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Crisis Communication is Ushahidi

It began as a collaboration of journalists during the Kenyan post-election violence in early 2008. Now, Ushahidi is taking collaboration to a whole new level with the Haiti Ushahidi site.

Unless you have been living under a rock the past few days, you should know that Haiti requires a massive humanitarian effort in the wake of the 7.0 earthquake on January 12. We cannot all rush to Haiti to clear away rubble to help find survivors. However, you can help through the Ushahidi and Crisis Mapping Network projects.

How you – or your friends – can help

The Crisis Mapping Network is defined as “Leveraging mobile platforms, computational linguistics, geospatial technologies, and visual analytics to power effective early warning for rapid response to complex humanitarian emergencies.” Ushahidi is the Swahili word for “testimony”. (Re-read the title of my blog post with that in mind.)

In other words: rapid-response crisis communication.

  • Who is alive or dead?
  • What is needed and Where?
  • How to get to the Who and Where?
  • When? Yesterday, preferably, but some prioritizing can be estimated.
  • Why? For human decency.

This information is coordinated through technology. Hands and minds are needed to put that technology to work. That’s where you come in.

Do you have the skills needed? Find out by reading the latest blog post from the Ushahidi team, the virtual situation room for Ushahidi developers, or the OpenStreetMap’s Haiti page. There are also useful resources to explore on the Crisis Commons wiki.

Talk about these projects with your friends. Please. If you don’t have the skills, maybe they do – or maybe they know someone who does. Those skills are needed now, but they also need to be evaluated for the future. This is communication at its finest – raising awareness and bringing humanitarian aid to where it is so urgently needed.

PS For more information about the Ushahidi project, read the news articles from Technology Review and the Washington Post. An excellent source of news from Haiti is Global Voices Online.

Why did I write this blog post?

All this talk about Ushahidi is my way of taking the Help Haiti Blog Challenge.



I have no services that I can offer to you at a discount so that I can donate to humanitarian organizations (the challenge). I can only give you my trust, dear reader of this post. I trust you to tell a friend or two about ways they can contribute to relief efforts.

My own monetary donations have already gone to Partners in Health, an organization that has been on the ground in Haiti for 20 years and knows what to do, as well as the Red Cross and Médicins Sans Frontières.

Stand With Haiti

This post is also an expression of love for Kenya. I lived in Kenya from 1980 to 1985, and there was no internet back in those old days! I rediscovered Kenya when Ushahidi first launched. What really struck me then were the voices of people who were totos (the Swahili word for children) or not born when I lived there. Here they were as young adults who cared about their country and its future. Ushahidi is part of the hope for the future. Now, they have crossed an ocean to help another country. The word “awesome” is very appropriate here. I had to blog about Ushahidi as a sign of my respect for them. This is harambee at its finest!