.

We sent out our survey on 4th October 2018, with an initial deadline for feedback of 19th October 2018. In a bid to garner more feedback, we extended the period to November 9th 2018. However, even with the extension, the feedback turn out was still lower than expected. Nonetheless, those who participated in the survey shared some useful insights that will feed into our open source strategy moving forward.

Findings from the Survey

Who our contributors are

Majority of our respondents were between the ages of 25 and 29, with a small number (18.2%) being under 18.

Slightly over a third of our respondents have been contributing to open source for over 5 years.

In a finding that closely matches the Github Open Source Survey of 2017, 90.9% of our respondents identified as male, with only 9.1% as female, and no representation from the LGBTQ community.This points to a bigger problem around inclusion in the open source space, that we’re committed to working on. Ushahidi has a diverse staff team, including 50% of women on staff as well as non-binary and LGBTQ+ staff members. We’re committed to improving our diversity and we think our staff demographic helps signal we’re here to support.

When asked about what roles they identified themselves with, it was interesting to note that it wasn’t the typical backend developer role that most of us tend to associate with open source.

  • Front end Dev (36.4%)
  • UI designer (27.3%)
  • Graphic designer (27.3%)
  • QA Engineer (27.3%)
  • Translator (27.3%)
  • Design researcher (18.2%)

This points to a need on our part to better serve our front end dev and design communities in our strategy, moving forward. Our Open Source Design project via Mozilla Open Leaders round 6 and our involvement with the Open Source Design community aims to investigate ways to facilitate better ways for designers to contribute to our OS.

Their experience contributing to Ushahidi

Unsurprisingly, 54.5% of our respondents reported having not successfully managed to install the Ushahidi platform, with another 9.1% feeling the installation instructions are not straight forward.

More than half of respondents also found it hard to install Ushahidi, with only about 9% having had a positive experience. Some reasons offered for why this is the case include:-

  • Our documentation was hard to follow
  • The technical support given was not adequate for the needs of our open source community.

“With version 2, it is very straightforward, copy the folder, setup database+basic info and done. With version 3 it is much more complicated than that.”

Despite the difficulties in installation, most respondents were neutral on their experience contributing to the platform, but also leaned more to a positive experience, once able to overcome the installation hurdle.


To make it easier for our community to contribute, the following recommendations were given:

  • Provide more technical support from the Ushahidi team, with increased contact and communication
  • Improve on our technical documentation, making sure there is one official and complete source, and recognising that there may be beginners amongst us
  • Make the installation steps easier like other CMSes

On resources that would help in effective contribution, our respondents asked for:

  • Improved Forums and FAQs
  • Regular tutorials, including video tutorials
  • In person meetups
  • More and improved documentation

Open Source @Ushahidi 2019, with support from DIAL OSC

With continued support from the DIAL Open Source Center, there are ongoing efforts to improve our technical documentation, as well as open up our documentation efforts to the public. Our aim is to complete phase one of this documentation overhaul by end of January 2019.

We also have a series of meetups planned for the first quarter of 2019, geared towards more engagement with our open source community, so do keep an eye out on our meetup page:

We’re also excited to announce additional support from the DIAL Open Source Center, through a much larger strategic grant.

This will allow us to:-

  • Adapt our product in ways that make it easier for people to contribute. We plan on:
    • Building an intuitive installation interface that significantly reduces the amount of time and effort it takes to set up an open source Ushahidi install for development.
    • Expanding installation support on operating systems such as Windows.
  • Enhance developer documentation and reference material. We’re looking to
    • Consolidate new and all existing resources in a developer hub for ease of access and reference. This would also include building FAQs and educational content such as 101 videos, code samples, and tutorials.
    • There will be a specific focus on the developing tutorials and best practices around privacy and security concerns facing our users.

We want to sincerely thank all of you for your continued support and contribution to Ushahidi, and most especially to the DIAL OSC community for their continued support, and look forward to working together in 2019. Happy Holidays, from the Ushahidi team!