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February 25 2011


Ushahidi Takes First Steps in Evaluating Kenya Projects

This post was written by Melissa Tully and Jennifer Chan. It is the first in a series of blog posts documenting a 9-month Ushahidi evaluation project in partnership with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and supported by the Knight Foundation. A version of the post below was originally published on the Ushahidi blog

During the first two weeks of January, we traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, to begin phase one of a 9-month evaluation of Ushahidi's Kenya projects. Ushahidi is a web application created to map the reported incidents of violence during the post-election crisis in Kenya.

As part of a team, Jennifer and I met with individuals and groups who have incorporated the Ushahidi software into their programming as well as other partners to better understand how organizations have implemented and used the platform to improve their programming and organizational goals.

This evaluation has multiple purposes. In addition to writing case studies of some interesting and dynamic projects that use the Ushahidi platform: Unsung Peace Heroes and Building Bridges, and Uchaguzi in both Kenya and Tanzania; we plan to document our progress through a series of blog posts and to create practical and interactive tools.

Tracking Progress

These resources can help organizations decide if Ushahidi is right for them through a self-assessment and evaluation process. Implementers can use these resources throughout the entire project period to track their progress and strengthen monitoring and evaluation.

We're in the very early stages of development, but based on discussions with people in Kenya who have used Ushahidi and members of the Ushahidi team and community, we think we're developing some very useful stuff. Currently, we're focusing on the "pre-implementation assessment" and "implementation" resources so that we can get feedback from current and future deployments on these key areas.

We're working closely with the Ushahidi team and others involved in developing the Ushahidi Community page to integrate the case studies and tools into this part of the site and to add to the already existing resources for Ushahidi users.

Another goal is to link to guides, case studies, tips, and tricks -- or anything else out there created by the vast Ushahidi community worldwide -- to better serve the entire user community. Let us know in the comments what you think about our service and how we might better improve it.

March 17 2010


Crowdsourcing Crime Information In Kenya

Hatari.co.ke is is a website that allows anyone in Nairobi, Kenya, to submit reports about crime and corruption in the city. ("Hatari" means "danger" in Swahili.) It will provide the growing city and its inhabitants with a repository of public information about incidents such as carjacking, corruption, police harassment and others.

This initiative builds on other crime maps such as SpotCrime and MapATL. The idea of crime mapping is not new (see EveryBlock, an Idea Lab success story), but it's unlikely that law enforcement officials and the general public in Kenya previously had a tool to visualize crime information. This is why Hatari has potential.

Using Ushahidi

Screen shot 2010-03-15 at 3.26.09 AM

This website uses the Ushahidi platform, an open source solution for crowdsourcing information. (The New York Times recently wrote about the project.) Ushahidi, which is Swahili for "testimony," was created to map reports of violence in Kenya after elections in early 2008. Since then, the United Nations OCHA/Colombia branch has used Ushahidi for coordinating humanitarian response during the Bogota earthquake simulation. Other notable deployments of the free crowdsourcing platform have seen it used for election monitoring in India, Lebanon, Mexico and Afghanistan, among other projects.

Crowdsourcing crime information is new in Kenya. As a result, some of the potential questions and issues arising from this implementation include: Is it legal for someone to take a picture of a corrupt cop? And what sort of information can the public expect from the law enforcement agencies regarding crime in their neighborhoods? The answers are not immediately apparent, and it will take some time to figure things out.

With implementations like MapATL, and hyper-local sites such as EveryBlock, the availability of public data makes this kind of work much easier to do in the United States. The same cannot be said of Kenya. On the other hand, this shows that there's an opportunity to innovate and find out whether implementations such as Hatari can encourage the government to provide more data to the public, and push closer to something like Data.gov.

Creating a Sustainable Platform

Some of the major challenges for Hatari include inspiring participation among the public, and figuring out how to close the feedback loop. In essence, it's about answering the question, "Why should I report what I see?"

To this end, Hatari includes the option to subscribe to SMS/email alerts so that people can be notified when someone reports an incident near an area they are interested in. This is the first step in providing value to the users of the site. It also leads to another challenge, which Ushahidi is working on: Making the SMS alerts system sustainable. Currently, there is a cost issue, and if the project gains more traction, the costs will rise as more people sign up for alerts. Hatari is currently reaching out to mobile service providers to see if they're willing to donate a short code.

Ushahidi implementations always work best with extensive partnerships with organizations on the ground. Ushahidi has reached out to several organizations and it is in the process of formalizing these partnerships. An announcement will be forthcoming in the near future. For now, though, Hatari looks like it could be the project that best showcases how crowdsourcing data can have a direct impact in the daily lives of Nairobians.

For anyone who's curious, here is how people can submit reports to Hatari:

  1. By sending a text message to +254719457500
  2. By sending an email to tips@hatari.co.ke
  3. By sending a tweet with the hashtag/s #hatari #nairobi
  4. By filling out a form at the website
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