Ushahidi: the crowdmap for crisis
Ushahidi means “testimony” in Swahili. The organization was firstly started to inform violence in Kenya after the post-election violence in 2008 with a crowdmap by gathering citizens’ “testimonies”. Then, it has developed into a crowdsourcing platform which purveys a map filled with meaningful information about diverse crisis.
The crowdmap of Ushahidi is based on each person’s discrete participation. For example, when it began to report about violence in Kenya, Kenyans from all parts of Kenya “testimony” violence with their phones or email. This valuable information was collected all together, and used to craft an online map. As data had piled up, the map showed a more complete picture of violence in Kenya than any one organization. Moreover, Kenyans were able to avoid violence and save their life due to the map.
Ushahidi is a good example of successful crowdsourcing. How it works as a platform for crowdsourcing gives many implications. Firstly, it aggregates data via SMS, app, email, and Twitter. Individuals can post about any information that occurs around them, such as overcrowding in a certain area. Then, they collect the right data with filters and sort it by location, date, and keyword. Finally, they visualize data with a map and a chart, and provide them to people. People who provide information are also consumer of whole information, which means that the great number of participation would yield the great number of consumers. Actually, they were successful to generate enough population to complete an online map. This is how Ushahidi functions as a crowdsourcing platform.
Due to an organized procedure to make own submission of information, collected information does not contain much noise. Further, because each person provides information about his/her local area, there is a diversity of opinions. Also, it is predicted that their opinions are not easily influenced by other people, since their “testimony” is based on their own witness.
When crowdsourcing meets with an organized process and active participation, it can produce a wide arrange of information which cannot be occurred with one journalist or one news organization. And Ushahidi is a perfect example of this. Using crowds for journalism has attractiveness in many ways: it can save money and allow engagement of many people. Most of all, it can create a large amount of beneficial information by aggregating small piece of individuals’ information- which comes from cognitive surplus. Usahidi not only has covered about Kenyan issue, but also dealt with global topics- from the BP oil spill, the earthquake in Haiti, and tsunami in Japan. Likewise, I believe that crowds are useful in journalism, especially when reporting about natural disasters or issues involving a large community.