Ushahidi is a Kenyan non-profit, open source civic tech platform that allows the public to submit reports of violence via their mobile devices, creating a map of human rights violations. Created in 2007 to collect eyewitness reports of violence after Kenya’s presidential election, today, Ushahidi – “testimony” or “witness” in Swahili – is used worldwide to monitor violence, election fraud, sexual harassment and distribute emergency and disaster responses where they are needed the most. Most notably, Ushahidi was used in the wake of the 2010 Haitian earthquake, the 2010 BP oil spill in Louisiana, the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, and to monitor the 2016 US election. Ushahidi has received multiple awards worldwide for their work. Ushahidi generates income by offering its namesake crowdmapping platform at a cost, with different prices depending on the organization type (i.e. individuals, grassroots project, university, research organization, enterprise, etc.). In addition, they sell four ancillary products that also enhance fact gathering and data analysis. Ushahidi does not take government funding in order to retain their independence. Recently they started a crowdfunding campaign seeking small recurring donations from individuals.
In response to COVID-19, Ushahidi built a cloud-based version of their platform allowing non-technical experts across communities to coordinate. In recognition of hardships caused by the pandemic, they have waived the basic plan fee until April 11, 2021. Worldwide, over 200 geographic areas have created public and private maps via Ushahidi to provide humanitarian help. In Italy, Spain and Kenya, Ushahidi was deployed to provide vulnerable communities with basic needs; in Nigeria, Peru, and Brazil, their platform has been used to track COVID-19 cases to help flatten the curve. In 2020, individuals and organizations deployed the Ushahidi platform over 1,400 times, in 120 countries, creating visibility into where to access critical resources and services, filling informational gaps for official response, and holding governments accountable for their response to the pandemic.
Theory of Change
People-sourced and people-powered information flow allows marginalized people to raise their voices to get more relevant and prompt assistance, while collecting data that enhances accountability for human rights violations.
Ushahidi’s main product is its software: through its web platform deployments, users can anonymously submit reports on issues through SMS, email, the web, and social media in order to create a geo-tagged map for others to see and respond to. From this crowdmap, “activist mapping” has spurred social activism, citizen journalism, and geospatial information. Specifically, Ushahidi has been used to monitor election fraud and intimidation instances in real time, including by the 2012 Obama campaign. Moreover, Ushahidi has been vital for earthquake and disaster relief response - in Haiti, Chile, Kenya, and Russia, their functionalities allow residents to mark danger areas and set up and advertise food, water, and medical assistance. In Syria, Ushahidi has been used to spotlight where and what types of human rights injustices have occurred. Its other products include TenFour, a team check-in app, BRCK, a device which helps people access the internet in underdeveloped zones, SMSsync, an app that allows Android phones to send SMS messages to URLs, and CrisisNET, a data repository that allows developers, journalists, and analysts to access cleaned data quickly and easily.
Since its inception, Ushahidi has deployed over 150,000 maps in 160 countries, translated its software into over 40 languages, collected 50 million posts and testimonies through their platform, alerted more than 10 million people to crisis zones, and reached 25 million people in critical situations.