Social Startups

Ushahidi : Crowd-sourcing for Social Good

What if you had the power to collect opinions and data from people to achieve social good? How would you use it? In this article, we explore use cases of the Ushahidi platform, in the context of achieving social good.

What is Ushahidi?

Ushahidi is an open-source technology platform that can be deployed within hours. It was born as a result of the post-election riots in Kenya in December 2007

The platform collects information (opinions or data) via SMS, Web, or Email from people who are on the ground and able to witness events as they unfold. Ushahidi processes this data in near real-time to produce a map of events around the globe. Algorithms ensure that information presented is based on accuracy and authority, as opposed to popularity. (See SwiftRiver)

Since its origins, the Ushahidi platform has been used to crowdsource events of interest by various organizations globally. For example, it was used by Al-Jazeera to monitor violence in Gaza, and by Vote Report India to monitor code of conduct violations during the 2009 General elections in India. It is also being used to track wildlife in Kenya.

Crowd-Sourcing for everyday causes

Food distribution
Since Ushahidi can be put to use for collecting and verifying the accuracy of information, some interesting use cases for the platform come to mind. Consider for example, the work that food banks do on a daily basis. Food banks are typically operated by non-profits. They need to accurately know which food produces have surplus food that cannot be sold, and the quantity available for pick up. They also need to know the quantity of food required at distribution centers on on a daily basis.

There are several advantages for foodbanks to be able to accurately collect and analyze supply and demand information:

  • Know where to make the largest collections
  • Pre-planned routes for higher efficiency
  • Cost savings
  • Ability to scale operations and do more with less

Administering vaccines
In India, Rotary International in collaboration with the Government of India, started a campaign to eradicate Polio completely. This means that every year, on National Immunization Day, millions of mothers take their kids aged between 1 and 5 years, to the nearest polio vaccine administration center.

Although volunteers try to obtain advance information on expected dosage volumes per center, the volume estimates are approximations. Therefore, there are situations when some centers have excess stock while at others, there are shortfalls. Moreover, the vaccine needs to be preserved in a refrigerated storage container which increases the complexity of redistribution to centers that need them.

At present, stock and availability data is collected manually, and analysis is performed usually in a distributed manner by volunteers at local administration centers. By automating the process via the Ushahidi platform, a central team would have the capability to collect and disseminate information on vaccine availability, and demand, compare stock levels and make informed decisions on how to best re-distribute excess stock.

Ushahidi is a Kenya based organization with volunteer programmers and contributors located in Africa, the USA and Europe, and are supported by Humanity United