Crowdsourcing, Ushahidi platform and Indian NGO sector

The open source mapping system Ushahidi can be used by anybody to crowd source various crisis  / cause driven information. A latest example of this kind of initiative is Harassmap. Women journalists in Egypt are using the Harassmap to report sexual harassment faced by them while reporting from Tahrir Square and otherwise. Victims can send reports anonymously in real time by an SMS or via social networks such as Twitter or Facebook. Each of these reports get mapped on the website along with description and detail information. This helps in a visual representation of a crisis across a particular region. Each report appears as a red dot on the map of Egypt, the more reports, the more dots.


The system is based on an open source free mapping software called Ushahidi. Ushahidi mapping software was developed and first used during the post election crisis in Kenya in 2008. Since then organizations across the globe have used the platform for various cause and crisis driven crowdsourcing initiatives.

Crowdsourcing: As the word suggest crowd sourcing is the process collecting information, multi media content, news, views, opinion, reports, facts, funds and other helpful resources from the masses is called crowd sourcing. With the help of mobile technology and social media crowdsourcing has become one of best ways to

In India the only use of Ushahidi software was for the initiative ‘Vote Report India’ during the last general elections, where people could SMS any election violations at any of the polling booth and all reports were aggregated on the website. The said initiative is now defunct and that is a matter of grave concern.

In a country with such massive mobile outreach it is rather shame that none of the estimated 3.3 millions NGOs registered in India have yet taken up this software to report incidents of violence, corruption, knowledge sharing etc. The Indian NGO sector needs to take up social technology for making change. There is a need to give power to the people to tell their own stories in their own words rather than always playing messiah for them. Indian NGOs have to come out of their traditional mind set and use technology themselves and empower the people with the same.

While the Ushahidi platform has been hailed as one of the greatest innovation in the field of technology for social good, its use have been very limited so far. Below are some of the known use of Ushahidi software across the globe.

In our next post we would discuss why Ushahidi platform is yet to be used in a large scale by organizations, what are the challenges people face while using it. We would also discuss two of India’s best crowdsourcing initiatives – Video Volunteers and CGNet Swara

Country Cause / Crisis Website Related Report
Japan 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami Sinsai Info The software is being used to pinpoint locations where people may be trapped, dangerous areas that should be avoided, and supplies of food and clean water. [Read More]
Kenya Post election crisis in 2007 After the unfair elections in Kenya, citizens across the country started texting reports of violence from their mobile phones or via email. The reports were added to the ushahidi map and within days all those individual witnesses had together compiled a more complete picture of the violence than any one organisation could have. [Read more]
Haiti 2010 Earthquake of 7.0 magnitude Ushahidi mapping software was used to capture, organize, and share critical information coming directly from Haitians. Information was also gathered through mobile text messages and social media. There were reports about trapped persons, medical emergencies, and specific needs, such as food,
water, and shelter.
Eastern Congo Since 2008 DRC on Ushahidi platform Ushahidi has been a significant tool to track the crisis in Eastern Congo, a region in the Democratic Republic of Congo that is still afflicted by violence, internal displacement and underdevelopment. Cell phones are becoming widely available in the country, which has allowed citizens to text in reports of violence, rape, deaths, looting, and kidnappings.

About Sanjukta

TED Fellow Sanjukta Basu is a Feminist Writer, Photographer and Gender Trainer. She writes for Huffington Post India, Firstpost among others. Also a public speaker she has spoken at TEDx conferences, universities, colleges, and NGOs.

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