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Africa’s Gift to Silicon Valley: How to Track a Crisis

A nice story from the NY times on a Kenyan product called Ushahidi. This is an informant mapping tool and works like this: anybody on the ground can call a cell number and and point out a location, it could be of a rape or a terrorist hideout, and all of this information is aggregated and represented on a map. If there are many pointers to a particular location, troops can be called in to look. Brilliant stuff.

“When the Haitian earthquake struck, Ushahidi went again into action. An emergency texting number was advertised via radio. Ushahidi received thousands of messages reporting trapped victims. They were translated by a diffuse army of Haitian-Americans in the United States and plotted on a ‘crisis map.’ From a situation room at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Medford, outside Boston, Ushahidi volunteers instant-messaged with the United States Coast Guard in Haiti, telling them where to search. When the Chilean earthquake struck, Ushahidi deployed again.”

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