2Okolloh, was in the country at the time of the violence and was providing on-the-ground citizen reporting from Nairobi through her blog, one of the main sources of information at the time
. She initially made a request for people to send her storiesthat were going unreported by the media (there was a government ban on local newsmedia at the time) but quickly became overwhelmed by the volume of reports.When she reluctantly left for Johannesburg with her family on January 3, Okollohmade a plea to her readers and friends to build tools to help document what washappening in the country. The Internet was still available and so Okolloh made twosuggestions to help continue the work that she had been doing before she left.
(I)t also occurs to me that we have no reliable figures of the real death tolls on the ground.Perhaps we can begin to collect information from organizations and individuals on the grounde.g. red cross, hospitals, etc. and start to build a tally online, preferably with names. Most of the people losing their lives will remain nameless, and it might be worthwhile to at leastchange that. Any volunteers/ideas?
One of the developers who responded to Okolloh’s post was David Kobia, a Kenyan
living in Atlanta in the U.S. who was relieved to have an opportunity to provide someassistance. Kobia, developed the platform and called it Ushahidi (
in Kiswahili) enabling people to send in reports of what was happening on the groundvia SMS or the website platform. Kobia recalls that the need for verification emergedonly two or three days after the site had been launched.
There was a degree of naivety when you start with five reports, but as you getinundated with 500 text messages, then you think that there needs to be someverification process in place
Getting verified information becomes really critical during crises like Kenya.This was really problematic because people were sending text messages tostart rumors
An example would be something like: "Some politician hasbeen assassinated". This could have a serious reverberating effect and so itwas important to be sensitive to the situation. You had to vet information andgo back and overlay it with mainstream media
We ended up verifying fewerand fewer reports and putting less up on the map.
According to Kobia, Ushahidi worked with NGOs, aid agencies and volunteers on theground to verify reports. When the violence subsided and others wanted to use thetools, the Ushahidi team ramped up development to enable others to use the opensource software in their own, independent deployments and then developedCrowdmap, a platform that enables users to set up their own deployment of Ushahidiwithout having to install it on a web server.
Okolloh, O. R. Y. (2009). Ushahidi, or “testimony”: Web 2.0 tools for crowdsourcing crisis
Participatory Learning and Action
Ory Okolloh, “Kenyan Pundit”, 3 January, 2008
Interview, 22 September 2011