Crowdsourcing put to good use in Africa

Global development
Back in 2008, a group of bloggers based in Kenya came up with an idea in response to the wave of ethnic violence sweeping the country in the wake of elections: Ushahidi – meaning testimony in Swahili – aimed to use crowdsourcing to track a fast-moving crisis. Since then, the open source platform has been deployed 12,000 times across the globe, from earthquakes in Haiti, New Zealand and Australia to the tsunami in Japan this year. Now it is preparing to launch next week its next big venture, Huduma, which will use crowdsourcing in Kenya to monitor the effectiveness of services such as health and education. The idea behind Huduma (the Swahili word for service) is that people can send – by text, email or Twitter – reports on the performance of services in their district, explains Erik Hersman, one of the founders of Ushahidi. This will then be mapped on the Huduma site and the responsible authority will be identified. So he has a warning for those who see Ushahidi’s crowdsourcing technology as a silver bullet: “A tool is only as good as the people who use it.”Having said that, Hersman believes technology is transforming Africa at a pace that no one ever predicted. The exponential growth of the internet connectivity across the continent offers huge opportunities for wealth creation, he suggests. But so far the bulk of Ushahidi’s work in Africa has been around governance issues. In 2010, Ushahidi was used for the first time in a systematic way in votes – a referendum in Kenya and an election in Tanzani
Source:, May 19, 2011


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