We developed Ushahidi (meaning “witness” in Swahili) over a two-day period on the premise that it would be good for us to have a tool to chronicle the incidents of violence happening around Kenya. The impetus behind the web site was a belief that the number of deaths being reported by the government, police, and media is grossly underreported. We also were of the view that we don’t have a true picture of what has really happened/is happening—reports that all of us have heard from family and friends in affected areas suggests that things are worse than what we have heard in the media.
Beyond trying to present are fuller picture of what happened based on citizen reported information, we also want to create an archive of events that occured after the election results were announced.
What we learned after development was that data sources and accuracy are of paramount importance. What you do with your data, the verification process, and how accurate the data is represented on the map all play a huge role in credibility. More so, how that tool is used by friendly and non-friendly organizations has large repercussions for both the tool and the people you are trying to help.
Erik grew up as the son of linguistic missionaries in Africa, bouncing back and forth between Sudan and Kenya until he came to the US for college. He now works as an independent web consultant and writes about high- and low-tech changes happening in Africa on his two blogs: AfriGadget.com and WhiteAfrican.com.
Past projects dealing with mapping include eppraisal.com and Ushahidi.com.