In Swahili, “ushahidi” means “testimony.” I would like to share with you an emerging technology, Ushahidi, an open source platform that can be used by anyone anywhere to share information that can improve disaster response and perhaps someday influence public policy. I think Martin Luther King, Jr. would have appreciated this.
The 31 second video provides a dramatic example. Before the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, reliable road maps were scarce, particularly if you wanted to know which roads were open. Thanks to Ushahidi, this all changed after the earthquake. This crowd sourcing technology assembled more than 80,000 text messages with location data to create “Open Street Map” within two weeks of the disaster. You will see when and where each report of an open street was made days after the earthquake. A newer version of Ushahidi can interpret voice messages as well, for those users who cannot read. Cell phones and mobile devices are surprisingly accessible in regions such as Haiti, with sharing of a single device common practice.
Critical information such as this could mean the difference between life and death of a victim of a natural disaster, allowing much more rapid transport to medical centers. Just think of the possibilities – such technologies could make access to food and water easier, as well as allow anonymous reporting of political unrest and criminal activity, to name a few.
Because this is open source, users can continuously improve and refine how information is uploaded, analyzed and interpreted.
According to the developers:
A visualisation of the response to the earthquake by the OpenStreetMap community. Within 12 hours the white flashes indicate edits to the map (generally by tracing satellite/aerial photography).
Over the following days a large number of additions to the map are made with many roads (green primary, red secondary) added. Also many other features were added such as the blue glowing refugee camps that emerge.
A lot of these edits were made possible by a number of satellite and aerial imagery passes in the days after the quake, that were release to the public for tracing and analysis.
Read more on our blog – itoworld.blogspot.com/2010/02/ito-world-at-ted-2010-project-haiti.html