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: www.guardian.co.uk, May 19, 2011

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Crowdsourcing website

World’s first crowd-sourced news site
If the rise of the citizen journalist has alarmed traditional media types, this new idea will really put them in a panic. Billing itself as the “world’s first crowd-sourced news site”, ViewsHound will rely entirely on volunteers who will contribute articles, photos, cartoons, opinion pieces… and readers. At stake is a daily $120 prize for the best contribution to the site, which will use filtering software to test for plagiarism and inappropriate content. The new site says that “entries are judged on a combination of editorial merit, page views achieved, and other interactions that readers have with the content.” There is even a whopping $1,000 up for grabs for pre-launch posters, presumably so the site has enough content to fill its front page upon launch, slated for sometime in May.

The brains behind ViewsHound set up Publisha in 2009, a web-based service that lets anyone build a digital magazine to be published as an iPad or iPhone app or as a Facebook page. ViewsHound claims to provide a “readymade audience” for wannabe bloggers and artists, which seems to us to be rather jumping the gun for a website that hasn’t launched yet and which has no content. Nevertheless, its vision of a kind of little brother for AOL’s newly-acquired Huffington Post (which doesn’t pay bloggers) combined with a more mature/longer form Digg or Reddit is certainly a new approach. And it will no doubt chime with the thousands of unpaid bloggers out there who fancy earning a modest return for their work.
Source: www.newscientist.com, April 28, 2011