A case study on the societal factors influencing the success of Ushahidi in Afghanistan

Frans Staal

Master Thesis Information Management | Tilburg School of Economics and Management

A case study on the deployments of Ushahidi in Afghanistan
Date of defense: 21-03-2011

Frans Staal s679600

EXAMINATION COMMITTEE: Dr. B.A. Van de Walle | Thesis supervisor (Tilburg University) Second reader (Tilburg University)

Prof. dr. P.M.A. Ribbers |

Many scholars believe that the recent emergence of social media and mobile technology in the development world fuels its democratization while other scholars question this effect and argue that technological empowerment of citizens alone is not enough. This study focuses on examining the societal factors that influence the effects of social media on the democratization of society, and how design and deployment decisions of social media crowdsourcing tools can influence the interaction between social media and democracy by taking into account the social context. To explain the social context, this research proposes the use of the media system dependency theory as it is aimed on how different societal systems influence the effect of media information on its audience. To design better social media tools this research proposes the web of system performance as it is aimed to design better IT systems by taking into account the social context. To examine the interaction between social media and democracy, a case study was conducted on the use of Ushahidi in Afghanistan during the presidential elections of 2009 and the parliamentary elections of 2010. Ushahidi is specifically designed for crowdsourcing information during political instability and natural disasters and is therefore a valuable platform to examine for this research. Afghanistan currently experiences a period of rapid change and political instability and is among the most undeveloped countries of the world. Therefore, Afghanistan is a challenging society to deploy Ushahidi and its society could benefit greatly of the alleged democratization effect of social media. The purpose of this research is explorative. Qualitative methods were used to collect data through indepth interviews, documents and archival records. The data was represented in a narrative about the deployments of Ushahidi in Afghanistan. The narrative shows users of social media services like Ushahidi instances are in most cases young, male, wealthy, more educated, and living in urban areas. On a macro-level the potential of crowdsourcing information in crisis situations can be estimated by using the social, technological, economic and political figures. In some cases these figures can show that crowdsourcing information in a crisis situation among citizens is not feasible, like in Afghanistan where the platform was mainly used by journalists and election monitors. In other cases the figures can help those who want to deploy and design social media to identify different social groups which each have different requirements of the social media platform.

With the completion of this thesis I complete my Master of Science degree in Information Management at Tilburg University. This thesis also marks the end of a personal era, wherein I was granted the liberty to learn many lessons in- and outside the college rooms. I’m thankful for the people I met, the education I received, and being able to enable my potential as many were not granted the same opportunities. I’m grateful for the mentoring of Dr. B.A. Van de Walle who encouraged me to choose a research topic which I’m passionate about and to explore research fields that may be unknown for me. Connecting different research fields and conducting interdisciplinary research takes a lot of time and effort. It took almost a year of hard work to finish this thesis, and in that period Dr. B.A. Van de Walle dedicated a lot of his time to comment on my thesis. I can underline the importance of interdisciplinary research for the field of information management and I am thankful that Dr. B.A. Van de Walle stimulated this. I want to thank my wife Elina, and my friends for their everlasting support and attention. They listened to me while I was sharing my thoughts on my research, while I probably did not make any sense to them.

List of figures ..............................................................................................................................................................................................9 1 Introduction .................................................................................................................................................................................. 11 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 2 Problem indication .......................................................................................................................................................... 11 Problem statement & research questions ............................................................................................................. 12 Research approach .......................................................................................................................................................... 12 Structure of the thesis .................................................................................................................................................... 13

Literature review ........................................................................................................................................................................ 14 2.1 2.1.1 2.1.2 2.2 2.2.1 2.2.2 2.3 2.3.1 2.3.2 2.3.3 2.4 2.4.1 2.4.2 2.4.3 2.4.4 Ushahidi ................................................................................................................................................................................ 14 Technical specifications of ushahidi ................................................................................................................... 15 Examples of Ushahidi’s deployments ................................................................................................................ 17 Socio-technical system design .................................................................................................................................... 20 Socio-technical system ............................................................................................................................................. 20 Socio-technical requirements for IT system performance ....................................................................... 21 Sociopolitical effects of media .................................................................................................................................... 24 What is a democracy? ............................................................................................................................................... 25 The role of information and communication in democracies ................................................................. 26 The role of mass media in societies .................................................................................................................... 27 Sociopolitical effects of the Internet ........................................................................................................................ 32 Research on democratizing effect of internet diffusion............................................................................. 32 Effect internet on individual media system dependency .......................................................................... 34 Digital literacy .............................................................................................................................................................. 35 Crowdsourcing ............................................................................................................................................................. 36


Methodology.................................................................................................................................................................................. 37 3.1 3.1.1 3.1.2 3.1.3 3.1.4 3.2 3.2.1 3.2.2 3.3 3.3.1 3.3.2 Research design ................................................................................................................................................................ 37 Research purpose ....................................................................................................................................................... 37 Research methods ...................................................................................................................................................... 37 Research strategy ....................................................................................................................................................... 38 Case study design ........................................................................................................................................................ 38 Data collection methods ................................................................................................................................................ 38 Selected sources .......................................................................................................................................................... 39 Sample selection .......................................................................................................................................................... 39 Data analysis....................................................................................................................................................................... 40 External validity .......................................................................................................................................................... 40 Reliability ....................................................................................................................................................................... 40


Case study narative .................................................................................................................................................................... 41 4.1 4.1.1 Afghanistan – current situation ................................................................................................................................. 41 Introduction of Afghanistan ................................................................................................................................... 41


4.1.2 4.1.3 4.1.4 4.2 4.2.1 4.2.2 4.3 4.3.1 4.4 4.4.1 4.4.2 4.4.3 5

Political system ............................................................................................................................................................ 42 Economy ......................................................................................................................................................................... 43 Media ................................................................................................................................................................................ 44 Alive in Afghanistan ........................................................................................................................................................ 45 Narrative of Alive in Afghanistan in 2009........................................................................................................ 45 Impact of Alive in Afghanistan 2009 .................................................................................................................. 47 Narrative of Alive in Afghanistan in 2010 ............................................................................................................. 48 Impact of Ushahidi instances in Afghanistan in 2010 ................................................................................ 51 Factors influencing success of Ushahidi deployments .................................................................................... 52 Societal factors ............................................................................................................................................................. 52 Design decisions .......................................................................................................................................................... 54 Deployment decisions ............................................................................................................................................... 55

Discussion....................................................................................................................................................................................... 58 5.1 5.2 5.2.1 5.2.2 5.2.3 5.3 5.3.1 5.3.2 5.3.3 5.3.4 5.4 5.5 The link between social media and democracy .................................................................................................. 58 MSD-theory ......................................................................................................................................................................... 58 Macro-context .............................................................................................................................................................. 58 Meso-context................................................................................................................................................................. 60 Micro-context................................................................................................................................................................ 61 Analysis based on WOSP ............................................................................................................................................... 61 Hardware requirements .......................................................................................................................................... 61 Software requirements ............................................................................................................................................ 61 Human requirements ................................................................................................................................................ 62 Communal requirements......................................................................................................................................... 62 Outside influences ............................................................................................................................................................ 63 Value of using WOSP and MSD-theory .................................................................................................................... 63


Conclusion ...................................................................................................................................................................................... 64 6.1 6.2 Research limitations ....................................................................................................................................................... 65 Recommendations ........................................................................................................................................................... 66

7 8

List of References ........................................................................................................................................................................ 67 Appendices ........................................................................................................................................................................................1

Figure 1 – SMS reporting and feedback cycle in Ushahidi v0.1 ("Ushahidi :: Crowsourcing Crisis Information (FOSS)," 2010) .............................................................................................................................................................. 16 Figure 2 – Project 4636 ("Ushahidi :: Crowsourcing Crisis Information (FOSS)," 2010) ...................................... 18 Figure 3 – Socio-technical levels (Whitworth, 2009) ............................................................................................................ 22 Figure 4 – Web Of System Performance (Whitworth, 2009) ............................................................................................. 23 Figure 5 – MSD theory (Ball-Rokeach & DeFleur, 1976) ...................................................................................................... 28


Figure 6 - Hypothetical Model for the influence of Communication Technologies and Endogenous Sociocultural Structures on Democratic Growth Based on Relationships Identified by MSD theory (Groshek, 2009) ...................................................................................................................................................................................... 33 Figure 7 – The Alive in Afghanistan website in 2009 (Presentation about Alive in Afghanistan, 2010) ......... 46 Figure 8 ("Alive in Afghanistan," 2010) ....................................................................................................................................... 49 Figure 9 – Afghan Election Mapper ("Afghan Election Mapper," 2010) ........................................................................ 50 Figure 10 – Observer Report Map (" Observer Report Map," 2010) ...... 51




Many scholars believe the Internet will speed up the spread of effective democracies, especially with the emergence of Web 2.0 appliances in recent years (Groshek, 2009). Before the Internet people largely consumed information through mass media. Now people can create and share information massively through social media, taking the democratization of information into a new era (For-mukwai, 2010). Still social, political, economic, and technical barriers remain and it is not until recently, social media played a role during sociopolitical instability, for example with the use of Twitter in Iran (Burns & Eltham, 2009). In crisis management, victims can participate as ‘living sensors’ that can generate a lot of useful information (Banzato, Barbini, D'Atri, D'Atri, & Za, 2010). Ushahidi is a software platform that is specifically created to enable this potential of individuals to share relevant information. Ushahidi was created during the Kenyan elections in 2008. Witnesses of acts of violence can use Ushahidi by sending reports through SMS about what they have seen. As a result of growing public interest, the Ushahidi platform has been rebuild into a tool that any person or organization can use to set up their own platform to collect and visualize information. Ushahidi has been used during several elections and crisis situations, including the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile (Okolloh, 2009). Still, many unanswered questions, certainly in academic literature, remain on the interaction between tools like Ushahidi and society, and the societal factors, and the design and deployment decisions that influence that interaction. This chapter will go into an indication of the problem area (section 1.1), the problem statement and research questions (section 1.2), the research approach (1.3), and finally the structure of the complete document (section 1.4).



Ever since the emergence of the first modern democracies it is believed that free press and a vibrant associational life are among the most important enablers of a democracy. Since Internet allows people to share information interactively, and people can produce information themselves through social media, many believe Internet technology has a big impact on the democratization process (Dahlgren, 2009). Plotnick and White (2010) argue that “societies can benefit in many ways if these technologies are used strategically by the stakeholders in an extreme, urgent, or important circumstance…When groups or individuals have the ability to bring information to the attention of the right people, it empowers their voices, setting into motion a series of events.” Other scholars emphasize that the effect of the Internet should not be overestimated. Groshek (2009) compares current assumptions on the effect of Internet diffusion on democracies with early hypothesis’s on the effect of mass media. It was believed that television and radio messages had an immediate psychological impact on its audience. Scholars later discovered that media effects were much more complex and different social, political and economic factors influence the effect of media information, and each other. The effect of information technology in organizations and on individuals is covered by fields like information management (also known as the information systems or business informatics field) where the domains of Computer Science and Business Administration are combined. Fields like Communication Studies, Media Studies and Political Science are only recently confronted with the effects of the Internet on society, specifically with the emergence of Web 2.0 (Stocker, Dösinger, Saaed, & Wagner, 2007). Fields like sociology, anthropology, and computer science are just beginning to take notice of the connection between social media and society. The need for interdisciplinary research is very clear, especially to make sure valuable researches in fields like information management are used to develop theories on how people are likely to change their behavior as a result of social media (Goolsby, 2010). Ushahidi is often referred to as being a great example of the importance of Web 2.0, social media, and crowdsourcing. There are many discussions around the definitions of these concepts, ever since Tim O’Reilly (2005) introduced Web 2.0 and argued that it refers to a new generation of web applications which facilitate the “harnessing of collective intelligence, rich user experiences, the web as a platform, emphasis on data, end of the software release cycle, lightweight programming models, and software above the level of a single device.” The most common view is that Web 2.0 facilitates social media and


crowdsourcing tools (For-mukwai, 2010). Social media is commonly defined as “a category of sites that is based on user participation and user-generated content.” (White & Plotnick, 2010) Crowdsourcing is outsourcing tasks, which were originally performed by professionals, to a large diffuse group or community, through an open call (Howe, 2009; Okolloh, 2009). During political instability, social media enables to quickly create an online community for crowdsourcing information on the situation. The familiarity of social media websites like Twitter and Facebook have led to the emergence of such communities but the Ushahidi platform aims to be more valuable in these situations as it is specifically designed to be a tool for democratizing information, increasing transparency and lowering the barriers for individuals to share information (Goolsby, 2010). Scholars, and the Ushahidi-team itself acknowledge that still many question remain on how Ushahidi can best be deployed, and case studies and interviews are needed to get a better understanding (Hersman, 2010; "Ushahidi :: Crowsourcing Crisis Information (FOSS)," 2010). This research tries to help those who want to deploy platforms like Ushahidi or want to design new platforms which have the best ‘fit’ with their societal environment. Organizations raising funds for these projects can benefit from researches like these to explain how these social media services are helping societies. Findings can also help to stop projects that are likely to fail, in an early stage. This research will hopefully also help scholars as a source on the connection between society and social media and on how social media interacts with democracies, especially in regions with complicating social, economic, political, and technical factors.



The many questions dealt with in this research can best be summarized by this problem statement: How do societal factors influence the interaction between social media crowdsourcing tools, and the democratization process of societies and how can we design better social media crowdsourcing tools, and deploy these tools better, by taking into account societal factors? This problem statement leads to the following research questions that need to be answered: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. What is Ushahidi? What are relevant theories and methods for designing IT systems which support societal interaction? How can we explain the effect of media in society and on democracy? How can we explain the effect of the Internet, and specifically social media, in society and on democracy? How do societal factors, design and deployment decisions affect the interaction of social media, and specifically Ushahidi, with the democratization process?



As theories on the interaction between social media and the democratization process are relatively undeveloped, any new empirical study is likely to have the characteristic of an exploratory case study. Although this master thesis is based on a qualitative exploratory case study, and current literature will not provide conceptual frameworks which could be used as a grand theory, an exploratory study should have a purpose and try to find some leads in literature by including theory development as part of the design phase (Yin, 2003). A complete research design (which can be found in chapter 3) embodies theories to provide guidance in determining what data to collect and the strategies for analyzing the data. Therefore, theory development prior to data collection is an essential step in doing case studies (Yin, 2003). This master thesis will therefore first describe relevant theories and conceptual frameworks and then describe the methodology.




Chapter 2 will include a description of what is Ushahidi and cover the relevant theoretical propositions, chapter 3 explains the methodology for this thesis, chapter 4 contains the narrative of the case study on Alive in Afghanistan, chapter 5 contains a discussion on how the theoretical propositions in chapter 2 explain the Alive in Afghanistan case narrative, and chapter 6 contains the conclusion.




Yin (2003) argues “the purpose of a literature review is to develop sharper and more insightful questions about the topic.” The problem statement and research questions in chapter 1, and chapter 3 which describes the methodology, could only be written after a comprehensive literature review based on publications from a wide range of fields. This chapter will first explain what Ushahidi is and how it is used, section 2.2 describes the current literature on measuring performance of socio-technical systems, section 2.3 describes the current literature on the sociopolitical effects of media, and section 2.4 describes the current literature on the sociopolitical effects of the Internet and social media in particular.



This research focuses on Ushahidi, which means ‘testimony’ or ‘witness’ in Swahili and was created in January 2008 during the Kenyan post-election violence as a simple mash-up, using user-generated reports of citizen journalists and Google Maps to visualize reports of violence in Kenya on a map. Ushahidi emerged into an open source platform, crowdsourcing events through email, SMS or web forms that allows users to gather reports of critical situations and visualize it on a map or timeline (Starbird & Palen, 2010; Zanello & Maassen, 2009). Ushahidi is created by its makers to be the “simplest way of aggregating information from the public for use in crisis response” and to “bridge the gap between relief efforts and distress calls from around the country, as well as provide a more accurate picture of what was going on.”(Sturm, 2009) Ushahidi argues on their own website that they build “tools for democratizing information, increasing transparency and lowering the barriers for individuals to share their stories.” ("The Ushahidi Platform," 2010) After its creation in 2008, Ushahidi has been used for aggregating information in various crisis situations including natural disasters, political disruption and the swine-flu outbreak (Paudel, Harlalka, & Shrestha, 2010; Poblet, Casanovas, & Cobo, 2009). The posting of information can be done directly by witnesses but is also done by NGOs (McLaren, 2009; Sturm, 2009). The events can be placed in different categories (like riots, property loss, peace initiatives, etc.) and they are marked with a corresponding symbol on the map (Sturm, 2009). The creation of Ushahidi was a direct response to the Kenyan presidential elections of late 2007, both presidential parties claimed to have won the polls. The president Mwai Kibaki, who tried to extent its term won according to the final contested presidential results, but the opposition leader Raila Odinga claimed the results were fraudulent. There was a government ban on live media and also self-censorship within the mainstream media. Some international media continued to broadcast live but local media did not dare to resist to the ban. The government argued false or biased reporting would result in more ethnic-based violence. The government also wanted to review the media reports before being published or broadcasted (Makinen & Kuira, 2008; Okolloh, 2009). Many Kenyans turned to other ways of getting information and SMS text messaging became a popular way of sharing information, although the government had disabled the ability to send bulk SMS messages. Also, social media websites like Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and Twitter were increasingly used to organize and share information about the crisis and violence (Makinen & Kuira, 2008). Ory Okolloh, one of the founders of Ushahidi, was an active Kenyan blogger during the post-election violence and she asked her readers in Kenya to share information about violence they witnessed or heard about and that was not being reported by the media, in the comments or via email. The response was ‘overwhelming’ and led to the idea of a dedicated website which became Ushahidi. Ory Okolloh shared her thoughts on her blog and asked if there were Kenyan ‘techies’ that could build a dedicated website where people could anonymously report about incidents of violence online or SMS and are visualized by showing their location on a map. Within two days a group volunteers was formed and the domain was registered (Greenough, Chan, Meier, Bateman, & Dutta, 2009; Okolloh, 2009). The first instance of Ushahidi was created in less than two weeks using open source software with a team of 15-20 developers working voluntarily. Over 250 people began using Ushahidi to report violence and


radio stations started using the website as an information source. The website was also used for individuals or groups who wanted to know where help is most needed (Goolsby, 2010; Okolloh, 2009). The website generated a lot of attention because of the frequency with which new, unreported incidents were reported on the Ushahidi website (Okolloh, 2009). The information Ushahidi generated raised discussions about the performance of the mass media as an unbiased observer. For instance, bloggers criticized the mass media focusing on the accusations between Kibaki and Raila while the unnecessary killings by the police were underplayed (Makinen & Kuira, 2008). The people of Ushahidi believed that this tool could have potential in other crisis situations as well. With the help of funds from NGO Humanity United the platform was redeveloped as a tool to help local and international NGOs in crisis situations, from early conflict warning to tracking a crisis situation as it evolves. Ushahidi is one of the few technical innovations that is not from a ‘developed country’ and has been adapted by different ‘developing countries’ (Greenough, et al., 2009; Paudel, et al., 2010). 2.1.1 TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS OF USHAHIDI In Figure 1 the basic setup of Ushahidi is shown. One important part of Ushahidi is the ability to report incidents through SMS text messages. SMS reporting is established through the following steps: First, the reporter sends an SMS text message to a local number. Then, it is rerouted through FrontlineSMS. FrontlineSMS synchronizes with the Ushahidi Platform and the SMS text message is published on the Ushahidi website. The Ushahidi administrators have the possibility to send an SMS text message back to the reporter (Okolloh, 2009). The following paragraph will focus on the technical characteristics of this feedback-cycle. The capability of Ushahidi to use mobile phones for both sending reports and receiving updates is important because the Internet can be difficult to access or completely unavailable in some parts of the world. Only 25,9 % of the world’s population has access to the Internet while 67 % has access to mobile phones (Bhaskar, 2009). Therefore, the mobile phone is a fundamental part of the Ushahidi platform. Anybody can contribute information, whether it is an SMS text message from an SMS-capable phone, a photo or video from a Smartphone, or a report submitted online. Ushahidi can gather information from any device with a digital data connection ("Ushahidi :: Crowsourcing Crisis Information (FOSS)," 2010). Ushahidi uses FrontlineSMS, which is open source software that turns a laptop and a mobile phone into a central communications hub. Once installed, the program enables users to send and receive text messages with groups of people through mobile phones. It does not require an Internet connection (Fleischner, von Hippel, & Barton, 2009). The software is free and enables NGO workers in developing countries to run two-way, large-scale communications using simple software, a mobile phone, and a computer. It is currently used in over 50 countries to provide information about public health services, weather, and updates about local events. It is also used to coordinate electoral observers and send security alerts from NGO headquarters to aid workers. For example, a few users identifying electoral fraud can text large numbers of people, helping to mobilize for change. This tool is especially important in places with limited information flows due to a lack of democracy or poor infrastructure (Fleischner, et al., 2009). Ushahidi uses FrontlineSMS to create a communication hub and import the SMS message into the Ushahidi web servers. Ushahidi can also be synced with existing FrontlineSMS setups to visualize the data (Fleischner, et al., 2009). The Ushahidi webserver can be setup by installing the open source package written in the PHP scripting language. FrontlineSMS and Ushahidi are both open source, which is an important characteristic of this platform. ‘Closed software’ restricts imitation by retaining the source code and by enforcing intellectual property rights. Open source software (OSS) is a public good. Developers and users benefit from making the OSS free and publicly available (Tidd, Bessant, & Pavitt, 1997). Ushahidi is built in PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP), which is a server side HTML-embedded scripting language that allows the editing and processing of HTML and XML content. This is not done by executing the script in the browser but at the webserver that generates a HTML page. PHP is not limited to outputting just HTML, XML or other text


Figure 1 – SMS reporting and feedback cycle in Ushahidi v0.1 ("Ushahidi :: Crowsourcing Crisis Information (FOSS)," 2010)

files. It has built-in support for generating PDF files, flash movies, and GIF, JPG and PNG images. PHP is typically used in combination with Apache, which is an open source webserver, and MySQL, which is an open source relational database management system (Wandschneider, 2006). These characteristics make it possible that everyone can setup a webserver (this can be any computer with an Internet connection) and use the Ushahidi PHP package for free (Paudel, et al., 2010; Wandschneider, 2006). On the first Ushahidi website, all reports were checked manually by the Ushahidi staff who would call reporters to verify reports or check other sources e.g. mainstream media. Reports that seemed plausible but were not verifiable yet, were posted with a ‘not verified’ label (McLaren, 2009; Sturm, 2009). In other deployments of Ushahidi there is also a process whereby the reports are verified and provided with a credibility score by NGOs. This is needed in political crises situations, where there is often an ‘information war’ (McLaren, 2009; Smith, 2010; Sturm, 2009). Ushahidi can create mashups using the Google Maps API and the SIMILE Timeline API. This mashup generates a timeline interface on a digital map showing items in a timeframe defined by the user. The SIMILE Timeline allows users to select the time interval with a dynamic slider (Sophia B. Lui & Palen, 2009). An Application Programming Interface (API) is an implemented interface in a software program that allows the software to interact with other software (Hofstede & Fioreze, 2009). With SIMILE Timeline it is possible to create a timeline with one or more ‘time bands’ which can be panned from left to right by dragging with the mouse or scrolling with the mouse wheel. SIMLE Timeline is part of the SIMILE research project run by W3C, MITL and CSAIL, that is focused on creating tools to increase the interoperability of disparate digital collections. SIMILE stands for Semantic Interoperability of Metadata and Information in unLike Environments (Good & Wilkinson, 2006). The Google Maps API allows developers to integrate data points with the web mapping service application provided by Google (Hofstede & Fioreze, 2009). Ushahidi can visualize the information in different ways. The first visualization is a map where every item on the map can be clicked to show temporal information. The map shows big icons where there are more reports and they can be shown separately by zooming in on the map. Ushahidi allows the use of different


icons and colors to categorize the reports. The second visualization is a timeline on the bottom with the send-in reports visualized per day, hour, etc. (Sophia B. Lui & Palen, 2009). The data can also be visualized with Google Maps alternatives like Virtual Earth and OpenStreetMap, but the Google Maps API is required for the ‘geocoding’ of the reports (McLaren, 2009). For sending SMS, Clickatell can be used which is a communication provider specialized in bulk messaging services and SMS gateway connectivity. Ushahidi uses Clickatell to send SMS text messages to, for example, Ushahidi reporters (Haynes, 2009). 2.1.2 EXAMPLES OF USHAHIDI’S DEPLOYMEN TS The people of Ushahidi thought that this tool also has potential in other crisis situations and with the help of funds, Ushahidi has developed into a software platform that can be deployed in diverse situations (Okolloh, 2009; Paudel, et al., 2010). The Ushahidi software has been downloaded more than 4,000 times in its two first years (Rotich, 2010). The first deployment of Ushahidi outside Kenya was the United for Africa project. This project documents xenophobic violence and Ushahidi was used to map the xenophobic attacks perpetrated against non-South Africans ("The Ushahidi Platform," 2010; Zuckerman, 2008). When the situation in Kenya got more stable the Unsung Peace Heroes campaign was launched by local NGOs with the goal to “motivate and symbolize goodwill amongst (young) Kenyans towards each other in the after effects of the violence and conflict which started in December 2007.” People could sent nominations to the Ushahidi website through SMS, email, web form, and by filling out a paper form at various peace events (Rotich, 2009b; Tully, 2009). After the Ushahidi open source package was released it was first deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in November 2008. It was launched as a pilot project the week after the initial release of the alpha version of the Ushahidi platform. The reason for the deployment was that the Democratic Republic of Congo still is facing ethnical tension although the rebellions signed a peace treaty early 2008 (Hersman, 2008; McLaren, 2009; Okolloh, 2009). The Ushahidi team was not able to verify the reports themselves so a few local NGOs were approached, including HEAL Africa, to report and verify incoming reports. The categories being used in this crisis situation were different. The category ‘verified reports’ was added which was used to categorize reports from users that are known to be trustworthy (Hersman, 2008). Al Jazeera used Ushahidi and incorporated Twitter to provide reports related to the War on Gaza in January 2009 by visualizing the reports on the dedicated ‘War on Gaza’ website. The aim of Al Jazeera was to make this information available to mobilize people to assist and mobilize governments to react (Hersman, 2009a; Sophia B. Lui & Palen, 2009). After these first deployments of Ushahidi more deployments emerged. A lot of deployments were related to local elections but Ushahidi is also deployed for other uses. Ushahidi is used to map Swine flu reports, consumer complaints about mobile phone companies in the Philippines, forest fires in Italy, medical supplies stock outs at pharmacies in Kenya, Uganda, Malawi and Zambia, wildlife tracking in Kenya, crime reports in the metro area of Atlanta (USA), snow problems during the 2010 blizzard in Washington (USA) and traffic accidents in Los Angeles (USA) (Tully, 2009; "Ushahidi :: Crowsourcing Crisis Information (FOSS)," 2010; "The Ushahidi Platform," 2010). Ushahidi was also deployed in Haiti which was one of the most covered deployments of Ushahidi in the media. On 12 January 2010 a devastating earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 struck Haiti, with an epicenter near the capital city Port-au-Prince. Due to the strength of the earthquake, and the generally poor building standards in the city, tens of thousands of people were killed during the quake and in the days and weeks that followed; many more were left without shelter, food or water (Lewis, 2010; Zook, Graham, Shelton, & Gorman, 2010). Haiti has been a country of strife and turmoil, and the information infrastructure has also been poor. Availability of data about assets, infrastructure and population were minimal which made the situation even more problematic (Zook, et al., 2010).


Soon after the earthquake Patrick Meier initiated the deployment of Ushahidi for Haiti which was a joint effort with The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, UN OCHA/Colombia and the International Network of Crisis Mappers. Ushahidi-Haiti went live within an hour. Within 5 days, the free SMS shortcode 4636 was launched which evolved into Project 4636 (also known as Mission 4636) where several organizations became part of a crisis response process (Saxton, Neely, & Guo, 2010). Ushahidi was used in this process for crowdsourcing data from people on the ground in Haiti so that humanitarian needs and relief organization services can be more quickly and effectively coordinated. The SMS-text messages that were sent to 4636 were first sent to a translation service that is provided by CrowdFlower and Samasource. Samasource crowdsources work digitally. One of Samasources’ initiatives was the ‘1,000 jobs Haiti initiative’ which already started before the earthquake. After the earthquake the initiative continued. Samasource teamed up with CrowdFlower, a venture-backed startup that helps companies outsource microtasks, to rapidly provide paid work to hundreds of Haitian participants in the program. After the translation, the SMS text messages were turned into reports by Ushahidi that were forwarded to multiple organizations like InSTEDD, the Red Cross and U.S. aid organizations (Saxton, et al., 2010; "Ushahidi :: Crowsourcing Crisis Information (FOSS)," 2010; Zook, et al., 2010). Ushahidi was used for (user-driven)aggregating of all kinds of information collected through multiple channels (not only SMS). Individuals and organizations both inside and outside Haiti reported news or requested for help via multiple channels. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter had a prominent role in this process along with more traditional websites. Rescue teams and NGOs saved time and energy because they didn’t need to sort all this information themselves (Saxton, et al., 2010; Zook, et al., 2010). However, the ability to send local, on-the-ground knowledge via mobile devices to be systemized and shared online distinguished Ushahidi. Only 11 % of the Haitians have access to the Internet while 33 % of the Haitians have access to mobile phones. Ushahidi highlights the benefits of using multiple channels (Zook, et al., 2010). Altogether, the deployment of Ushahidi in Haiti was a successful step for the humanitarian use of information technology. The director of the ICT4Peace foundation, Daniel Stauffacher argues that: "In the

Figure 2 – Project 4636 ("Ushahidi :: Crowsourcing Crisis Information (FOSS)," 2010)


history of the use of Internet technology for humanitarian purposes Haiti was a milestone."(Heybrock, 2010) Patrick Meier argued that “the Haiti Quake is the first disaster in which open-source, online platforms are being heavily utilized.” A U.S. Marine Corps officer stated that the work of Ushahidi in Haiti “is saving lives every day.” (Zook, et al., 2010) Erik Hersman argues that Ushahidi proved in Haiti that useful crisis information can be crowdsourced. The US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton underlined the critical role of Ushahidi in a speech on 21 January (Fildes, 2010). After the Haiti earthquake in January, an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.8 struck Chile (Meier, 2010a). Within one hour, the volunteers of Ushahidi started the deployment of Ushahidi for Chile and it took a couple of hours to get the platform up and running. Within 24 hours the management of the website was passed on to students of the Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs in the US, supported by the Chilean diaspora (Fildes, 2010). Some of the involved students were skeptical of Ushahidi-Chile at first but when soon after that messages communicating the needs and locations of people who lacked basic supplies and water were coming in, they perceived the Ushahidi-Chile website to be a successful way to gather information during this disaster (Stauffer, 2010). The deployment could be done in such a short time because the Ushahidi Tech Team could simply clone the Ushahidi-Haiti version for Chile. The Ushahidi-Chile platform used the translations of the platform into Spanish by Oscar Salazar, who translated the platform for the deployment of Ushahidi during the Mexican election. Oscar Salazar also helped to mobilize a network of volunteers to offer Spanish-English translations (Meier, 2010b; Rotich, 2010). Within 48 hours more than 100 reports were posted on the platform. Messages like: "Send help. I'm stuck under a building with my child. We have no supplies", were reported soon after the launch of the site (Fildes, 2010; Meier, 2010a). Ushahidi emerged as a platform to gather and visualize reports on post-election violence in Kenya (Okolloh, 2009). Since then, many Ushahidi deployments have focused on monitoring elections. To name some examples; for the Indian general elections of 2009, Vote Report India ( was created. It is a collaborative citizen-driven election monitoring platform. In this deployment, Ushahidi was also used to look at all the tweets with certain keywords (Hersman, 2009b). The Cuidemos el Voto mashup monitored irregularities during the federal elections of 5 July 2009 in Mexico and used emails, SMS, and Twitter (Rotich, 2009a). The National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) used Ushahidi to monitor the elections in Namibia and collected reports about fraud, undue influence, and violence intimidation (Rotich, 2009c). Other examples of election monitoring with Ushahidi include Mozambique, Togo, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Burundi, Colombia, Guinea, Brazil, Sudan, and Afghanistan ("The Ushahidi Platform," 2010). The organization that started the Vote Report India project, eMoksha, has been involved in many more projects since. It developed the Sharek961 website to empower citizens to collect election-related incidents in Lebanon, it offered the technical backbone for Alive in Afghanistan (which is the case that is studied for this research), it was the technical partner of the Sudan Vote Monitor and it created Kiirti, which is a platform to promote awareness and citizen engagement in India ("eMoksha," 2010). Meanwhile, Ushahidi tries to improve their products and services by, for example, setting up situation rooms which can react quickly on crisis situations and gather a team of volunteers when help is needed. There are now three core Ushahidi Situation Rooms in the world: Boston, New York and Geneva. They are fully trained and continue to train others (Belinsky, 2010; Meier, 2010a). Ushahidi also aims to offer more technical possibilities by launching an improved version of the platform, a SaaS version called Crowdmap, and a new tool called Swiftriver ("The Ushahidi Platform," 2010). The first beta of Swiftriver is only recently launched. It is a tool to filter and verify information from different sources such as Twitter, blogs, and news reports. “Swifriver initially uses computer algorithms to spot and discard duplications and to mash the different channels into one coherent feed. This filtered stream is then scrutinized by volunteers before it is plotted on the map for all to see.” (Fildes, 2010) Although Swifriver and Crowdmap are not covered in this thesis as they were only recently created, they are interesting developments to watch.




This section will focus on describing theories and models that derived from theories on the performance of systems in a social context, and are best suited for platforms like Ushahidi. 2.2.1 SOCIO-TECHNICAL SYSTEM The domains of social sciences like Communication Studies, Media Studies and Political Science are only recently confronted with the effects of the Internet, specifically with the emergence of Web 2.0. Stocker, et al. (2007) argue that scholars tend to describe Web 2.0 in different ways, depending on the domain of the community they belong to: “Depending on the discipline, its focus is set to (1) a set of helpful technologies that support in different ways including the support of social interactions on the web (e.g. Computer Science), (2) a social phenomenon resulting in the creation of communities and social-networks by using technology (e.g. Sociology) or (3) a creator of business value derived from technological and social structures of the new web (e.g. Business Administration).” The effect of information technology in organizations and on individuals is covered by fields like information management, in which the domains of computer science and business administration are combined. Research has focused on questions on how to transform organizations with IT, manage knowledge for better performance and select and deploy enabling technologies ("Department of Information Management," 2010). Research on the social implication of technology in organizations emerged into the socio-technical approach, which states that an organizational system consists of a technical subsystem and a social subsystem that both form a social-technical system. A socio-technical system (STS) is essentially “a social system sitting upon a technical base.” STS is an approach to work design in organizational development that uses the perspective of the interaction between people and technology in workplaces. In a STS, social systems do not exist next to technical systems but social systems include technical systems, even if the social system is created/enabled by the technical system. STS is the whole system of social and technical systems defined as different levels of one system. Therefore the performance of an organization/system depends on the interaction between social and technical factors (Whitworth, 2009). The socio-technical theory is about joint optimization. The theory argues that optimization of one factor alone, social or technical, will increase the unpredictability of the total socio-technical system because it will create relationships between the two factors that were not designed. In the (re)design process both subsystems should be optimized simultaneously to make sure the subsystems ‘fit’ (Whitworth, 2009). The Socio-Technical approach is related to the general systems theory, which aims to explain all systems in all research fields. Systems form when self-directed parts interact with each other and it becomes a new whole system with (new) complex feed-back and feed-forward interactions. A social system (and society in itself) is the context for the technical system, even if technical systems have created that social system. STS research is therefore about how social and technical systems integrate into a higher level system with new capabilities (Whitworth, 2009). In the crisis informatics field, the socio-technical concerns of crisis management are investigated and research on social media has just begun to emerge. Significant socio-technical changes in public participation behavior came apparent when technology like mobile phones, blogs and online photo en video posting became available (S. B. Lui & Palen, 2010; Palen et al., 2010). On this topic, Palen et al. (2010) argue that “innovation for emergencies could greatly benefit by reframing disaster response as a set of socially-distributed information activities that support powerful, parallel, socio-technical processing of problems in times of change and disruption. Good quality information and meta-information that indicates accuracy and trustworthiness is what people need to make local decisions, to gain situational awareness and build resilience in the face of threat.” Lui & Palen (2010) identify Ushahidi as a great example of why new theories need to be developed to support informed development as users of Ushahidi are all part of the social system where information is spread within and between official and public channels and entities.


Goolsby (2010) argues users develop socio-technical behavior, which involves “the use of new information resources and advanced communications technology to make different decisions, collaborate in new ways with a mixture of trusted and less trusted people, and make their own information selectively transparent to the larger socio-technical world, which has the dividend of encouraging trust in oneself.” Goolsby (2010) argues that crisismapping tools like Ushahidi need more research regarding socio-technical behavior to understand how behavior is changed by and will change social media as community maps will provide for new experiments in social behavior. Tools like Ushahidi can even be seen as a socio-technical behavior experiment to get insight in how people might use or misuse these new socio-technical innovations (Goolsby, 2010). 2.2.2 SOCIO-TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS FOR IT SYSTEM PERFORMANCE Performance of an IT system is defined as “how well a system interacts with its environment to gain value and avoid loss.”(Whitworth, Fjermestad, & Mahinda, 2006) Although performance seems a simple concept, measuring performance of IT systems becomes increasingly difficult, certainly when IT systems are meant to interact with environments that are larger and more complex and the IT system has a societal purpose (Whitworth, et al., 2006; Whitworth & Zaic, 1987). In academic literature mainly eight main requirements for IT systems can be found: Security, extendibility, reliability, flexibility, usability, functionality, privacy, and connectivity. Whitworth et al. (2006) combined these eight requirements into one framework, the web of system performance (WOSP) model, which defines the requirements for a system to perform well. WOSP defines four elements: “a boundary, a supporting internal structure, output effectors and input receptors.” (Whitworth, et al., 2006) For each element, there is an active goal to increase opportunities and a passive goal to reduce risks. Both are equally important (Whitworth, 2009; Whitworth, et al., 2006; Whitworth & Zaic, 1987). This leads to a total of eight requirements, which are defined by Whitworth (2009) as follows: “A. The boundary element separates ‘system’ from ‘not system’: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. Risk focus: Protect against unauthorized entry, misuse or takeover (security). Opportunity focus: Use outside elements as system ‘tools’ (extendibility). Risk focus: Continue operating despite internal failure (reliability). Opportunity focus: Adapt the system to environment changes (flexibility). Risk focus: Minimize the relative resource costs of action (usability). Opportunity focus: Act directly on the environment to produce a desired change (functionality). Risk focus: Manage the release of self-information (privacy). Opportunity focus: Open and use channels to communicate meaning to other systems (connectivity).”

B. The structure element defines how the system operates internally:

C. The effectors element changes the outside world directly:

D. The receptors element records the outside world and receives signals:

The requirements defined in WOSP are mostly based on TAM and related models (Whitworth, 2009; Whitworth, et al., 2006). TAM, the technology acceptance model, was introduced by Davis et al. (1989). TAM tries to explain the behavior of IT use and uses two main variables to predict this: perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use. Perceived usefulness is the expectation of the user that the technology can improve its performance and perceived ease of use is the user’s expectation on how little effort is needed for using the IT system. TAM is related to a wide range of models like TRA, TPB, IDT and UTAUT which are all focused on individual technology acceptance while WOSP also addresses the social interaction. The requirements defined in WOSP are not new in the field of computer science but their integration into one framework is new. The WOSP model is designed to be used for system design but also system evaluation (Whitworth, 2009).

21 MEASURING PERFORMANCE ON DIFFERENT SOCIO-TECHNICAL LEVELS A socio-technical system is a way to interpret reality, even nonphysical. It is how the system is described and how multiple systems can be described (economic, cognitive, social, information, software). During the technological innovations, new systems and higher levels have emerged into socio-technical systems. Whitworth (2009) explains: “In the 1950s/60s computing was primarily about hardware, while in the 1970’s it became about business information processing, and in the 1980s about ‘personal computing’. With the 1990s, internet and email computers became a social medium, and in this decade social computing has flourished with chat rooms, bulletin boards, e-markets, social networks, wikis and blogs. Computing ‘reinvented itself’ each decade or so, from hardware to software, from software to Human-ComputerInteraction, and now from Human-Computer-Interaction to social computing.“(Kuutti, 1996; Whitworth, 2009) The hardware level represents the physical level while the software system represents the information level (data and code). The human-computer-interaction level is based on the personal requirements (what can the system do for me) and is about how a person perceives the system. The sociotechnical system level is on the communal level and is about technology as a part of groups, organizations, communities and societies (Kuutti, 1996; Whitworth, 2009). The levels sit on top of each other and form the top-level system. Hence, a socio-technical system is a system that consists of all levels and their interactions. The hardware and software form the technical system while the personal requirements and the requirements of the social environment form the social system. At the socio-technical level communities can emerge from autonomous yet interdependent individuals interacting (Kuutti, 1996; Whitworth, 2009). When systems evolve the focus of performance emerges to higher levels. If hardware fails, the whole system fails but when hardware and software show good performance there can still be usability failure or social failure. The physical, information, personal and communal requirements form together the socio-technical requirements (Whitworth, 2009). Every level raises different problems and WOSP can be applied to any system level, but not all at once. Whitworth has defined specific ‘webs’ with different names for each system level (see Figure 3). The web area shows the overall performance of the IT system and the web shape shows the profile of the IT system which should fit its environment. The web lines represent tensions between requirements. Improving one aspect tends to reduce the other. Improving one performance aspect of the IT system at the expense of another aspect may not improve the IT system. It is even possible that later versions of IT systems can perform worse. It is possible however to expand the web by ‘pulling’ two or more sides at once. In theory, any aspect on any system level can combine with any other aspect (Whitworth, 2009; Whitworth, et al., 2006).

Figure 3 – Socio-technical levels (Whitworth, 2009)


Figure 4 – Web Of System Performance (Whitworth, 2009)

It is hard to define the right IT system requirements because there are many goals involved when designing complex socio-technical systems. Designers have to consider the social consequences to improve the community performance. In STS design, performance and progress have proven to be multidimensional (Whitworth, 2009). SYSTEM-ENVIRONMENT INTERACTION As WOSP defines IT system performance as a successful interaction with its environment, performance depends on whatever affects the system-environment interaction. Therefore, WOSP does not consider performance to be absolute as it is relative to the environment. Developers can allocate weight to the performance dimensions in WOSP to fit the performance shape to their environment. For doing this, developers need to know if it is an opportunistic environment, a risky environment or a dynamic environment where risk and opportunity change rapidly (Whitworth & Zaic, 1987). WOSP addresses the fit of the IT system with the environment but does not address outside influences on system performance like marketing, politics or distribution. The cost of the IT system is also outside the scope of the model (Whitworth, et al., 2006). Developers experience that it is still difficult to define the requirements of the IT system because of the many different requirements on many different levels and the struggle to define the communal needs. Whitworth (2009) argues that “this struggle has destroyed many a software project, and the complexity of modern IT requirements has led to agile development methods, which implies we do not know much at all.” SOCIAL REQUIREMENTS In WOSP, eight requirements on the communal level are defined (Figure 4 d) to help STS designers in designing IT systems to improve community performance: “Synergy: Does the community create extra benefits by social interaction, whether physical, informational or human outputs like enjoyment or


understanding? Morale: Does the online community have goodwill, is it socially an enjoyable place to be, without social conflict, and do members help others? Order: Are the rules or norms of social interaction supported, giving social predictability? Freedom: Are valid ‘rights’ granted broadly to allow bottom-up participation? Privacy: Does the community respect the right not to communicate? Openness: Does the community let new ideas in or out? Transparency: Can people easily see what is going on? Identity: How is the community identity maintained against ideological hijack, e.g. by online constitution, by membership rules, by community logo, slogans or symbols?”(Whitworth, 2009) Also on this level, the tensions between two communal requirements makes STS design difficult. For example, there is a tension between order and freedom. Whitworth (2009) argues that this tension can also be seen in the various forms of democracy. “There is no single magic bullet strong or pure enough to kill all the devils of system performance.” Focus on one system requirement causes problems to pop-up elsewhere. STS design therefore requires an innovative balance of conflicting requirements (Whitworth, 2009). The connectivity-privacy line in WOSP is defined on the HCI-level as the confidentiality-richness line (Figure 4 c). Richness represents the human meaning that is communicated and confidentiality is to control over one’s image to another. This line introduces a social dimension to IT systems based on meaning exchange. The underlying psychological processes of meaning exchange have been theorized by many scholars and have been integrated in a cognitive three process (C3P) model which defines three meaning exchange processes that work simultaneously: Resolving information, relating to others, and representing the group. The first process, resolving information, is long acknowledged by scholars and derives from theories on rational decision making. Rational analysis assumes the required information is available, correct and gatherable without altering the decision situation, while in reality it is often not. People can be uninformed, misinformed and information gathering may lead to changing situations because of, for example, a political problem. The C3P model acknowledges these and many other problems with information resolving and ads a social dimension: Relating to others and representing the group (Whitworth, Gallupe, & McQueen, 2000). Relating to others stands for the non-rational people process because “the judgment of who is communicating affects the meaning of what is said.” (Whitworth, 2009) Relating to the group defines the normative influences where people seek unity. Within groups some people may dislike each other and have little relationship with each other but they are willing to conform to the group. Groups have a manyto-many interaction structure where each group member is required to continuously monitor the positions of all other members, so the group can work as one: “Supporting group structure means more than just maintaining a membership list. It extends to formal group norms (constitutions) , group delegated powers (authorities and roles), methods of new norm formation (e.g. parliamentary systems), sanctions (laws), group defined procedures (bureaucracy), and other social functions.”(Whitworth, 2009; Whitworth, Van de Walle, & Turoff, 2000) Whitworth (2009) argues that these three meaning exchange processes of C3P are related to three cumulative stages in Internet development: A global knowledge exchange system which is established with websites like Google and Wikipedia, a global interpersonal network which is currently developing with social media like Facebook and Twitter, and a global communal identity, which is still undeveloped as social features like leadership, democracy, and justice are not yet proven to be well supported by internet technology. Whitworth also believes that each process has different communication requirements: literal meaning exchange is the informational communication level which is for example downloadable on websites, interpersonal meaning exchange needs two-way communication with identification or richness for emotional exchange, and communal meaning exchange needs high connectivity and can be anonymous.



Social media is a relatively new concept and its effects on society are still unclear. Scholar conducting research domains of Social Sciences like Communication Studies, Media Studies and Political Science


experience that media theories need to be redefined as social media, and other Web 2.0 appliances, change the relation between consumers and producers, and between citizens and their government (BallRokeach & Jung, 2009). Peña-López (2010) argues that we have to redefine the roles of citizens, governments and organizations in the new Information society but to do this the ‘old’ role of citizens, governments and organizations must be understood. This section will explain the societal playing field for platforms like Ushahidi by describing the sociopolitical context and theories on the effect of the media on society and individuals. 2.3.1 WHAT IS A DEMOCRACY? Democracy is perhaps the most ancient form of government, finding its roots in clans and tribes before the age of dictators when humans lived in small groups, hunting and collecting. This started changing 5000 years ago when humans transformed their nomad existence for a sedentary life as a farmer. This transformation caused complex societies to emerge with division of labor, hierarchies, states, armies, tax systems, etc. The term democracy was introduced around 400 B.C. by Plato during the Athenian democracy. Although Athenian democracy did not last because of the power acquisition of the Roman empire, the definitions of ‘democracy’ have been a subject of debate ever since. It was only 200 á 300 years ago when the first (modern)democracies emerged in North-America and Europe, which we refer to as the Western world (Coccia, 2010; Dennis & Snyder, 1997; Tocqueville, Valk, Kinneging, & Rétrécy, 2005). According to Dennis and Snyder (1997) “democracy has been described as an ideal, often defined by what it opposes, rather than as an operational format for any specific kind of government. The contemporary variations on the democratic model all differ radically from its Athenian prototype, where the citizen minority of the population could be assembled for discussion and the voices of individual orators heard by all. But all democracies share certain important precepts – open debate, with sufferance of unpopular opinions, and decisions taken by honest voting and thereupon accepted.“ Probably the most fundamental definition of democracy is that it is a set of practices and principles that institutionalize and protect freedom. The fundamental features of a democratic society are the presence of free and fair elections, governmental decision-making based on the majority rule, and the protection of basic human rights (Coccia, 2010). Alexis de Tocqueville (1863) was one of the first to describe the sociological aspects of democracy in his book ‘Democracy in America’. This book, about the young American democracy is today still considered as an important milestone of sociology and political science (Coccia, 2010; Dennis & Snyder, 1997; Tocqueville, et al., 2005). Tocqueville (1863) argued that the democratization transformed the premodern human and society into a modern human and society. He argued that a democracy consists of more than the right to vote for all civilians. It is a modern society with social equality as its main condition. Social equality exerts a powerful influence on a society. It gives direction to the civic and the laws. It gives governments new doctrines and civilians will show characteristic behavior. Social equality creates new opinions, sentiments and habits and it changes things it did not produce (Tocqueville, et al., 2005). Tocqueville (1863) makes the distinction between a good and a bad democracy. A good democracy is a society where decision-making is decentralized and where man, alone and together, is responsible for his own actions and decisions. A powerful, central government is necessary to maintain the nations order and to defend it from foreign enemies, but the government should not interfere with the public life of its citizens. Only in such a democracy freedom exists, and only in such freedom man is truly human because he has the responsibility over his own live. This democracy can become a bad democracy when its elected central government does most of the decision-making legitimized by the votes of its civilians. Tocqueville defines this as democratic despotism (Tocqueville, et al., 2005). Tocqueville (1863) believed that democratic despotism is caused by individualism, which itself is a product of democracy. Because of individualism, civilians don not use their freedom to solve social problems because they are not interested in public affairs. Only the central government can then solve these issues. Tocqueville saw this as a big disadvantage of individualism and a constant threat for


democracies. Therefore he emphasized the importance of associations because when people come together for mutual purposes they are able to overcome selfish desires: “Associations lead to a selfconscious and active political society and a vibrant civil society functioning independently from the state” (Tocqueville, et al., 2005). 2.3.2 THE ROLE OF INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION IN DEMOCRACIES Tocqueville thought free press is vital for a democracy, not because of the good it can do, but because of the harm it prevents. When civilians have decision-making rights on the governance of their society, they should be able to become acquainted with the different opinions in their society. The sovereignty of the civilians and freedom of the press are therefore both necessary in a democracy, universal suffrage and censorship are incompatible (Tocqueville, et al., 2005). The importance of free press today is stipulated by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right…to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.” (Puybaret, 2008) Tocqueville lived when the first modern democracies emerged in Europe and North-America which we refer to as the Western world. The rest of the world was not affected by the democratization of the Western world until mid-20th century, when a process of democratization and modernization started developing on a global level. But even today, many societies can still be characterized as (at least) partially pre-modern (Tocqueville, et al., 2005). The democratization of the Western world in the 19th century is often referred to as the ‘first wave of democratization’. The first wave continued till 1922 when Mussolini (dictator) rose to power in Italy. The number of democracies dropped from 29 democracies in 1922 to 12 democracies in 1942. This decrease of democracies was largely caused by World War II when Adolf Hitler had supreme political power over large parts of Europe. The ‘second wave of democratization’ began after World War II. In 1962 there were 36 recognized democracies in the world. After 1962 there was a minor drop to 30 recognized democracies but from 1974 the ‘third wave of democratization’ started and is still ongoing with currently more than 60 recognized democracies. New democracies mostly emerged in Latin America and in post-Communist countries in Eastern-Europe (Coccia, 2010). Coccia (2010) argues that the third wave of democratization is directly related to the ‘ICT revolution’ just like Tocqueville believed the first wave of democratization was directly related to the first and second revolution: “Alexis de Tocqueville recognizes modern democracy as different from that of ancient populations. To sum up, new democratic laws in England and France, as well as the United States constitution of 1787–1788, are antecedent events and can be considered as the foundations for the origins and diffusion of the first and second industrial revolutions. They were based on several technological innovations (steam engine, spinning jenny, etc.) that changed the socio-economic structure of European and North-American economies, generating an exceptional increase in employment, wealth and economic growth…The coevolution of democratization and technical change has been assuming new forms in the current economy and the most important development is the ICT Revolution. As a matter of fact, the third wave of democratization generated a receptive political and economic environment, which has been fostering a new techno-economic paradigm based on converging technologies.”(Coccia, 2010) Peña-López (2010) also links the emergence of the first modern democracies to the Industrial Revolution from an economic point of view: “The Industrial Revolution intensified production processes by adding capital. The need for capital increased the scarcity of resources and transaction costs. To answer these problems of scarcity a renewed scientific field was needed: Economics.” Peña-López (2010) argues this economic point of view also applies to information scarcity in the democratic process: “1) Information, where the citizen gathers the information they need to initiate the process; 2) Deliberation or Argumentation, where the citizen shapes their own opinion and builds their arguments to back it; 3) Opinion Sharing and Negotiation, where all citizens share their preliminary opinions and, in some cases, bargain in order to ensure their top preferences in exchange of their less preferred ones; 4) Voting or Explicating Preferences, where a collective decision is been made; 5) Accountability, where the goals agreed on the collective decision are tested for performance.” This point of view clarifies that information and communication technology have an important function in the democratic process, as citizens are very


dependent on information. Citizens can use information technology to form quality opinions and citizens need communication technology to get that information and to share their opinions (Peña-López, 2010). 2.3.3 THE ROLE OF MASS MEDIA IN SOCIETIES Groshek (2009), who conducted a quantitative research on the relation between Internet and the democratization process, argued that “since an informed public is essential to the proper functioning of government in democratic theory, communicative technologies have historically been considered powerful democratizing agents. For example, the Gutenberg press helped to initiate and sustain the Reformation, and both Jefferson and de Tocqueville observed that the free press was a catalyst for American democracy. It is therefore not surprising when politicians and scholars alike broadly proclaim the potential of new technologies to hasten the spread of effective democracies, even though democracy is a distinctly abstract concept that is difficult to quantify on a macro level.” Although new communication technologies are important for democracies, earlier innovations like telegraphs, telephones, radios and televisions all failed to fulfill their social potential (Groshek, 2009). Today, it is commonly believed that ICT will enable developing countries to accelerate their development processes significantly. For example, former US vice president Al Gore (1995) argued that ICT will enable “robust and sustainable economic progress, strong democracies, better solutions to global and local environmental challenges, improved health care, and – ultimately – a greater sense of shared stewardship of our small planet…the Internet will not only spread participatory democracy, but also forge a new Athenian Age of democracy.” Groshek (2009) argues that Internet’s effect on society is more complex and compares the current views on the Internet to the early views on mass media. When new communication technologies like radio and television emerged, scholars like Lerner (1958) hypothesized that these communication technologies had a profound, immediate psychological impact on its audience. These socalled ‘hypodermic needle’ or ‘magic bullet’ theories suggested that the media had significant control on the audience. This is for example the reason that in time of World War II there was such an emphasis on propaganda. Social science disproved the ‘hypodermic needle’ or ‘magic bullet’ theories as the effects of media on the audience proved to be much more complex (Ball-Rokeach & DeFleur, 1976). Ball-Rokeach and DeFleur (1976) introduced a theory that tries to explain the complex processes that cause media effects in time of radio and television diffusion. The MSD-theory (Media System Dependency Theory) is based on classical sociological views like Tocqueville’s (1863) where media and its audiences are integral parts of a larger social system. Peoples’ common beliefs in society are not only a product of society’s history and culture, but they are also part of the society in which they live. More complex social structure causes people to detach from the whole social system and they are less informed of what is happening in their society (Ball-Rokeach & DeFleur, 1976; Ball-Rokeach & Jung, 2009). The main concept of MSD-theory is that mass communication involves a large set of interrelated variables that can be simplified by three main variables: media, audiences and society. These variables must be examined individually, interactively, and systematically to get a better understanding of the effects of mass communication. In this theory the dependency of audiences on the media information resources is an important indicator to explain changes in individuals and society. This is because the degree of audience dependence on media information is a key variable in understanding how media can cause cognitive, affective and behavioral changes in individuals, groups and society. In other words: It is likelier that audiences will change their cognitions, feelings, and behavior if they are more depended of media information (Ball-Rokeach & DeFleur, 1976; Ball-Rokeach & Jung, 2009). Ball-Rokeach and DeFleur (1976) argue that “the dependency model avoids a seemingly untenable all-ornone position of saying either that the media have no significant impact on people and society, or that the media have an unbounded capacity to manipulate people and society. It allows us to specify in a limited way when and why mass-communicated information should or should not have significant effects upon how audiences think, feel, and behave.”

27 MASS MEDIA AS AN INFORMATION SYSTEM In MSD-theory, media is defined as an information system, not a persuasion system (Ball-Rokeach & DeFleur, 1976; Ball-Rokeach & Jung, 2009). Ball-Rokeach and Jung (2009) argue that this was a paradigm shift that had five major implications for further research: “By conceiving of the media as an information system, (1) it directed attention to a relationship between producers and consumers where producers control scarce information resources, and consumers utilize those resources to make sense of, and act meaningfully in, their personal and social environs; (2) it was possible to examine all media products for their potential information value, crossing entertainment and news genres; (3) it encouraged viewing media consumers as active processors of media resources, not passive receptors, thus incorporating the active audience perspective that had developed in uses and gratifications without asserting anarchical audience interpretive freedoms; (4) it allowed the possibility that some media effects were intentional and others were not; and (5) it encouraged a multilevel analysis made possible by the ecological notion of a dependency relationship.” Societies become more complex and media technology improves. Therefore the cognitive, affective and behavioral effect, among individuals and society as a whole, of media information becomes more depended on the uniqueness and social centrality of the information functions of media systems. These

Figure 5 – MSD theory (Ball-Rokeach & DeFleur, 1976)


unique information functions include information gathering, information processing, and information delivery. For example, media can gather and deliver information about the government’s actions, they can deliver entertainment for ‘fantasy-escape’, and deliver vital information in emergency situations. The centrality of information functions is an indicator of the significance of the information function (BallRokeach & DeFleur, 1976; Ball-Rokeach & Jung, 2009). People’s dependence on information is also higher when there is more change and conflict in society. Ball-Rokeach and DeFleur (1976) argue that “forces operating to maintain the structural stability of a society coexist with forces toward conflict and change.” In a process of modernization there is usually a lot of conflict until society adapts to the new social reality and new structural stability is formed. When Ball-Rokeach and DeFleur (1976) introduced the MSD-theory, they argued that the audience can be highly dependent on the information resources controlled by the media system to achieve their goals, while the media system hardly ever requires access to resources controlled by an individual to achieve their goals. Therefore the media system is central to the function of personal and social life in rapid social change. In time of natural disasters or other crisis situations, the majority of people first becomes aware of such events through mass media information channels (Ball-Rokeach, 1998; Ball-Rokeach & DeFleur, 1976; Ball-Rokeach & Jung, 2009). The cognitive, affective and behavioral effects media and/or society have can feed back and change both society and the media. This is what Ball-Rokeach & DeFleur (1976) refer to as the tripartite relationship which is illustrated in Figure 5. Feedback loops include, for example, the changes in media consumption and media production decisions (Ball-Rokeach & DeFleur, 1976). AUDIENCES In MSD-theory, ‘audience’ is defined as one analytical unit while there is no mass audience that acts as a coordinated unit that controls resources or has shared goals. The analytical unit ‘audience’ represents the individual and analysis can show individual archetypes at best (Ball-Rokeach, 1985). Ball-Rokeach and DeFleur (1976) identify five cognitive effects of media information. The first cognitive effect in which media play a vital role is ambiguity. Ambiguity occurs when people get insufficient information or contradictory information. When there is ambiguity in a crisis, people know there is a crisis but information about that crisis is incomplete or there are contradicting stories. In that case media can play a role in ambiguity resolution. In some cases there is an ongoing ambiguity creation and resolution like when there is rapid social change or sociopolitical instability. In these cases the dependency on media is relatively high. The second cognitive effect is attitude formation. As media-focus on topics constantly changes, so does the attitude of individuals and society. This is related to the third cognitive effect which is agenda-setting. As media must select a few topics out of a large set of possible topics, and audience is more dependent on media, the personal agenda is influenced by the media. A fourth cognitive effect is that peoples’ system of beliefs expands as people learn about other people and their beliefs. People still have the same beliefs but these beliefs are broadened. The fifth cognitive effect is the impact on peoples’ values. In most cases media does not change peoples’ values but they can clarify these values as they can represent value conflict within society. As media reports this conflicts people are triggered to clarify their own values and choose between contradicting values (Ball-Rokeach & DeFleur, 1976; Ball-Rokeach & Jung, 2009). Media can also have affective effects. Media can cause fear, anxiety, and happiness through news but also entertainment. Media can also influence the morale of society with, for example, reporting on sporting events or the speech of a political leader. When media information is more negative on certain social groups, these groups experience a feeling of alienation. Media can also decrease this alienation like, for example, the alienation of Afro-Americans in the U.S.A. (Ball-Rokeach & DeFleur, 1976). Besides cognitive and affective effects, media also influences behavior. When people do things because of media information that they otherwise would not have done, media caused activation. If people do not act


as they would have done because of media, media caused de-activation. Behavioral effects all come down to these two overt action effects (Ball-Rokeach & DeFleur, 1976). The dependency relations with the media are formed through personal goals of the audience and these personal goals are an important factor in explaining why media has different effects on the beliefs, feelings, and behavior of individuals. The three main goals that create media dependency relations are: understanding, orientation and play which each have two dimensions: a personal and a social one. This leads to six types of individual-level media dependency relations: Solitary play, Social play, Action orientation, Interaction orientation, Self-understanding, and Social understanding (Ball-Rokeach & Jung, 2009; Loges & Ball-Rokeach, 1993). Ball-Rokeach and Jung (2009) explain what these individual-level media dependency relations imply: “Understanding the social world around you is a social understanding goal, and understanding yourself is a personal goal. Figuring out how to interact with others is the social side of orientation and figuring out what actions you want to take is the personal side. When the presence of other people is an important part of your consumption of media entertainment, you are engaging in social play, but when the presence of others is not a concern, you are exhibiting the solitary or personal side of play.” The structural location in the information environment also causes differences between individuals as some individuals have access to alternative information systems and others do not have that access (BallRokeach & Jung, 2009). SOCIAL SYSTEMS Scholars from a wide spectrum of fields have become increasingly interested in the economic, social, cultural, and political dimensions of societies to make sense of its organic structure in which individuals, groups, communities, and organizations are all related to each other. In MSD-theory, the individual dependency is determined mostly by explaining these dimensions and how they relate to one another (Tai & Sun, 2007). Ball-Rokeach (1985) refers to this as “structural dependency relations on the macro level.” These structural dependency relations shape the parameters of how individuals can become depended upon the media. In modern societies, the most significant systems that are defined in MSD-theory are the political and economic system (Ball-Rokeach & Jung, 2009; Tai & Sun, 2007). Ball-Rokeach & Jung (2009) argue that the understanding of the political, economic and other significant systems is more important for understanding the effects of the media system than by the personal and social psychological state of the individual: “The interaction of social environments, media system activity, interpersonal networks, and individual characteristics (structural location and personal goals) are all seen to take place in the macro context of structural dependency relations between the media and other social systems. This is where the MSD relations of the media with political, economic, and other systems come into play in the effects process. Put most briefly, these relations relate most strongly to media production processes, or what content the media do and do not produce. Examples include restrictions on war coverage, government secrecy law and practices, or production of cheap reality shows in the face of economic pressures. The influence of these macro MSD relations is complex and requires in-depth case studies to track.” MSD-theory addresses the control over information in societies. Information is a powerful resource in all societies, also in pre-modern societies as those who control information resources are in possession of a primary power resource. In tribes, for example, the elders derive their power from tradition that gives them control over prized information. What makes modern societies different is that the power over information has shifted and has become an economic product which is transferred from traditional family, religious and community systems to the modern economic, political and educational systems. Because political and economic systems utilize media system dependency most significantly, the organizational demands for the mass increase (Tai & Sun, 2007). Ball-Rokeach (1985) argues that the political and economic system are interdependent in modern societies. Both systems help each other to accomplish fundamental goals which create a symmetrical contingency with the other system. These contingencies


are not present in other systems like religious or educational systems. Therefore the political and economic system have a central dependency system which other systems do not have. Individuals grew up in a society where the media system has a range of information and communication roles. Ball-Rokeach (1998) stipulates that “it is that range of media roles that sets the range of potential media dependencies of individuals.” By explaining the relationship between structural levels of interdependence between social systems and the media system, we can have a better understanding of the media dependencies of individuals that can be and are developed (Ball-Rokeach, 1985). Structural dependencies are not static but undergo change. This can be incremental change and sometimes rapid changes under conditions of, for example, modernization or war. Structural dependencies can be analyzed by identifying the goals of the systems. In modern societies, the most important dependency relations are those between the (commercial) media system and the economic and political system. These dependency relations are symmetrical because the economic and political system need the media to reach their goals and the media system needs the political and economic system to reach theirs (Ball-Rokeach, 1985; Tai & Sun, 2007). The interdependence between the media system and economic system in modern societies causes the media system to be the primary link to the economic system for individuals. The interdependence between the media system and political system causes the media system to be the link between political decision making and the citizen. Citizens and politicians may not like the role the media is playing in politics but they are both dependent on the information resources of the media system (Ball-Rokeach, 1985). While this interdependence forces the media, political, and economic systems to cooperate it also causes conflict. Each side will try to maximize its resources to increase the other sides dependence or decrease the own dependence on the other system. Ball-Rokeach (1985) summarizes this paradox: “Forces pressing symmetry and cooperation thus coexist with forces pressing asymmetry and conflict.” Dependency relations between the media system and other social systems, such as the family, educational, and religious systems, are mostly asymmetric in modern societies because the goals of these social systems are more contingent on the information resources of the media system than the media system goals are contingent on these other social systems. “The media system derives its legitimacy primarily from the political and economic system, not from the family, educational, religious, or other social systems.” (BallRokeach, 1985) The dependency of, for example, the religious system on the media system is illustrated by the often heard critique on the media’s role in reinforcing or declining the religious values. This critique is an acknowledgement to the societal roles the media system play as structural media dependencies affect the core processes of societal life: development, change, conflict, control, and stability (Ball-Rokeach, 1985). In pre-modern societies or societies undergoing a process towards modernization, individuals intuitively rely more on interpersonal networks than they do on the media system to reach their goals. When the quality of the media system is low or the technical infrastructure limits the reach of the media system, an oral culture of information sharing is stimulated. It is in these conditions that the structural location has an important influence on the dependency of individuals on the media system (Ball-Rokeach, 1985). Between the macro- and micro-level, Loges and Ball-Rokeach (1993) define a meso-level where interpersonal networks are positioned. “Interpersonal networks are the critical link between the structural, system-level MSD relation that affect the production process and the micro MSD relations that affect individuals’ consumption of media messages.” (Ball-Rokeach & Jung, 2009) Interpersonal networks can enhance or limit media effects in communities. “Media stories often stimulate interpersonal conversations. Sometimes these conversations may challenge the premises of the media story or filter the meaning of the story such that it ultimately conforms to the social network’s attitudes and norms. On other occasions, interpersonal conversations may reinforce the meaning as conveyed by the media.” (Ball-Rokeach & Jung, 2009)


By using structural dependencies to explain individual media dependencies there is a meaningful context for analysis of differences in individual dependencies and essential information is gained for understanding the similarities and variations in individual media dependencies. Individual media dependencies are, like structural dependencies, examined through the same conditions: The ambiguity and degree of threats in the social environment, the activities of the media system, the activities of interpersonal networks, and the structural locations of the individual and its community. The social environment may be ambiguous when it is unpredictable, for example the economy. In such a case individuals experience cognitive and affective discomfort. Threat also makes the social environment ambiguous. Media dependencies are more intense when the media system is needed to signal, interpret, and organize responses to war, crisis situations, and other potentially threatening situations. The media system shapes the opinions of individuals on the degree of ambiguity or threat in those situations, certainly when the interpersonal networks are unable to do so. The MSD-theory is influenced by on what information the media system focuses (foci). The foci in interpersonal networks discourse and the foci in the media system both shape the personal goals of the individual (Ball-Rokeach, 1985). There are multiple examples of researches using macro-level structural dependency relations to explain individual media dependency. Tuchman (1978) argues that in capitalist societies, the media system reinforces the capitalist values while the capitalist system legitimizes the profit-making goal of the media system. Other research shows that in authoritarian nations, governments provide substantial monetary resources for the media system while the media system focuses on propaganda for the current regime (Tai & Sun, 2007). Research in the U.S. showed that media-religious dependency relations causes the obsessiveness on abortion in American society (Ball-Rokeach, Power, Guthrie, & Waring, 1990). Still, many researches have sidelined the role of the social system in media system dependency relations which was emphasized in the original MSD-theory but individual dependency relations can eventually best be explained by the structural dependency relations, contextual factors (social environment), media factors, individual factors and interpersonal factors (Tai & Sun, 2007).



Essentially, MSD theory focuses on information as a resource which generates power. The power the media has on the individual and vice versa is closely related to the level of democracy in a society. Having the right to vote is not enough for citizens to be given a free choice instead of a manipulated one (BallRokeach & Jung, 2009; Peña-López, 2010). It is presumed that the Internet levels the power as citizens participate in generating information and by doing so have more influence on the media system (Gore, 1995; Smith, 2010). Also Kittilson and Dalton (2008) perceive the Internet as an important enabler of democracy: “Ever since Alexis de Tocqueville stressed the importance of America’s vibrant associational life, democratic theorists have examined the relationship between participation in voluntary associations and the skills and norms that underlie a stable and effective democracy….While early Internet usage was mostly a one way flow of information with little interaction, social media has made the Internet interactive. Traditional sources of social capital are declining, but citizens connect to social groups who share their cultural, social or political interests. The virtual civil society has the same positive effect for citizen norms and political involvement as traditional civil society and lead to higher levels of political participation.” This section will describe research on the effects of the Internet on democratization and individuals. 2.4.1 RESEARCH ON DEMOCRATIZING EFFECT OF INTERNET DIFFUSION Examining this effect of the Internet is even more complex than examining the effect of old media forms like radio and television broadcasts. With new, social media forms like blogging, video sharing, podcasts, and social networking there is no stable media system which can be examined: “The blurring of media forms makes the study of media effects increasingly problematic. Social media blur the once-clear distinction between interpersonal and mass communication. This is a big challenge to the media effects theorist.”(BallRokeach & Jung, 2009) The media system is constantly evolving as it joins old and new media forms and


represents a large variety of information systems. This evolving media system however, has such an important societal role that in developed countries even small outages can seem catastrophic for businesses and individuals that all take part in a global information network (Ball-Rokeach & Jung, 2009). Empirically examining the environmental origin of a dependency relationship that crosses levels of analysis from media producers (macro) to media consumers (micro) becomes continuously more problematic as the distinction between producers and consumers becomes more vague (Ball-Rokeach & Jung, 2009). Ball-Rokeach (1985) already acknowledged the complexity of empirical studies on the effects of radio and television broadcasts and emphasized this statement in a recent paper, published with Jung (2009) in light of the recent developments. Measuring the effect of specific broadcasts and websites is by scholars perceived to be problematic and studies measuring the effect of social media platforms like Ushahidi have not been done yet (Ball-Rokeach & Jung, 2009). However, analysis of data on a macro-level is possible. One good example is the research of

Figure 6 - Hypothetical Model for the influence of Communication Technologies and Endogenous Sociocultural Structures on Democratic Growth Based on Relationships Identified by MSD theory (Groshek, 2009)


Groshek (2009) in which he examined what effect increased Internet diffusion has had on democratic growth in developed and developing countries by analyzing macro-level panel data for 152 countries from 1994 to 2003 using a MSD-theory framework. Groshek (2009) uses MSD-theory to explain how Internet diffusion could affect democracies because of two reasons. The first reason is that the greater the number and centrality of information functions, the greater the audience and societal dependency on that medium. The second reason is that media diffusion and dependency increase over time and the potential effects will increase even more when there is a high degree of structural instability in society (Ball-Rokeach & Jung, 2009; Groshek, 2009). Groshek (2009) also addresses the ‘prosumer’ characteristics of the Internet: “Internet diffusion subsumes the actual growth of the Internet itself, which addresses both the number and centrality of information functions identified by media system dependency theory. That is, increased Internet diffusion and access creates a situation whereby information available on the Internet grows exponentially through user creation and participation as the Internet reaches more and more individuals, which can be assumed to increase the number and centrality of information functions online for specific communities and nations.” While the Internet is an infinite repository of information and all consumers can produce information, many Internet users are overwhelmed by the amount of information and use the Internet only for email and entertainment. So, although these users are technically empowered to use the Internet to monitor their government to ensure the protection of human rights they often do not use this power (Groshek, 2009). Groshek (2009) formed the hypothesis that Internet diffusion predicts increased democracy across all countries, based on the MSD-theory, and examined the effect of the variables urbanism, education, resources, media development, sociopolitical instability and democracy, that were earlier identified by Weaver et al. (1985) in their study on the relationship between media and economic productivity. The variables Internet diffusion, UN Human Development Index, and population (control variable) were added (see Figure 6). The findings suggest that Internet diffusion has a meaningful effect on democracy, which was measured using the Polity 2 democracy scores ("Polity IV Annual Time-Series Database," 2007), The data also suggest that countries that were already more democratic diffused the Internet more and therefore the positive effect of Internet diffusion on democracies was greater in countries that were partially democratic already. The democratizing effect of the Internet seems limited among nondemocratic countries but also proved statistically significant. Groshek (2009) assumes this difference is caused by limitations in these countries because of national policies and measures like filtration software to limit the free flow of information. Groshek (2009) stipulates that Internet diffusion does have a positive effect while earlier studies on radio and television diffusion measured a negative effect on democracy in non-democratic countries. Still, the positive effect of Internet diffusion on democracy is modest. 2.4.2 EFFECT INTERNET ON INDIVIDUAL MEDIA SYSTEM DEPENDENCY One of the few researches that uses a macro context analysis to examine the influence of the Internet on individual media system dependency has been conducted by Tai and Sun (2007). They conducted a case study on the SARS-outbreak in China in 2003. The Propaganda Ministry instructed the Chinese media not to report news on the SARS-outbreak while international media reported on the outbreaks already. The Internet and SMS became increasingly important for the spread of information: “In the past, Chinese audience relied heavily on western shortwave radio broadcasts, fax machines and international phone lines to obtain information not available from the state-run media. But during the SARS crisis, the internet and SMS emerged as viable alternatives and in some cases, as the main sources of information for people in China, especially in the early phase of the outbreak.” As people tend to not trust news sent through SMS, they seek confirmation or disconfirmation. Since official sources would not confirm the news, rumors began to emerge on the street and pressured the government to respond. “SMS played a major role in breaking the news to local residents. The Internet only


played a marginal role in communication information about the disease. However, SMS alone did not constitute a credible source for most people….The internet played a much more important role when the epidemic contaminated more areas.” (Tai & Sun, 2007) The government was aware of the spread of information on the Internet and sent directives to website managers to remove postings about deadly diseases. Chinese civilians sought alternative ways to get answers to their questions and used chat rooms and bulletin boards. Web administrators were more tolerant towards these forms of publication (Tai & Sun, 2007). Tai and Sun (2007) found that “more than 40 % of the respondents first heard about SARS through sources other than the mainstream media.” General observation on the role of the Internet and SMS on individual media system dependency is that, during political instability, internet high-connectors intensify their internet-usage while internet low-connectors narrow their media usage to mass media. Also, the changes of information and communication technology changes the whole media system as the Internet is integrated in the media system and its reach into personal and social life’s is broadened. “People have broken away from state-orchestrated ideological indoctrination by the mass media and are increasingly demanding information that is directly relevant and useful to them.” (Tai & Sun, 2007) Peña-López (2010) tries to explain the relation between Internet diffusion and democracy and argues that the positive effect of the Internet for citizens is explained by the fact that it can be used to debate, negotiate and share opinions and ideas through the Internet, especially social media appliances. Citizens who have access to the Internet hypothetically should not experience information scarcity because when information becomes digital, it can be reproduced and transferred freely when basic infrastructures and connectivity services are provided. Before the Internet, civilians were much more dependent on the media and it was also much harder to get specific information which was, for example, stored in Government’s paper archives or Libraries. There are now large amounts of data available for everyone to reuse and remix. Also, people had to be physically together to share their opinions and the transaction costs of getting people together, coordinating their communication and trying to reach consensus were huge. The Internet lowers these barriers and allows every user to participate outside the mainstream media (PeñaLópez, 2010). 2.4.3 DIGITAL LITERACY Social media and other Web 2.0 appliances have many sociopolitical consequences. Citizens have the ability to participate in debates, monitor their government, are well and timely informed, have more information channels to compare information and new multimedia information delivery helps to better understand complex issues. Also, more marginal and local topics can now be covered. On the other hand, managing an online identity and building a status in online communities becomes increasingly important. Political parties have new channels to reach citizens and also the way in which information is spread changes. For governments there are more requirements for transparency and accountability as there is more ‘social control’ and citizens demand an open government (Peña-López, 2010). Although the Internet has the potential to foster a further democratization of society, the utilization of this sociopolitical potential is problematic because of factors outside the technical potential of the Internet. Peña-López (2010) argues that “the possibilities and potentials are actually there but turning them into realities is another matter.” For example, 30 % of EU citizens has never used the Internet, and Internet usage in development countries is marginal (Peña-López, 2010). There is a gap between people who are not or marginally involved in social media and those who actively use social media. This gap is often referred to as the digital divide (Norris, 2001). Ushahidi tries to overcome some technical barriers by enabling mobile phones but infrastructure (hardware, software, connectivity) is not the only thing that is needed to close this gap (Peña-López, 2009). Peña-López (2010) argues an economically flourishing ICT sector, citizens with sufficient digital skills, a government that creates policies and regulations to govern the digital economy, and the availability of content and services are also needed.


Peña-López (2010) argues that digital skills can be divided into five literacy’s. Technological Literacy covers the basic skills to interact with hardware and software, Informational Literacy covers the user’s ability to get and manage information, Media Literacy is the ability to deal with different Media and integrating them to create richer information, Digital Presence is the ability of user’s to establish a digital identity, and the highest stage is e-Awareness, where one is aware on “how the world and our position – as a person, group, firm, institution – varies because of digital technologies.” Only a fraction of the population masters all these five literacy’s and therefore, even in the western countries, there is a digital elite. In practice, therefore, the same hierarchies in the ‘offline world’ exist in the ‘online world’. For example, bloggers with a lot of influence in the real world benefit from that influence online and people with little influence read their blogs at a huge scale while their own blogs have little influence. Also, people tend to use the Internet to receive information that confirms their current believe and information contradicting those believes is filtered out more effectively then with traditional mass media (Dahlgren, 2009; PeñaLópez, 2010). 2.4.4 CROWDSOURCING The risk of crowdsourcing tools like Ushahidi is that ‘truth’ is not guaranteed but the idea of crowdsourcing is that with enough volume the truth will cancel out the false reports. In the case of Ushahidi there are examples of false reports of violence which caused a response of reports saying there was no violence in the area (Okolloh, 2009). In his book on crowdsourcing, Howe (2009) argues that in crowdsourcing projects, there must be someone in charge to make critical decisions about what to do, and especially what not to do. Howe also argues crowdsourcing projects require a ‘benevolent dictator’ who understands the socio-technical behavior of social media-using public, to help impose order and guide the community. In most crowdsourcing projects, 1 % of the crowd creates the content, 10 % will validate it, and the other 89 % will consume the content that is created.




To answer the research questions, a research design is needed. The research design therefore derives from the problem statement and research questions, and embodies theories to provide guidance in determining what data to collect and the strategies for analysing data (Yin, 2003). The research design for this master thesis is conducting a single-case study on Alive in Afghanistan, which is an election monitoring project which used the Ushahidi platform to monitor the presidential elections of 2009 and the parliamentary elections of 2010 in Afghanistan. The first section presents the research design which is based on the problem statement and research question, the second section describes the data collection methods used for this research, and the third section explains how the data was analysed.



This section first explains why the purpose of this research is explorative, then why a qualitative approach was chosen, and also why the case study was chosen as a research strategy. 3.1.1 RESEARCH PURPOSE Yin (2003) defines three types of research: exploratory, descriptive, and explanatory. Exploratory research helps to clarify and understand the problem when no information is available or accessible on the research topic. This type of research is used to define appropriate research questions to provide significant insight in the issue addressed the problem statement, and information gathering is mainly done through interviews. Descriptive research helps to precisely determine the differences in needs and features of subgroups related to a certain phenomenon. Explanatory research is done when a research field is more mature and tries to explain the course of events by using pattern-matching techniques. Empirically examining the effect of media on a macro-level is complex as it is affected by different factors in a real-life context (Groshek, 2009). Measuring the effect of social media is even more complex as the distinction between producers and consumers becomes more vague (Ball-Rokeach & Jung, 2009), and the complexity of IT requirements increases (Whitworth, 2009). Yin (2003) argues that when the purpose of a research is to understand a complex social phenomena, the research is exploratory, which means its goal is to build a rich description of complex circumstances to define problems and suggest hypotheses. 3.1.2 RESEARCH METHODS There are two main methods of inquiry employed in many different academic disciplines: Qualitative and quantitative research. “The key difference between quantitative and qualitative methods is their flexibility. Generally, quantitative methods are fairly inflexible…The advantage of this inflexibility is that it allows for meaningful comparison of responses across participants and study sites. However, it requires a thorough understanding of the important questions to ask, the best way to ask them, and the range of possible responses. Qualitative methods are typically more flexible – that is, they allow greater spontaneity and adaptation of the interaction between the researcher and the study participant. With open-ended questions, participants are free to respond in their own words, and these responses tend to be more complex.” (Mack & Woodsong, 2005) Baarda, et al. (2005) argue qualitative research has a couple of main characteristics: It uses multiple data sources, has a flexible research design which can be altered during the research, and emphasizes the understanding of individuals, groups, or events. The main disadvantage of qualitative research is that the research is difficult to repeat under the same circumstances because many factors cannot be controlled. Case studies can be based on any mix of quantitative and qualitative evidence. In case of exploratory research, qualitative methods are often used because there is not enough information available and flexibility is required, in order to produce sharper and more insightful research questions, and to include relevant literature from a wide range of research fields (Baarda, et al., 2005; Yin, 2003).


3.1.3 RESEARCH STRATEGY The case study is the best research strategy. Yin (2003) argues there are five major research strategies in social science: experiments, surveys, archival analysis, and case studies. “Each is a different way of collecting and analyzing empirical evidence, following its own logic….In general, case studies are the preferred strategy when ‘how’ or ‘why’ questions are being posed, when the investigator has little control over events, and when the focus is on a contemporary phenomenon within some real-life context.” This research focuses on identifying what societal factors in the real-life context influence the interaction of social media crowdsourcing tools on the democratization process and how design and deployment decisions influence this interaction. The case study proves to be the best fit, because Yin (2003) argues the definition of the case study as a research strategy is that it is an “empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context, especially when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident. The case study inquiry copes with the technically distinctive situation in which there will be many more variables of interest than data points, and as one result relies on multiple sources of evidence.” 3.1.4 CASE STUDY DESIGN This case study offers a narrative of the Alive in Afghanistan project, from its startup in September 2009 till November 2010 when data was collected. Alive in Afghanistan is a website based on the Ushahidi platform, which is setup by Small World News. Alive in Afghanistan was first used during the presidential elections of August 2009, and reinitiated for the parliamentary elections of September 2010. The narrative includes the first Alive in Afghanistan website setup in 2009, the second Alive in Afghanistan website setup in 2010, and the two other deployments of Ushahidi done by Small World News for FEFA and Democracy International. The case narrative focuses on the interaction between the Alive in Afghanistan website and the Afghan citizens but also tries to identify possible indirect effects through local and international media. Valuable information on societal factors and design decisions based on other Ushahidi deployments are also included. The researcher can choose between doing a single-case study and a multiple-case study. Although multiple rationales can serve as reasons for conducting a single-case study, the main rationales for selecting the case of Alive In Afghanistan is that it is a longitudinal case, meaning the case is studied at two or more points in time, and it is a revelatory case, meaning it is an opportunity to observe and analyze a phenomenon previously inaccessible to scientific investigation (Yin, 2003). Furthermore, Afghanistan is a ‘development’ country which is currently still in the transition towards a stable democracy. As the case includes multiple actors, multiple projects, and is mainly focused on the interaction between the social media crowdsourcing platform (being Ushahidi) and (the Afghan) society, this is an embedded case study design (Yin, 2003). The main units studied were the four separate Ushahidi instances and the ‘total system’ being the Afghan society. Also, several intermediary units like organizations involved, and at the individual level, individual archetypical behavior, backgrounds, and values were studied. Most subjects of this case study are relatively abstract units of analysis.



Yin (2003) argues the strength of case studies is its ability to collect data from a full variety of evidence, coming from six sources: “documents, archival records, interviews, direct observation, participantobservation, and physical artifacts.” Qualitative case studies are based on information collected from interviews, observations, and documents. This case study is based on in-depth interviews, documents and archival records. Observations, both direct observations and participant observations, were not used as resources for traveling to Afghanistan are not available, and security in Afghanistan remains low. There were no relevant physical artifacts found for this research.


3.2.1 SELECTED SOURCES Interviews are, as in most case studies, the most important source for this research. The interviews are guided conversations with people who were involved in the Alive in Afghanistan project or who are familiar with social and media issues in Afghanistan, and are used to retrieve in-depth information that is currently not documented. In this study, depth is more important than broadness. Therefore, unstructured interviews were chosen. With unstructured interviews, the interviewer only prepares main questions and uses the response to ask follow-up questions. Topics and issues were determined beforehand, like with semi-structured interviews, but the sample size and questions were not determined beforehand as current literature does not provide enough theoretical background (Mack & Woodsong, 2005). Documents are relevant to almost every case study topic. In this research, mainly administrative documents, reports and evaluations of NGOs, and newspaper articles are used. These types of documents are useful but must be carefully used because they may not always be accurate. Archival records are also relevant for this case study. Lists, maps, charts, organizational, records, and the Ushahidi instances on itself are used in conjunction with other sources of information (Yin, 2003). The archival records and documents were used to develop questions with a broad coverage of the issue, and to validate interviewee comments. 3.2.2 SAMPLE SELECTION On the 11th of October the supervisor of this master thesis agreed on the people that were selected to be asked if they were willing to be respondents. The supervisor also agreed with the research abstract which would be attached to the e-mail containing the interview request (see Appendix A). Seven persons were asked to participate with the interviews through e-mail and ultimately it was possible to arrange in-depth interviews with four persons: Selvam Velmurugan, Brian Conley, Todd Huffman, and Lt. Colonel Wagemaker. Lieutenant-colonel Wagemaker of the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps is a career officer who is currently appointed as associate professor at the military academy (NLDA). His research concentrates on conflict management in general and on the role of small western liberal democracies in third party interventions and conflict management in particular (see Appendix B). The interview took place on Tuesday the 26th of October at his private address and mainly focused on the democratization process in Afghanistan in general. The three other respondents were all directly involved with the Alive in Afghanistan project. Selvam Velmurugan is the founder and CEO of eMoksha, the organization responsible for the technical setup of the first Alive in Afghanistan website. The interview with Selvam Velmurugan was not face to face because he was in the U.S. at the time. Instead Skype was used. Brian Conley is the founder and CEO of Small World News and the initiator of Alive in Afghanistan. Brian Conley was also in the U.S. at the time so the interview took place through Skype on the 3rd of December. Todd Huffman setup three Ushahidi instances in Afghanistan, and also spends a lot of time there as a freelance photographer. During the research, Todd Huffman was mainly traveling and it was not possible to do a Skype interview. Instead, the interview was established through an e-mail correspondence between the 29 th of November and the 9th of January. The Skype interviews and face to face interview were recorded and are held in reserve by the researcher. Transcripts of all interviews were created, although the transcript of the interview with Lt. Colonel Wagemaker was not included in Appendix B due to legislations of the Royal Netherlands Defence forces. Although interviews were unstructured, all interviews included questions which were based on theoretical propositions, being: The economic system, media system, and social system of Afghanistan as defined in MSD theory (Ball-Rokeach & DeFleur, 1976), the influence of variables used by Groshek (2009) in his research on democracy and Internet diffusion, and the influence of digital literacy (Peña-López, 2010).




This research uses explanation building as an analytic technique, which means it aims to analyze the case study data by iteratively building an explanation about the case. This procedure is mainly used in explanatory case studies, but in this case study it is used to develop initial hypotheses and propositions for further studies. “In most existing case studies, explanation building has occurred in narrative form. Because such narratives cannot be precise, the better case studies are the ones in which the explanations have reflected some theoretically significant propositions.” (Yin, 2003) The literature review shows current theoretical propositions are differing and incomplete. For example, Groshek (2009) argues many scholars believe the Internet will speed up the spread of effective democracies but refers to MSD theory (which is based on mass media effects) as a theoretical proposition for a rival explanation. Also, although WOSP can be used to design better IT systems for communities, it does not address deployments factors influencing the success of tools like Ushahidi (Whitworth, 2009). Therefore, the findings of the narrative will be explained by existing theoretical propositions by using pattern matching techniques, but this research also aims to find new and plausible explanations (Yin, 2003). To judge the quality of the research, two criteria are used to test the quality: External validity and reliability. 3.3.1 EXTERNAL VALIDITY While internal validity is only applicable for explanatory research as no causal claims are made, external validity can be used to judge the quality of an exploratory research: “Critics typically state that single cases offer a poor basis for generalizing. However, such critics are implicitly contrasting the situation to survey research in which a sample readily generalizes to a large universe. This analogy to samples and universes is incorrect when dealing with case studies. Survey research relies on statistical generalization, whereas case studies (as with experiments) rely on analytical generalization. In analytical generalization, the investigator is striving to generalize a particular set of results to some broader theory.” (Yin, 2003) 3.3.2 RELIABILITY A research is reliable when there are no biases or errors made in the study. This would mean that another investigator conducting the same research would have the same results. To increase the reliability of this research, interview data was processed by using a data-analysis technique often referred to as ‘labeling’ (Baarda, et al., 2005). The transcripts of interviews were split into relevant fragments, then the fragments were labeled, the labels were ordered to discover relationships, and then the label-structure was created which is used to create the narrative.




This chapter is the narrative of the single-case study on Alive in Afghanistan. The first section is a short introduction on Afghanistan’s historical developments, geographical characteristics, population and economic figures, governmental structure, and media. The second section contains an in-depth coverage of the Ushahidi-deployments in Afghanistan. The third section describes the societal factors and design and deployment decisions that were defined by the respondents to be influencing the success of the Ushahidi deployment. This chapter is mainly based on interviews conducted for this research, complemented with information from documents and archival records. The transcripts of these interviews can be found in Appendix B of this master thesis.



This section is a short introduction on the Afghanistan’s historical developments, geographical characteristics, population and economic figures, governmental structure, and media. The information was collected from a range of different sources but most information is cited from the CIA World Factbook, which is intended for use by government officials, but is also a practical source for researchers that are interested in international politics (The CIA World Factbook, 2009). The first part of this section is a general introduction to Afghanistan, the second part covers the political system of Afghanistan, the third part describes its economic system, and the fourth part describes its media system. 4.1.1 INTRODUCTION OF AFGHANISTAN The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan was founded in 1747 by Ahmad Shah Durrani who unified the Pashtun tribes. It is often called ‘the crossroads of Central Asia’ and shares borders with Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and China. Afghanistan, which surface is 652,230 square kilometers, is seen as an important geostrategic location and has often been invaded, for example by Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and the British and Russian empires in the 18th and 19th century (The CIA World Factbook, 2009; EU Blue Book 2009 - the EU and Afghanistan, 2009; Nyrop & Seekins, 2001). There were some experiments of democracy in the twentieth century but since the 1970s Afghanistan has almost continuously been in a state of civil war: “A brief experiment in democracy ended in a 1973 coup and a 1978 Communist counter-coup. The Soviet Union invaded in 1979 to support the tottering Afghan Communist regime, touching off a long and destructive war. The USSR withdrew in 1989 under relentless pressure by internationally supported anti-Communist mujahedin rebels. A series of subsequent civil wars saw Kabul finally fall in 1996 to the Taliban.” (The CIA World Factbook, 2009) The Taliban is a fundamentalist Islamic guerrilla organization which emerged in the mid-nineties and governed Afghanistan from 1996 till 2001, when it was overthrown by the US-led invasion: “Following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., a U.S., Allied, and anti-Taliban Northern Alliance military action toppled the Taliban for sheltering Osama BIN LADIN. The UN-sponsored Bonn Conference in 2001 established a process for political reconstruction that included the adoption of a new constitution, a presidential election in 2004, and National Assembly elections in 2005. In December 2004, Hamid KARZAI became the first democratically elected president of Afghanistan and the National Assembly was inaugurated the following December." (The CIA World Factbook, 2009) Since then, there is an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), that is authorized by the United Nations Security Council, to support the developing process for political stability (EU Blue Book 2009 - the EU and Afghanistan, 2009; Nyrop & Seekins, 2001). “Despite gains toward building a stable central government, a resurgent Taliban and continuing provincial instability - particularly in the south and the east - remain serious challenges for the Afghan Government.” (The CIA World Factbook, 2009) ISAF is in Afghanistan to support the local government, for example during the elections where the Afghan police is responsible to maintain order. When the situation gets out of control the Afghan army can assist the police. ISAF only gets involved when both the police and the army cannot control the situation. In total there are currently three main actors which all work towards making Afghanistan a (well) functioning


state: ISAF, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), and the Afghan government. UNAMA has long-term goals that are related to laying the foundations for sustainable peace and development. The goals of ISAF are mostly short-term goals related to creating a safe society. Lt. Colonel Wagemaker argues that there is a grey area between the short-term and long-term goals in which goals related to forming a state where civilians have a feeling of unity should be met. To meet these goals citizens need to feel they can influence the decision-making-processes in their country. UNAMA and ISAF are autonomous organizations and it is difficult to create a joint policy to realize these goals of which it is unclear who is responsible. The capital of Afghanistan is Kabul which has a population of more than 2.5 million. The second largest city is Herat and has a population of around 350.000. Afghanistan has many steep mountains with around them many fertile ground and valleys, while in the south part of Afghanistan there are large desserts. Afghanistan has a few large natural lakes and several reservoirs but still issues like limited fresh water resources, inadequate supplies of portable water, soil degradation, overgrazing, deforestation, desertification, and air and water pollution remain (The CIA World Factbook, 2009). The total population of Afghanistan is estimated at 30 million people. Estimations are that 43.6 % of the population is under the age 15, about 54 % is between the ages of 15 and 64 years, and 2.4 % is above the age of 64. The average age of the whole population is estimated at 18 years and the life expectancy is estimated around 45 years. The urban population is estimated at around 25 % and the annual rate of urbanization is estimated at 5.4 % per year (The CIA World Factbook, 2009). Almost all citizens of Afghanistan are Muslim. The majority is a Sunni Muslim and a minority of around 2 million citizens is a Shia Muslim, which are mostly part of the Hazara population group. The population groups in Afghanistan are “Pashtun 42 %, Tajik 27 %, Hazara 9 %, Uzbek 9 %, Aimak 4 %, Turkmen 3 %, Baloch 2 %, other 4 %.” (The CIA World Factbook, 2009) Only the Pashtun are organized in small tribes with their own doctrines. The other ethnicities (Afghanistan has a total of 55 ethnicities) are mostly organized as groups that can best be described as closed communities. Those groups identify themselves by the region they come from, not their ethnicity. The Pashtun are relatively conservative, the Taliban is mostly rooted in this tribe. The men of the tribe feel loyalty to their tribe and, if called upon, are in many cases willing to assemble in arms for their tribes. This loyalty also influences the political behavior of the tribe as decision-making is centralized and located at the head of the tribe. In the city, people tend to be more liberal-minded and are more actively forming opinions compared to the rural areas. Lt. Colonel Wagemaker argues that the tribal and communal systems in the rural areas of Afghanistan (among other cultural, societal, spatial and economic reasons) make Afghanistan a complex country where complicated anthropological studies are needed for a proper understanding. That level of analysis is outside the scope of this research. The most common spoken languages in Afghanistan are Afghan Dari (estimated at 50 %) and Pashto (estimated at 35 %) but there are many other languages used as a native language by minority groups across the country which have an official status in that region. Literacy among the population that is above the age of 14 is around 43,1 % for males and 12.6 % for women. School life expectancy is also higher for males who have an average school life of 11 years while women have an average school life of 5 years (The CIA World Factbook, 2009). Current policies by ISAF, UN and EU are aimed at increasing literacy and providing more education in Afghanistan, especially among women (EU Blue Book 2009 - the EU and Afghanistan, 2009). Emancipation of women is still an important issue in Afghanistan, especially in the rural areas. In Kabul and other cities the difference becomes smaller and fewer women wear a burqa. Also, the women who wear a burqa are often modern women who wear the burqa on the street due to social control. 4.1.2 POLITICAL SYSTEM The constitution of Afghanistan is drafted in December 2003 and ratified in January 2004. The legal system is based on mixed civil and sharia law. The current president is Hamid Karzai, who has been


president since 7 December 2004 and was reelected with 49.67 % of the votes in 2009. The president is both chief of state and head of government. The cabinet has 25 ministers who have been appointed by the president and are approved by the National Assembly (The CIA World Factbook, 2009). “The president and two vice presidents are elected by direct vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); if no candidate receives 50 % or more of the vote in the first round of voting, the two candidates with the most votes will participate in a second round.” (The CIA World Factbook, 2009) The National Assembly is Afghanistan’s national legislature. Besides presidential elections there are also parliamentary elections, which were last held on 18 September 2010: “The bicameral National Assembly consists of the Meshrano Jirga or House of Elders (102 seats, one-third of members elected from provincial councils for four-year terms, one-third elected from local district councils for three-year terms, and one-third nominated by the president for five year terms) and the Wolesi Jirga or House of People (no more than 249 seats). The members are directly elected for five-year terms.” (The CIA World Factbook, 2009) Afghanistan has many political parties of which around 13 parties have the most electoral support. Afghanistan is divided into 34 provinces. Each province has its own capital and governor. Each province is divided into a couple of districts resulting in a total of 398 districts in Afghanistan. Each district covers a city or a number of villages and is represented by a district governor. The provincial governors and district governors are elected during the presidential elections (The CIA World Factbook, 2009). Although the Taliban was overthrown in 2001, it has regrouped in 2004 into a hard to fight guerrilla army that fights local authorities as well as ISAF which caused Afghanistan’s security situation to worsen drastically. The UN human indicator for Afghanistan remains extremely low, the rule of law remains weak, and the economic growth has reduced to 3 % in 2008/2009 from an average of 10 % in recent years (Crews & Tarzi, 2008; EU Blue Book 2009 - the EU and Afghanistan, 2009; Roy, 2009). The ongoing conflict has a negative impact on democracy and human rights: “The situation surrounding freedom of expression continues to slide as intimidation, threats, violence, and unjustified detentions are reported from a number of quarters. Cultural, religious and political factors continue to severely limit the lives and potential of Afghan women and the number of reported rape cases of women and children have increased significantly in recent years. This situation is compounded by a lack of a functioning formal justice system in large parts of the country and especially outside the main urban areas.”(EU Blue Book 2009 - the EU and Afghanistan, 2009) Politically, Afghanistan has entered a period of rapid change and social instability. The presidential elections in August 2009 and parliamentary elections in 2010 were both problematic. The current Afghan parliament has not been able to function effectively because of the voting system of the 2005 elections which slowed down significant political party development and still allowed corruption, abuse of power, weak institutions and lack of accountability to exist (EU Blue Book 2009 - the EU and Afghanistan, 2009; European Security Strategy : a secure Europe in a Better World, 2009). 4.1.3 ECONOMY The EU supports the democratization and respect for human rights in Afghanistan by investing in a good infrastructure. As modern economies are heavily reliant on critical infrastructure including transport, communication, power supplies, and the Internet, the modernization of Afghanistan can only be achieved with a good infrastructure (European Security Strategy : a secure Europe in a Better World, 2009). One of the EU’s its main approaches to support the democratization and respect for human rights is the support of the electoral processes: “EU long term election observers for both the Parliamentary elections in 2005 and the Presidential elections in 2009 were in-country for several weeks before the election-day, reporting on a range of issues including access to media, voter registration, and equal treatment of candidates.” (EU Blue Book 2009 - the EU and Afghanistan, 2009) Lt. Colonel Wagemaker argues Afghan economy has taken a ‘giant leap’ forward. He witnessed how the local economy in Baghlan province doubled in the period 2005-2007. One indicator that illustrates that


people have more money to spend is that there has been a rapid increase in the number of exclusive goods like cars, mopeds, and motorcycles, as well as the variety of goods provided in the shops. Another indicator is the number and variety of the shops itself. Despite the economy has improved significantly since the fall of the Taliban regime, Afghanistan is still extremely poor and highly dependent on foreign aid: “Much of the population continues to suffer from shortages of housing, clean water, electricity, medical care, and jobs. Criminality, insecurity, weak governance, and the Afghan Government’s inability to extend rule of law to all parts of the country pose challenges to future economic growth. Afghanistan’s living standards are among the lowest in the world. While the international community remains committed to Afghanistan’s development, pledging over $57 billion at three donors’ conferences since 2002, the Government of Afghanistan will need to overcome a number of challenges, including low revenue collection, anemic job creation, high levels of corruption, weak government capacity, and poor public infrastructure.” (The CIA World Factbook, 2009) Unemployment in Afghanistan is estimated at 35 %, population living below the poverty line is estimated at 36 % (The CIA World Factbook, 2009). Lt. Colonel Wagemaker argues that for democratization, some sort of economic progress and trust in the future is needed. A functioning economy needs investments in infrastructure like roads, electricity, and factories, but investors won’t invest when the situation in Afghanistan remains unstable. In the last thirty years, the middleclass has largely disappeared while a big middleclass is needed for the economy and the governance of the country. Also, a significant part of the intelligentsia is gone while they are needed for opinion-making and agenda-setting. 4.1.4 MEDIA When the Taliban governed Afghanistan they controlled the print media and radio and used them for propaganda and religious programs, while televisions were totally banned. In recent years, media in Afghanistan has developed significantly: “State-owned broadcaster, Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA), operates a series of radio and television stations in Kabul and the provinces. An estimated 50 private radio stations, 8 TV networks, and about a dozen international broadcasters are available. Also, there are more than 30 community-based radio stations broadcasting.” (The CIA World Factbook, 2009) There are two news agencies in Afghanistan: The Bakhtar News Agency which is owned by the government and Pajhwok Afghan News. Lt. Colonel Wagemaker argues radio is by far the most important medium in Afghanistan. The radio diffusion is very large due to radio’s working on solar power or using a dynamo. Television is also a very popular medium in the urban areas of Afghanistan. Particularly soap operas and talent shows are popular among the Afghan TV-viewers. Besides radio, mobile telephony also diffused rapidly after the Taliban was overthrown. While there only are 129,300 main phone lines in use in Afghanistan, there are more than 12 million mobile phones used in Afghanistan: “An increasing number of Afghans utilize mobile-cellular phone networks. Aided by the presence of multiple providers, mobile-cellular telephone service continues to improve rapidly.” (The CIA World Factbook, 2009). Todd Huffman argues that mobile telephony is one of the few success stories in Afghanistan. There are, however, only 500.000 Internet users in Afghanistan. Internet access is growing through Internet cafes but the number of Internet users is less than 2 % of the total population which is estimated at 30 million (The CIA World Factbook, 2009). Lt. Colonel Wagemaker argues the main reason Internet is lesser developed is that Internet needs literacy and the majority of the Afghan population is illiterate. Also, electricity and access to the Internet are only available in the major urban areas. A reason radio and mobile telephony emerged rapidly is because of the oral culture of Afghanistan. Also, wired access, which can easily be destroyed by oppositional or insurgent groups, is not needed for radio and mobile telephones. Himelfarb and Paradi-Huilford (2010) argue that the sheer popular demand for communication, an absence of viable landline substitute, government deregulation, and a competitive market have fueled the


success of mobile telephony in Afghanistan. It is the fastest growing sector in Afghanistan today. “Taxes on the mobile sector account for about 15 % of government revenue, and the sector has become one of the largest employers of the local labor force, second only to the agriculture sector.” (Himelfarb & ParadiGuilford, 2010) Besides calling, mobile money transfer is one of the most important innovations in Afghanistan. “About 97 % of Afghanistan is unbanked and therefore mobile money transfer proves to be a powerful mechanism for helping to reduce corruption, foster security reform, and promote economic development.” (Himelfarb & Paradi-Guilford, 2010) Although mobile technology emerged rapidly, communication infrastructure remains a problem: “Insurgents and vandals are able to disrupt communications either by attacking mobile towers, which cost about $250,000 each, or by stealing the electrical generators the towers run on. During the 2009 presidential elections the Taliban blew up eighteen Roshan towers alone, costing the company $14 million in total damages.” (Himelfarb & Paradi-Guilford, 2010)



As said, Alive in Afghanistan was first setup for the presidential elections of the 20th of August in 2009 (Ackerman, 2009; Fildes, 2009; Loe, 2009). A new Ushahidi instance was created for the parliamentary elections of 18 September 2010 (Carlstrom & Hill, 2010). Small World News also created two other Ushahidi instances for the parliamentary elections of 2010, for Democracy international and for FEFA. This section will first describe the Alive in Afghanistan project of 2009, and then the Alive in Afghanistan project of 2010 and the two other deployments. 4.2.1 NARRATIVE OF ALIVE I N AFGHANISTAN IN 200 9 In 2009, the Afghan government was responding to an upsurge of violence by announcing that the press would not be allowed to report news on the elections on Election Day. The foreign ministry issued a statement a day before the presidential elections that local and international news media would be prohibited from broadcasting any incidents of violence between 6 am and 8 pm on election day ("Baghdad bomb blast," 2009). Media organizations that refused to comply were threatened to be shut down (Fildes, 2009). The pressure on local and international media in Afghanistan was an important reason to setup Alive in Afghanistan. Small World News, who setup Alive in Afghanistan, was founded in 2006 by Brian Conley and Steve Wyshywaniuk. Small World News is a documentary and new media company that provides tools to journalist and citizens around the world to tell stories about their lives (Ulbricht, 2010). Small World News was founded after the success of Alive in Baghdad, which was basically a weblog with videos and personal stories (Conley, 2009). Brian Conley stated he already heard of Ushahidi when it first came out in 2008 and he became interested in doing a crowdsourcing project. Brian Conley initiated the Alive in Afghanistan project with Small World News about ten days before the presidential elections of the 20th of august 2009. On Twitter they contacted Pajhwok Afghan News, which is an independent news agency headquartered in Kabul with eight regional bureaus and a nationwide network of reporters delivering stories in the languages Dari, Pashto, and English (Ulbricht, 2010). Pajhwok News and Small World News together decided they wanted to do the project, contacted Ushahidi if they knew someone who could do the technical management of the project and Ushahidi connected them to eMoksha who were willing to help. Before Alive in Afghanistan. eMoksha, which is a non-partisan, non-profit organization in India ("eMoksha," 2010), setup Vote Report India ( which is an Ushahidi instance for monitoring the elections of 2008 in India, and Sharek961 ( which is an Ushahidi deployment in Lebanon which was used during the parliamentary elections in June 2009. Small World News and eMoksha decided to take the design of the Sharek961 website and use it for the Alive in Afghanistan website. They setup the site and offered server space and technical support for free.


The Sharek961 website presented some multimedia and blogging content next to reports generated through Ushahidi. Alive in Afghanistan was entirely based on this website and added no functionality because of the short amount of time. Todd Huffman was added to the team a few days later when eMoksha had already setup the website to take over some technical maintenance. He is a freelance technologist who worked for Synergy Strike Force and was located in Afghanistan at the time. Brian Conley connected with him through Twitter and eventually Todd Huffman became a permanent member of the Small World News team. Anyone in Afghanistan, including the journalists of Pajhwok news, could report turmoil, defamation, vote tampering, and other incidents by email, SMS, Twitter (hashtag #afghan09) or by filling in a web form ("Baghdad bomb blast," 2009; Carlstrom & Hill, 2010; Fildes, 2009). Reports could be placed on a map of Afghanistan alongside official reports from election monitoring groups, news media reports, and reports from NGOs. As with any other Ushahidi instance, dots on the map can be clicked to see the report and reports can be filtered by category or by using the timeline (Ackerman, 2009; "The Ushahidi Platform," 2010). The first Alive in Afghanistan project was completely funded by the volunteers that were involved and was not affiliated with any of the official election monitoring organization working in Afghanistan during the presidential elections of 2009 (Loe, 2009). One of the goals of the creators of Alive in Afghanistan was to get stories from the rural areas of Afghanistan where there are no or little election monitoring organizations and media coverage is scarce. The eventual goal of the creators of Alive in Afghanistan is to help the transformation of Afghanistan into a democracy and support Afghanistan’s progress toward a free and stable nation by generating better information about the ever-changing climate of the conflict in the country ("Alive in Afghanistan," 2010). Brian Conley argued that the first Alive in Afghanistan project was more of an experiment to find out what is possible with a platform like Ushahidi in Afghanistan in its current state. The creators of Alive in Afghanistan assumed that, although many civilians have access to the needed technology to report incidents, they would not use SMS to report incidents because the majority of

Figure 7 – The Alive in Afghanistan website in 2009 (Presentation about Alive in Afghanistan, 2010)


Afghanistan is illiterate and the price of one SMS is the same as two minutes of talk time or one day of bread for the family (Fildes, 2009). They also thought that, as Internet diffusion is very low in Afghanistan and there wasn’t enough time to promote the platform, they would need to use another strategy (Lutz, 2009). The founders decided to rely on a number of about 80 reporters of Pajhwok news, and a couple of foreigners working or doing research in Afghanistan to generate reports (Fildes, 2009; Loe, 2009; "The Ushahidi Platform," 2010). Alive in Afghanistan focused on delivering information to the international community so it would generate an indirect effect. Brian Conley argues Alive in Afghanistan was much more accessible for the international community than Pajhwok news’ website. Brian Conley states that, as they knew citizens would probably not use the system and they had little time they did not add any functionality to the site or do any marketing to stimulate citizen-reporting (Lutz, 2009). For example, Alive in Afghanistan did not provide feedback to individual reporters, where in other cases, like in Haiti during the aid after the earthquake, such a feedback loop had been setup (Fildes, 2009). The key-functionality of Ushahidi, which is focused on citizen-reporting, remained. For example, information about the reporters like name, phone number, etc. was not published on the website to lower the barrier for civilians that are concerned about their privacy and safety (Loe, 2009). The people of Small World News crosschecked the reports on authenticity and reports that were not verified were marked as such (Fildes, 2009; Lutz, 2009). On election day there were about 250 reports published. After the elections Alive in Afghanistan kept running to report the ongoing violence until the parliamentary elections of 2010 and thousands of reports were collected. Brian Conley argues that they did not build Alive in Afghanistan for citizen-journalism but they build a rudimentary, informal election observation tool which evolved into a broader platform for media dialogue and journalism support for trained reporters. It became a journalism strengthening project for supporting a free and fair media system in Afghanistan. As the project kept running, filters and categories, including security, election, governance, construction, sport, health, and innovation, were added to match the changing interests and needs of the NGOs that used the platform. Also, news published by ISAF was added to the website. 4.2.2 IMPACT OF ALIVE IN AFGHANISTAN 2009 Lt. Colonel Wagemaker argues the presidential elections went relatively well for the country considering Afghanistan is just beginning to democratize. About 21-23 % of the votes in the 2009 presidential elections were fraudulent and the United Nations state that in harsh situations like this, a percentage under 25 % is a sufficient result. Still, these numbers show that Afghanistan is far from a stable democracy. International media at first reported that the presidential elections were quite successful but later stated that the elections had been fraudulent and very violent. It is hard to say if the platform was successful and what was its effect. Lt. Colonel Wagemaker states he has heard of Pajhwok news but never heard about Alive in Afghanistan. Selvam Velmurugan, Todd Huffman, and Brian Conley all state that considering the limited time, resources and marketing, the platform was a success. In the international community, several websites and blogs, for example the BBC (Cellan-Jones, 2009; Fildes, 2009) and LA times (Lutz, 2009), reported on Alive in Afghanistan and referred to the website as one of the best sources to follow the Afghan presidential elections. Rachel Maddows, who is an American radio- and television-host and political commentator for MSNBC, reported on Alive in Afghanistan on her show which generated a lot of hits on the Alive in Afghanistan website ("Baghdad bomb blast," 2009). She argued Alive in Afghanistan is an evolution from the kind of citizen reporting that the world watched on Twitter from Iran during the post-election protests there (Burns & Eltham, 2009), and a demonstration of the futility of censorship from above and how that fails in the face of superior technology. Todd Huffman states that Alive in Afghanistan was informally used by election monitors, by FortiusOne who used it to create visualized demographic, violence, and polling information, by GeoCommons to create


an archived visual overlay that can be loaded into geographical information programs like Google Earth, and by the Web Ecology Project which used Alive in Afghanistan as a primary source. Alive in Afghanistan is accessible for the international community but it is not accessible for most Afghan citizens, and even aid workers in Afghanistan have difficulty to access the Internet ("Afghanistan Presidential election," 2009). Therefore, Alive in Afghanistan can only help Afghan citizens if it has indirect effects through the international community. Brian Conley argues that one important achievement of Alive in Afghanistan, as many other Ushahidi instances, is that it changed the way election monitoring is done. Before these kind of tools were used, election monitoring was a weeks if not month-long process. Now the information is instantaneously published on the platform. Brian Conley states that during the presidential elections of 2009, people who were working in Afghanistan to monitor the elections told him that Alive in Afghanistan was the best source for real-time news on election day. Brian Conley argues that the most important argument that Alive in Afghanistan was a success is that on election day it was already very clear that there was massive fraud all over the country. There were videos, photos, and written evidence and testimonies collected by Pajhwok news. However, the international media reported that there was little violence and fraud. It was not until a few days later that the international media rectified these initial reports by reporting about massive fraud, corruption and violence, while Alive in Afghanistan already showed the evidence on election day. Brian Conley argues that tools like Ushahidi can often give a better overview of what is going on in crisis situations compared to traditional media. Therefore these tools are important and their usage will increase as more people will understand the benefits of using such a tool. Brian Conley argues this is especially true when media companies have economic dependencies which pressure objective news reporting to the audience. In the period after the presidential elections of 2009, the platform fostered a dialogue for other media outlets and helped Pajhwok news to set the agenda and alert other journalists of breaking news from provinces across the country. Danish Karokhel, the director of Pajhwok news, states the reports were often used by the radio stations, TV news channels, and daily newspapers (Ulbricht, 2010). Goolsby (2010) argues Alive in Afghanistan became a community ‘mash-up’ where collections of data from many sources created a remarkably complete map of important events in Afghanistan.



The Alive in Afghanistan project was repeated for the parliamentary elections of 18 September 2010. Besides Alive in Afghanistan two other Ushahidi instances were created by Small World News. While during the presidential elections of 2009 the project was not affiliated with any of the official election monitoring organization working in Afghanistan, in 2010 Small World News created two more Ushahidi instances besides Alive in Afghanistan which can be found at and This section is a narrative of the Alive in Afghanistan project in 2010, and the FEFA and Afghan2010 deployments The news articles of international media on Alive in Afghanistan in 2009 made it possible for Small World News to raise some funding for the project to train Afghan journalists on the ground. This training was given in cooperation with Pajhwok news. The Alive in Afghanistan website got a different design in 2010. While the 2009 website was based on the Sharek961 website, which combined the Ushahidi platform with Wordpress (an open source blogging platform), the 2010 version of Alive in Afghanistan mainly used the basic user-interface of the Ushahidi platform with only a few little customizations. After the presidential elections of 2009, eMoksha handed technical management over to Todd Huffman, who became also responsible for the setup of the 2010 Alive in Afghanistan project. One improvement Todd Huffman realized is the setup of an SMS gateway specifically for Pajhwok news. Operators besides AWCC and Etisalat were not able to deliver the SMS-messages to the gateway however because they did


Figure 8 ("Alive in Afghanistan," 2010)

not support the technology. In those cases SMS-messages were sent to the coordinator at Pajhwok news who would manually enter the reports on the Alive in Afghanistan website. Small World News dedicated a lot of its time and resources to the two other Ushahidi instances and other projects outside of Afghanistan. Therefore, the Alive in Afghanistan 2010 project actually used the same concept as the Alive in Afghanistan 2009 project. Citizen-reporting was technically possible but there was no citizen reporting as this would at least require a large-scale promotion of the platform. Brian Conley argues that during the parliamentary elections of 2010, like in 2009, Alive in Afghanistan remained a valuable source for the international community to look for updates throughout the day. There were fewer incidents then during the presidential elections of 2009. On election day there were around 150 reports. The site kept running afterwards and got over a thousand reports between September 2010 and January 2011. Meanwhile, Small World News hoped it could enable Afghan organizations to use the methods and approach of the Alive in Afghanistan project. FEFA (Free & Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan) was one of the two organizations to do this. “FEFA is a national, independent, non-governmental institution working to ensure that democratic processes are implemented transparently through networking, citizen participation and good governance. It was established in May of 2004 by a coalition of civil society organizations for the purposes of monitoring elections to ensure they are free and fair, promoting democracy in the country, promoting public participation in public and electoral affairs, and advancing the consolidation of public trust and faith in democracy and elections...FEFA was registered with the Ministry of


Justice on 12 June 2004 and is both an organization and a network. Its membership includes 15 domestic civil society organizations committed to strengthening the participation of Afghan citizens in public life and democratic processes, and an additional 16 organizations partner with FEFA during elections.”("Afghan Election Mapper," 2010) Pre-election data was collected through narrative reports of FEFA’s provincial coordinators and staff at FEFA’s headquarters in Kabul. On election day, 400 observers of the nearly 7,000 observers working for FEFA, based all over Afghanistan submitted reports through SMS at the opening of the polls and at the closing of the polls. Observers answered nine simple Yes/No questions formulated by FEFA. These questions were: “Opening of polls (answers sent between 8am and 9am):      Did the polling center open at 7am? Did you witness political interference at the polling station? Did you observe any female staff working at the polling station? Did you witness tampering and other problems with ballots or ballot boxes at the opening of poll? Was it for the ink to be cleaned from the fingers of the voters?

Closing of polls (answers sent between 5pm and 6pm):   Did you observe any security incidents at the polling station between 17h00 and 18h00? Did you observe any tampering and other problems with ballots or ballot boxes between 17h00 and 18h00?

Figure 9 – Afghan Election Mapper ("Afghan Election Mapper," 2010)


 

Did you witness political interference during the counting process? Were you or other observers obstructed from observing the closing and count of the poll?” ("Afghan Election Mapper," 2010)

These questions helped identifying irregularities, violence, intimidation, and other problems. FEFA published the problems on the interactive map and collected more than 400 reports. Small World News also helped Democracy International (DI), who work on democracy and governance programs worldwide for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). DI was monitoring the elections for USAID and initially contacted Small World News to source citizen commentary by using SMS based polling but Small World News did not manage to establish this. Instead, Small World News created an Ushahidi instance and SMS gateway to process the reports in the Ushahidi instance (" Observer Report Map," 2010). The goal of the project was to make the Afghanistan parliamentary election of 2010 more transparent, more comprehensible for the international community and in particular for U.S. citizens. DI tries to achieve this, in a similar way to FEFA, by collecting reports from the field observers, specifically with respect to polling center openings, security, polling procedures, fraud and irregularities, and polling center closings. The website can be reached by clicking on the ‘Observer Report Map’ button on the website.

Figure 10 – Observer Report Map (" Observer Report Map," 2010)

4.3.1 IMPACT OF USHAHIDI INSTANCES IN AFGHANISTAN IN 2010 As for the parliamentary elections itself; these were less chaotic and there were fewer casualties than in previous elections but at least two third of the voting population did not vote. The Taliban had threatened to disrupt the elections but the Taliban and other armed opposition staged about 300 attacks, which is fewer than during the 2009 presidential elections. During the 2010 elections, 24 people were killed in


Afghanistan. During the 2009 elections, more than 40 people were killed. According to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), 3.68 million ballots were cast, which is significantly less than during the presidential elections in 2009, where there were 4.6 million valid votes, and during the parliamentary elections of 2005, where there were 6.4 million valid votes (Carlstrom & Hill, 2010). Although the turmoil during the 2010 parliamentary elections was relatively low, the violence and threats during months before the elections could have had a negative impact on the turnout (Carlstrom & Hill, 2010). Todd Huffman argues that it is also important to note that parliamentary elections tend to draw lesser attention and generally have a lower turnout. Todd Huffman argues the FEFA deployment was a huge success because information could be generated rapidly and FEFA was much faster aware of what was going on. After the polls closed, FEFA stated it has serious concerns about the quality of the elections because of a “worrying number” of government officials interfering in the election process: “FEFA also documented incidents of ballot-stuffing, under-age voting, and proxy voting - when one person votes on behalf of others.” (Carlstrom & Hill, 2010) FEFA already reported some concerns on election day itself. For example, in the afternoon they reported on their site that more than 1,500 observed polling centers opened late, and ink could easily be washed of the thumbs of people who voted. They also reported positive news. They reported for example that security forces performed their protection duties well overall. Both the FEFA and DI Ushahidi instances did not collect and publish any reports after September 2010. The first report on was posted on the 17th of July and on on the 8th of September. Both instances posted their last report on the 18 th of September because they were specifically aimed at monitoring the 2010 parliamentary elections (" Observer Report Map," 2010; "Afghan Election Mapper," 2010). As said, the Alive in Afghanistan is still posting new reports generated by Pajhwok news.



Besides creating a narrative about the Alive in Afghanistan project, the interviews focused on what societal factors and design/deployment decisions influence the success of the platform (see Appendix B). This section describes these factors and decisions and the next chapter discusses them and tries to find explanations by using the theoretical propositions described in chapter 2. 4.4.1 SOCIETAL FACTORS Alive in Afghanistan was not aimed at citizen-participation and Small World News enabled journalists and election monitoring organizations to use the platform in a transparent way. Ultimately, the purpose of these platforms is for citizens to participate, but what societal factors influence citizen-participation? EDUCATION All respondents mention (digital) literacy as one of the main societal factors influencing participation. A lot of people have access to mobile technology but because of their illiteracy they cannot report by sending an SMS-text message, and they only know how to call phone numbers. This is especially true in the rural areas. For surfing the web, people do not only need to be literate but also have to be digital literate. For using a platform like Alive in Afghanistan this means people would not only need to have the basic skills to interact with the hardware and software, but also the skills to use social media. Competences like literacy and digital literacy are of course a result of one’s education. Education also causes other competences to be taught, like the understanding of the concepts of democracy and participation. People who are more educated are generally more aware of what is happening in their country and in the media and are also more open for change and new methods for fostering the civil society.


Brian Conley argues that even in the U.S., a lot of citizens do not realize how much control, power, and influence they have, can have, and should have over their government. Education is not only needed to understand how to use these tools but also to understand what they are good for. It is very difficult for participatory projects to get people to understand their rights and responsibilities in a democracy. Citizens need to actively take part in their society. Therefore it is important that they are encouraged to use these tools. Lt. Colonel Wagemaker argues that ultimately, every citizen wants to influence decision-making in their society to a certain degree. He underlines a lot of citizens in Afghanistan are willing to make an effort for their country because they want a better future for their children. LOCATION CITIZENS LIVE AND WORK The respondents also state that citizens living in urban areas like Kabul are much more involved than people living in rural areas because people in urban areas tend to be more literate, are more open to technology and are easier to market because they live in a more concentrated area. In Afghanistan, people living in rural areas are more often illiterate and less educated. Lt. Colonel Wagemaker argues people living in Kabul are more actively involved in forming opinions. WEALTH OF CITIZENS All respondents argue that wealth has a big influence on citizen participation. Selvam Velmurugan argues that, if you look at the Maslow-pyramid, people with primary needs like food and shelter will probably not use a platform like Alive in Afghanistan because it is not aimed at short-term solutions. To those people it is hard to explain how they benefit from contributing to such a platform. If they do not directly benefit from the platform, they probably will not use it. Mobile operators identified poverty as a key-challenge for the mobile revolution in Afghanistan. In rural areas there is often no electricity and calling is still expensive considering a one-hour monthly mobile call requires about one-sixth of the average annual salary of Afghan citizens (Himelfarb & Paradi-Guilford, 2010). AGE OF CITIZENS All respondents argue that young people are generally more involved. Selvam Velmurugan argues that this might be because they are better educated, know the technology quite well, have a more liberal outlook, have more time available, and do not want to accept the situation. TRUST OF CITIZENS IN GOVERNMENT Both Brian Conley and Lt. Colonel Wagemaker identify a lack of trust in the government as a serious problem for participation in platforms like Alive in Afghanistan and in a democracy in general. Lt. Colonel Wagemaker argues that the citizens must have the feeling they can influence decision-making in Afghanistan but because of corruption citizens feel they cannot change decision-making. Brian Conley argues that for people it is unclear what they have gained from the democratization of Afghanistan and a lot of Afghan citizens do not trust their government. Although Brian Conley believes corruption did not bother the Alive in Afghanistan project, he and Todd Huffman believe it can influence participation negatively. Also, mobile operators identify corruption as a key-challenge for the mobile revolution of Afghanistan (Himelfarb & Paradi-Guilford, 2010). LEVEL OF DEMOCRACY AND DEVELOPMENT Alive in Afghanistan did not involve citizen-reporting while other projects, like in Lebanon and India, did successfully collect citizens-reports. In Sudan, eMoksha was the technical partner of the Sudan Vote Monitor. This Ushahidi instance was similar to Alive in Afghanistan as it was not aimed at citizenreporting. Selvam Velmurugan argues this is because most citizens in Sudan do not have cellphones, are


illiterate, and are hard to reach. An NGO asked eMoksha to setup the platform to monitor the elections and a lot of NGOs used the platform. Selvam Velmurugan argues the reason that in Lebanon, citizens did sent reports is probably because Lebanon is more democratic and more evolved. Also in India, citizens mainly generated the reports and the Indian media consumed the information. GENDER All respondents stated they had not thought about, or know of the influence religion has on citizenparticipation. They did state that gender is an important factor in participation in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, boys are significantly more educated than girls, causing a bigger barrier for the participation of women in platforms like Alive in Afghanistan. While the role of gender is probably closely related to the culture and religion of Afghanistan, it is problematic to generalize these factors on a macro-level. LOCAL COMMUNICATION INFRASTRUCTURE When doing a project like Alive in Afghanistan, using the Internet and mobile technology, communication infrastructure is an essential part. In Afghanistan, access to technology, or even electricity, is problematic as the communication infrastructure is relatively undeveloped and insurgents repeatedly damage the communication infrastructure. 4.4.2 DESIGN DECISIONS This section describes how the technical features of the Ushahidi platform influence the interaction with users and about the effect of new functionality that is added to the platform, or might be added to the platform in the future. First this section describes some important technical features of Ushahidi, and then it describes functionality which could enhance the platform. SMS REPORTING Ushahidi can aggregate SMS-text messages and, as mobile telephony has diffused rapidly in most of the development countries, this is an important feature of the platform. As said earlier, only 25,9 % of the world’s population has access to the Internet while 67 % of the world’s population has access to mobile phones. Therefore, the group of potential users of the platform increases drastically when citizens are able to send SMS-text messages, although it does not offer the same user-experience as the Ushahidi website does (Bhaskar, 2009; "Ushahidi :: Crowsourcing Crisis Information (FOSS)," 2010). VISUALIZING REPORTS ON A MAP Maps have proven to be an effective way to visualize information through history, certainly compared to plain text. In development countries, complex subjects like sociopolitical instability and human rights are still difficult to measure, and mapping as a way to compare cities, provinces, countries, or regions offers promising opportunities. Gooslby (2010) argues that before Ushahidi, maps already played an important role in crisis situations. “First responders have typically used paper maps and push-pins as information resources, usually for close-hold sensitive data such as crime maps. Electronic versions of these maps have been developed but they are expensive, they have interfaces that are not intuitive, and they are relegated to a command center rather than available in the briefing room or on the street. The most recent entrant to the social media field is the public-access crisis map, exemplified by the Ushahidi platform.” Ushahidi itself argues that mapping the reports empowers citizens. “Crisis mapping is redefining the way we think about maps. Today’s maps are alive and dynamic. They are not hard copy static objects. Maps, like books, were written by the winners, the elite. They reflected and projected power. They depicted a fixed reality through one lens.”("Ushahidi :: Crowsourcing Crisis Information (FOSS)," 2010)

54 FREE AND OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE Ushahidi tries to offer a complete platform for crowdsourcing citizen reports, especially in development countries. It is relatively easy to setup Ushahidi, and in most deployments Ushahidi has basically the same functionality, although it is possible to change or ad functionality because it is open source. As Ushahidi is free and open source, it encourages people to experiment with the software, no matter how small the cause. This enabled eMoksha, for example, to create Kiirti, which allows a self-service installation of Ushahidi in a few minutes, including SMS reporting. The fact that Ushahidi is free is also important as organizations that deploy Ushahidi are mostly voluntary organizations which have little funds available, and charging the use of Ushahidi would probably reduce the use of the platform (Goolsby, 2010). EASY AND FAST TO SETUP Selvam Velmurugan argues Ushahidi is very versatile and it is can be installed very fast. This makes Ushahidi very useful as these deployments must be done quickly while there is still ‘momentum’ or need for the platform. ADDED FUNCTIONAILTY: VOICE BASED REPORTING Because in development countries Internet diffusion is relatively low, SMS reporting is an important enabler of citizen participation as it lowers the barrier for communication. Still, as the previous section showed, other barriers remain, and literacy is an important barrier for interacting with the platform. Both eMoksha and Small World News believe technology that enables automatic voice-based reporting can lower this barrier. Selvam Velmurugan states that eMoksha already enabled voice-based reporting in one of their latest projects. Citizens can call a number and use the system in six different languages. This technology not only reduces the (digital) literacy barrier but also the age barrier as eMoksha got more reports from senior citizens, because of this new feature. When interviewed in December 2010, Brian Conley stated Small World News is looking at using interactive voice response technology for one of their projects. For the future, Small World News is looking at some separate project with the primary goal of involving citizens by using SMS and probably actual phone calling through Interactive Voice Recognition (IVR) because of the literacy issue. 4.4.3 DEPLOYMENT DECISIONS Besides societal factors and design decisions, respondents have also identified some lessons learned from the Alive in Afghanistan project and other projects about how to deploy Ushahidi. PARTNERSHIPS The most important aspect of deployments is the building of relevant partnerships for the project. To make a project a success, strong, on the ground presence is needed. This can be a group of volunteers, organizations, committed citizens, activists, or basically everyone who is willing to promote and use the platform. Finding the right partner, in most cases, needs the right momentum. For example, when newspapers are reporting on a certain issue and an organization has a good idea for creating an Ushahidi instance for that issue, it can try to partner with the newspaper and they can promote the website in the articles they write about the issue. Selvam Velmurugan states that eMoksha also experienced bad partnerships where a lot of energy was invested, only to find out the partner was not as committed or motivated as needed. This is often because at NGOs, there is a lack of accountability and partnerships depend on individual’s motivation. At eMoksha, an equal amount of time is spend on projects that did not get launched as on the project that did get


launched. Selvam Velmurugan argues however that this impulsiveness and ad-hoc approach is needed because you have to use the momentum to make the project a success. Therefore, partnering with governmental organizations is probably not a good idea in the early stage because it takes a lot of effort and they probably first want to see a working concept. It is better to create momentum and make the project a success, and then approach the authorities while the project is running to hand it over. Brian Conley also argues that the Afghan government and organizations like ISAF have different agenda’s which might not be in line with the agenda of an organization like Small World News or eMoksha. MARKETING Another important aspect of an Ushahidi deployment is marketing. Todd Huffman argues that in Afghanistan, people in the different parts of Afghanistan do not trust each other and therefore have to be marketed separately. Selvam Velmurugan argues that people living in the urban areas are also more easily marketed because they are more literate and the population is more concentrated. Reaching citizens in rural areas needs more effort and a different approach, like using radio broadcasts or megaphones. Also, by choosing the right partner the project can already be promoted. For example, a newspaper can report about the platform, and in case of Pajhwok news the journalists can spread the word while on location. Small World News hopes to promote the Alive in Afghanistan platform by using public service announcements, and by driving around with megaphones and advertise the service. For the Alive in Afghanistan website, Small World News would like to see it become more than just an Ushahidi instance and hopes to add better support for video, photo, and blogging content. As for the deployment itself, Brian Conley stated Small World News is considering working with a core of trained journalists in Afghanistan to deploy Alive in Afghanistan together and then have these trained journalists train volunteers. STRATEGIC CHOICES ON CROWDSOURCING If a lot of citizens send reports to the platform, this does not necessarily mean the website is visited regularly. Selvam Velmurugan states that even the Ushahidi websites of eMoksha that did receive a lot of citizen reports, did not get a lot of hits. The Ushahidi website can be a news source but is not an active news-site. The Ushahidi instances in India only get a few hundred hits per week. Citizens that report incidents often come back. They get a report-ID from eMoksha through mail and they can check the progress a few days later. Besides that, Selvam Velmurugan believes the content is not presented in a way that it justifies to come back on a daily basis. He argues this is not a problem because the strength of crowdsourcing is monitoring problems on an aggregate level and therefore, it is not a problem as long as there are hundreds of good reports and only a few bad reports. In the case of Alive in Afghanistan, citizens were not involved. Most reports came from trusted sources and report verifying was not as much of an issue as with citizen-reporting. The people of Small World News crosschecked the reports on authenticity themselves and reports that were not verified were marked as such. The more serious reports were sometimes double-checked. “Alive in Afghanistan has voting buttons that enable users to vote whether or not they thought a post was true or not. This functionality is not to be dismissed; crowd-sourced sites rely on validators to police the quality of crowd-sourced posts.”(Goolsby, 2010) Goolsby (2010) argues that organizations like NGOs and media organizations, long thought information published must be authoritative because incorrect information can cause serious problems and even cost lives. These organizations are now shifting their views because of social media because social media can provide situation updates on-the-fly and, although wrong information is certainly an issue, the community is actively increasing the trustworthiness of information by correcting wrong and misleading information. ”Experience with social media suggest that bad data can be rapidly culled out of the system by other reports, but this is still a social as well as a computer science experiment.” (Goolsby, 2010) STRATEGIC CHOICES ON ANONYMITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY When Ushahidi was created, it was deliberately made so people could anonymously report about incidents. Though users share personal information, it is not published on the website. The personal


information is stored in the back-end and the information is only used to provide feedback (Goolsby, 2010). Selvam Velmurugan argues that this functionality is still needed in countries that are less democratic or politically instable like Sudan or Afghanistan. Goolsby (2010) argues that, in the case of Alive in Afghanistan, anonymity is needed because of the potential dangers in Afghanistan if one’s activities are known. In these conditions anonymity may help improve trust but this might not always be the case: “In other settings, identity issues may become more important in encouraging trust among strangers. This is also seen as a potential drawback for first responder authorities who want to know the source of information before committing resources and prefer to have more accountable methods to validate information. People could get handles and so begin to establish reputations that lead to status and trust. Links to their Facebook identity, website, or blog might even be permissible, encouraging.” (Goolsby, 2010) STRATEGIC CHOICES ON COMMUNITY BUILDING Every deployment should have an underlying vision of the community it aims to support. Goolsby (2010) argues that ideally a social media platform for crisis management should be an understandable, intuitive tool. More importantly, it should familiarize its users with these tools by, for example, encouraging them to stay connected through regular news. When a crisis occurs, the tool is not only available but there is also a big user community that trusts the platform and knows how to use it. The Ushahidi instances in Afghanistan are currently used by the various news agency and election monitoring users to share information. Goolsby (2010) argues the platform could also create a community for organizations by adding functionality for collaboration, planning, and executing shared missions. CONTINGENCY PLANNING Selvam Velmurugan argues it is very important to do some kind of scenario or contingency planning. For example, the Sudan government asked ISP’s to block the site. Before setting up the Sudan Vote Monitor website, eMoksha had expected this and the created contingency plans for when the government would shut down the website. First of all, eMoksha deliberately did not host the website in Sudan, so people outside Sudan would always be able to reach the website. Besides that, eMoksha also made a technical solution for volunteers in Sudan to send reports by using a different domain (Hemmer, 2009; Macha, 2010; "Sudan: Blocking of elections monitoring website seen as dangerous move amid electoral tension," 2010). One other example is security. Todd Huffman and Selvam Velmurugan stated that security measurements are low at the moment and for now this has not caused any problems. In the future, when Ushahidi deployments get more successful, taking better security measurements probably becomes more important. ESTIMATING FEASIBILITY OF CITIZEN-REPORTING The level of development and democracy is identified as an important societal factor for citizen participation. Selvam Velmurugan argues that in countries like Afghanistan and Sudan, citizen participation is much more difficult than in India or Lebanon due to the level of democracy and development. Therefore, the Ushahidi deployments in Sudan and Afghanistan were mainly focused on collecting reports from NGOs. Intuitively this would mean that, before deploying Ushahidi, there should be an assessment of the level of democracy and development in that country. Todd Huffman argues that, although most citizens do not have the technology and skills to participate, citizen-participation remains a goal because Small World News believes Afghans are going to rapidly acquire the skills and technology to support a more sophisticated engagement.




This chapter discusses how the events described in the narrative in chapter 4 can be explained by the theoretical propositions described in chapter 2 and where new and plausible explanations are needed. To create this chapter, pattern matching techniques were used, as described by Yin (2003).



Democracy is a relatively abstract concept that is difficult to measure. The importance of citizenparticipation and citizen-journalism for democracies is exemplified by the emphasis Tocqueville (1863) puts on the importance of free press and a vibrant civil society for democracy. In theory, social media enables citizens to become a part of the media system, with no distinction between producers and consumers of information, but how well do social media services, like these Ushahidi instances, support citizens in fostering democracies? In chapter 2, performance of an IT system is defined as “how well a system interacts with its environment to gain value and avoid loss.”(Whitworth, et al., 2006) In case of Ushahidi this means its success depends on citizen participation in producing and verifying reports, and citizens consuming the information published on the website. Ushahidi is a valuable case for examining the interaction between social media and democracy, as it is specifically aimed at citizen-journalism in technologically and socially challenging circumstances. Social media services like Ushahidi instances are socio-technical systems, and WOSP can be used to define the social and technical requirements of an IT system. WOSP does not consider performance to be absolute as it is relative to the environment and therefore the performance of Ushahidi is determined by how well it interacts with its environment. Therefore, to assess the performance of social media, the characteristics of its environment, being the society in which it is deployed, must be clear. To assess the characteristics of the environment of social media service like an Ushahidi instance, the MSD-theory is presented in chapter 2 as a way to explain the complex processes that influence the effects of media information on the audience, being the citizens. As the MSD-theory directs attention to the relationship between producers and consumers, where producers control scarce information resources and consumers are dependent on that information, it can be used to determine how the dependency of consumers changes when they start to produce information themselves. This chapter discusses how the MSD-theory can be used to assess the environment on a macro-, meso-, and micro-level, It then discusses how this information can be used in combination with WOSP to define better requirements for social media that aims to foster democracies, and to create better social media services for fostering democracies. The last part of this chapter focuses on why using MSD-theory and WOSP is valuable for designing and deploying platforms like Ushahidi.



The narrative in chapter 4 aims to identify societal factors influencing the success of a social media service, being an Ushahidi instance. The MSD-theory mentioned in chapter 2 was introduced by BallRokeach and DeFleur (1976) to explain the effect of media information on its audience by taking into account the societal system. This section tries to explain which societal factors influence the interaction between social media and democracy on a macro-, meso-, and micro-level. On the macro-level, structural dependency relations between different societal subsystems, like the economic system, the political system, and the media system are defined. On the meso-level, the role of interpersonal networks can influence the effect of media information in a positive or negative way, and on the micro-level, individual archetypes can be defined. 5.2.1 MACRO-CONTEXT Groshek (2009) examined the effect of Internet diffusion, urbanism, education, resources, media development, overall development, and sociopolitical instability on democracy on a macro-level (see Figure 6). The findings in chapter 4 largely correspond to the variables identified by Groshek on a macro-


level, and are in this section used to identify different societal systems, relevant for designing and deploying social media platforms like Ushahidi. THE POLITICAL SYSTEM Sociopolitical instability and the level of democracy both directly relate to the amount of trust that citizens have in their government. A lack of trust is identified as an important barrier for citizen-participation. The level of democracy is also identified by the respondents as an important indicator for the feasibility of projects using social media platforms like Ushahidi. This corresponds with the findings of Groshek (2009), that a country has to be partially democratic at least for Internet diffusion to have a democratization effect. The narrative of the political situation in Afghanistan is based on qualitative research, but there is quantitative information available which can be used to assess the political system of a country. This research used data from the CIA World Factbook (The CIA World Factbook, 2009) and Groshek (2009) used data from the Polity IV database ("Polity IV Annual Time-Series Database," 2007). Sociopolitical instability is based on the number of assassinations, general strikes, guerrilla warfare, government crises, purges, riots, revolutions and anti-government demonstrations. The Polity II democracy score is often recognized by scholars for its validity, sophistication and comprehensiveness, but there are other useful democracy indexes, like the Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy index, that can be used as well. Still, some qualitative information should be gathered to understand the political system of a country. THE ECONOMIC SYSTEM Wealth is identified as an important factor of participation, as it is argued that poor citizens have probably other, short-term concerns. On a macro-level, the gross national income (GNI) per capita gives a clear picture on the relative health of a countries’ economy. Also, unemployment numbers, and population living below the poverty line are useful figures to assess the economic system. A healthy economic system benefits from, and fosters a good infrastructure for transport, communication, power supplies, and the Internet. For Ushahidi, communication infrastructure and citizens also need the resources to purchase or rent technology like mobile phones and personal computers. In Afghanistan, the population continues to suffer from shortages of housing, clean water, electricity, medical care, and jobs. With these shortages, citizens are unlikely to participate. THE EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM All respondents defined literacy as an factor influencing citizen-participation and sources like the CIA World Factbook (The CIA World Factbook, 2009) and the Worldbank data (2010) can be used for numbers on literacy of a country. These sources also contain data on the general level of education of the population and school life expectancy. This data can be used, in combination with data on Internet diffusion, to estimate the digital literacy of the population. Peña-López (2010) argues there are different levels of digital literacy and SMS-reporting probably requires little digital literacy while using the website of the Ushahidi instance requires more skills. THE SOCIOCULTURAL SYSTEM Other societal systems, like the country’s sociocultural system, family system or religious system, are more abstract and difficult to assess separately. Therefore, these societal systems can probably best be considered as part of the sociocultural system. Urbanism is here identified as a cultural factor. Respondents state that citizens living in urban areas are more likely to participate and send in reports. Groshek (2009) also perceived the level of urbanism on a macro-level to be an important variable for democratization and Internet diffusion.


Groshek (2009) does not address age and gender on a macro-level but they are said to influence participation in chapter 4. It is unclear if the average age on a macro-level has any influence on citizen participation but age is probably an important variable to identify individual archetypes (which are described at the micro-level). Intuitively, gender plays an important role in Afghanistan because of the religious and cultural factors. Because religion and culture are relatively abstract concepts, it is hard to measure how religious and cultural factors influence Internet diffusion and democracy. Of course, differences between genders can be found in figures on employment and education on a macro-level and can be used for defining individual archetypes as well. THE MEDIA SYSTEM The original media system was focused on mass media. The development of media, which is the level of availability of mass communication products per person, is a useful figure for assessing the media system. Social Media has, together with mass media, become part of the media The level of Internet and Mobile Telephony diffusion is also related to the dependency of citizens on mass media information. Although the role of radio and television was not identified as an important factor for citizen-participation, it is probably an important factor for marketing the platform. In countries where Internet diffusion is high, marketing through social media like Twitter and Facebook is probably more successful than in Afghanistan, where radio commercials, flyers, or megaphones might have more impact. RELEVANCE OF MACRO-LEVEL ANALYSIS In the first section of the narrative in chapter 4, a short description of Afghanistan on a macro-level was given. This can be used for multiple purposes. First of all, the level of democracy and development can be used to determine if citizen-participation is possible. Selvam Velmurugan argues that Sudan and Afghanistan were not as democratic and developed as, for example, India or Lebanon. Groshek (2009) uses the Human Development Index in his research. In the index of 2010, Afghanistan holds the 155th place and Sudan holds the 154 th place. Countries where citizens did participate and sent reports to the Ushahidi instance are indeed placed higher on the list. For example, Lebanon is 83 rd, India is 119th and Kenya is 128th (LLC, 2010). The Polity II scores of 2009, with a range from -10 to +10, also show similar results. The current Polity II score of Afghanistan is unknown, but Sudan scores -4, Lebanon 7, Kenya 7 and India 9 ("Polity IV Annual Time-Series Database," 2007). This suggests that we can indeed use these numbers to determine the feasibility of a social media platform, in this case Ushahidi. The macro-level information can also be used to explain the dependency relations between the media system, other societal systems, and its audience. For example, based on the narrative, the following can be assumed: Corruption is high in Afghanistan, indicating that the media system and economic system are too dependent on the political system. Also, the media system probably does not have much impact on the citizens in the rural areas of Afghanistan as there is much more a tribal culture where interpersonal networks have a negative impact on the effect of media information. The macro-level results can also be used to identify the size of individual archetypes, and to identify relevant interpersonal networks, which is exemplified in this section. 5.2.2 MESO-CONTEXT Based on information of the macro-context, certain interpersonal networks can be identified. In the rural areas of Afghanistan there is mainly a tribal culture where decision-making is centralized and there is an oral culture. This make individual interaction and enabling with social media extremely difficult as social media platforms like Ushahidi are focused on democratizing information and empowering individual users in a leveled social context.


On the other hand, interpersonal networks also exist in the more urban areas, where citizens are more actively involved in forming opinions. To form opinions, the issue of media system dependency becomes more relevant and this will probably also increase the need for a platform like Ushahidi. 5.2.3 MICRO-CONTEXT In MSD-theory, ‘audience’ is defined as one analytical unit while there is no mass audience that acts as a coordinated unit that controls resources or has shared goals. The analytical unit ‘audience’ represent the individual and analysis can show individual archetypes at best (Ball-Rokeach, 1985). Based on the societal factors mentioned in chapter 4, users of social media services like Ushahidi instances are in most cases young, male, wealthy, educated, and living in urban areas. By using the macro-context information, the size of the social category that corresponds to this profile can be roughly estimated. For example, only 18 % of Afghanistan is literate (Bank & Group, 2010), therefore at least 82 % of Afghan citizens will probably not use the Ushahidi instance in its current state. In more developed countries, the social category that is more likely to use social media services like Ushahidi instances becomes higher. Individual archetypes can be divided in different social categories, which do not necessarily have to correspond with the interpersonal networks. Each social category has different requirements of a social media services like Ushahidi instances, which will be addressed in the next section.



The interaction of social media with democracy takes place on the socio-technical level but the sociotechnical system is dependent on, not only the communal requirements, but also the human, software, and hardware requirements. These form together the socio-technical requirements of the platform. This section will discuss the requirements on each level. 5.3.1 HARDWARE REQUIREMENTS First, for a socio-technical system to emerge, there must be some basic communication infrastructure. Electricity, broadband connections, mobile phone coverage is all problematic in Afghanistan, posing serious problems for anyone who wants to deploy Ushahidi. In case of Alive in Afghanistan, some hardware solutions were provided by the Small World News team, through arranging a power supply and using a low-cost communications satellite for syncing the communications hub (which processes the SMS-text messages) with the webservers outside the country. The Ushahidi platform enables users to use their mobile phone, therefore enabling multiple channels and more flexibility on the hardware level. Still, users of the Ushahidi platform also need access to hardware equipment like a mobile phone or personal computer that is connected to the Internet. The Ushahidi platform has relatively low demands on computer power of the webserver and communications hub. As the communication hub must be within the borders of the country for SMSreceiving, less power usage and alternative power sources make the system more reliable. 5.3.2 SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS The functionality of Ushahidi, when it was introduced, was not new. The Ushahidi platform inherits a lot of open source technology in its platform, and the Ushahidi website uses the API of Google Maps. Better software can emerge better performance on human-computer interaction. The SMS-reporting functionality enables more citizens to use the platform and as the platform is easy to setup and very flexible, eMoksha was able to add voice-based reporting to increase the usability of the system for lowliteracy users.


5.3.3 HUMAN REQUIREMENTS Citizens can interact in two ways with the system: (1) reporting news, and (2) gathering information published on the platform. As for citizen-reporting: In case of Afghanistan, digital literacy or even literacy is low, and therefore ease of use is very important. By enabling voice-based reporting on the software level, the ease of use for illiterate citizens increases drastically. However, the capability of the system tends to decrease when ease of use is increased. In case of Ushahidi, gathering information is much more difficult when citizens use their mobile phone. The richness of the experience is low as there is no or limited meaning exchange when SMS and voice-based response is used. This disallows the socio-technical system to emerge. In the previous section it was argued that identifying different social categories helps in defining requirements better. In more developed and democratic countries, the group that is, for example, illiterate or poor is relatively low and the need for easier to use but less rich social media services like Ushahidi instances is probably lower than in less developed and less democratic countries. In less developed countries an elite of well educated, wealthy citizens using the platform might be enough to generate enough reports but if they only live in certain areas it might be more valuable to enable citizens living in rural areas with, for example, voice-based reporting because the elite may not represent the whole society that is targeted with the platform. 5.3.4 COMMUNAL REQUIREMENTS When individuals are enabled to use a social media service like an Ushahidi instance on the humancomputer interaction level, communal requirements emerge and choices have to be made on how the system supports social interaction. In Afghanistan, the platform was not used by citizens but for relatively small communities of journalists and election monitors it served as a valuable social media service. In other cases mentioned in this thesis however, citizen-reporting did work and the information published on the platform was read and validated by citizens, NGOs and regular media. In most cases of Ushahidi, privacy is more important then transparency. Because the reports are anonymous it lowers the barriers for information sharing in countries where citizens are afraid to share their stories. As the sources of reports are unknown, the crowdsourcing becomes more vunerable. In some cases, information was validated by NGOs or journalists. If information is validated on an aggregate level, the commnuity must be large enough to make it trustworthy. Still, Howe argues, there must be some kind of order in the form of a ‘benevolent dictator’ and this probably becomes an important issue when the importance of Ushahidi instances increase and the risk of governments or organizations delibartly reporting false information becomes higher. Most deployments of Ushahidi focus on the goodwill of the community to generate valuable information. Synergy, besided reporting incidents and validating reports, is kept low because, for example, political discussions do not improve the cause of the Ushahidi instance during sociopolitical instability. In those cases, information must remain objective without adding intepretation that could lead to ideological hijacking. In some cases, however, anonymity might be less important and the platform must enbale the use of online identieites to fuel the synergy between the users, The platform must therefore be flexible on the software-level to support these adjustment to fit the communal requirements. Also, different social categories might not only influence how the individual interacts with the IT system, but also how social interaction is to be supported. The analysis on the macro-level of the country influence these decissions on the communal requirements like privacy and synergy.




WOSP addresses the fit of the IT system with the environment but does not address outside influences on system performance like marketing, distribution, or funding. However, as deployments of Ushahidi are mostly done by non-profit organizations who have little resources available, these are very important issues that do no not compare to creating a socio-technical system in an organizational context or creating a social media website with a revenue model. Partnerships with media organizations or NGOs are vital for the emergence of these kind of platforms because they have the power to mobilize people and promote the platform. Forming the right partnerships is difficult however as partners may not always be fully committed to the cause, or might have other interests that do not necessarily correspond with the goal of the project. How to market the platform also depends on the circumstances in the country. Afghanistan has an oral culture and radio is probably the best channel to reach citizens. In more developed countries regular social media might be a more efficient way of marketing the platform. Another problem is funding. For setting up the Ushahidi platform, little resources are needed. Still, some resources are needed for setting up Ushahidi, and the promotion and marketing of the project. Also, the training of local citizens could really benefit when more funding is available. However, it is hard to fundraise for projects using Ushahidi as people do not fully understand them. Selvam Velmurugan explained how eMoksha learned how to gain momentum and make the platform a success and maybe a next step can be to create a successful business model for projects that gain momentum.



Although technical innovations might lower the barriers to some extent, citizens still need literacy and technical skills for using social media services like Ushahidi instances on a communal level. Peña-López argues the digital divide might create a new elite and the gap between different social categories may even become wider. Therefore, as the Internet and social media are getting a more important role in development countries, those that want to create social media services to foster democratization benefit from a better understanding of how social media interacts with democracy. In case of Alive in Afghanistan, it was most likely an important step forward to enable journalists and election monitors to share information rapidly. The next step is probably to establish reporting by citizens that are part of the ‘digital-elite’ of Afghanistan and from there on enabling more citizens. Intuitively, the democratizing effect of these social media services will only be achieved when the citizens that use these tools represent the population accurately. Therefore, citizens of all social groups have to be enabled for citizen-reporting. It is unclear how this can be achieved as in Europe about 30 % has never used the Internet, one might argue that even in the most developed countries this still is not the case. Those that want to create social media services to foster democratization can use the MSD-theory for analyzing the environment of the social media service on a macro-level, identify individual archetypes on a micro-level and their interpersonal networks on a meso-level. This information is helpful for identifying the characteristics and size of social groups, but also the circumstances on a macro-level in a country. The analysis of a country on a macro-level might show a social media project will probably be unsuccessful because, for example, the government restrictions on free press are too high or when there is not enough infrastructure. On a micro-level, the size of social groups also influences the feasibility of citizen-participation. By using WOSP, it is possible to define the requirements for the social media service on each level, and also per social group as, for example, literate citizens have other requirements then illiterate citizens. A better understanding of the environment allows those starting a social media service for democratization to stop projects that are not feasible and to design and deploy these platforms better and make them more successful.




This research aims to provide significant insight on the problem defined in this problem statement: How do societal factors influence the interaction between social media crowdsourcing tools, and the democratization process of societies and how can we design better social media crowdsourcing tools, and deploy these tools better, by taking into account societal factors? Each research question will now be answered separately and all answers together conclude the problem statement. What is Ushahidi? Ushahidi is a website that was created during the post-election violence of Kenya early 2008. The website was created by local bloggers to collect eyewitness reports of violence through SMS, web forms and email. The reports were shown on a map and timeline. Because Ushahidi was very popular in Kenya, Ushahidi developed into a non-profit software company, and Ushahidi has become an open source, social media, crowdsourcing platform which can be used for social activism, citizen journalism, and collecting geospatial information. What are relevant theories and methods for designing IT systems which support societal interaction? The performance of any IT system is defined by how well it interacts with its environment to gain value and avoid loss. Therefore, the performance of social media is defined by how well it interacts with the community that is targeted for the platform. Viewing the technical system and social system as one sociotechnical system allows us to analyze the whole system in which the social system includes the technical system. To assess the performance of a socio-technical system like Ushahidi on the hardware, software, human, and communal level, the web of system performance can be used, as it is focused on whatever affects the system-environment interaction. How can we explain the effect of media in society and on democracy? To determine how social media interacts with democratization, we have to determine what a democracy is and how it can be fostered. Democracy is basically a set of practices and principles that institutionalize and protect freedom, like free and fair elections, governmental decisions-making based on the majority rule, and the protection of basic human rights. Social media are linked to the theories of Tocqueville on democracy because, in his book Democracy in America, he argued that free press is vital for democracy as citizens can then become acquainted with the different opinions in their society, and stipulated the importance of associations to participate in their society. Because Tocqueville, and many other scholars, observed that free press is an important catalyst for American democracy, it is not surprising that many politicians and scholars proclaim the potential of new technologies to hasten the spread of effective democracies. Many also believed mass media, like television and radio, would have a major impact on its audience, but these technologies failed to fulfill their predicted social potential. To explain the effect of media information on the audience, this research used the Media System Dependency theory, in which media and its audience are integral parts of a larger social system. The main concept of the Media System Dependency theory is that mass communication involves a large set of interrelated variables that can be simplified by three main variables: media, audiences, and society. How can we explain the effect of the Internet, and specifically social media, in society and on democracy? The Media System Dependency theory distinguishes the role of producers and consumers, but due to social media, this distinction becomes vaguer. Because, in theory, citizens can influence the media system by creating a new media channel, dependency on media functions in the media system is low, and the dependency relationship between the media system and its audience becomes more balanced. However,


questions remain if this is true or if the effect of social media on society and democracy is more complex. In a quantitative research on the effect of Internet diffusion on Democracy between 1993 and 2003, the effect of Internet diffusion on Democracy is found to be significantly positive, but the effect is modest in countries that are less democratic. How do societal factors, design and deployment decisions affect the interaction of social media, and specifically Ushahidi, with the democratization process? The narrative focused on Alive in Afghanistan, and resulted in some lessons on why the effect of Internet diffusion is modest in countries where there is little democracy, and development is low. Education is an important issue. In Afghanistan, the majority of the adult population is illiterate. Therefore, citizens cannot use the Internet to report incidents, or send SMS text messages. Even if people are literate, they also have to be digital literate. Even in the developed world a lot of citizens do not have the skills to participate. Also, Internet diffusion is much larger in urban areas, and where people are wealthier, relatively young and more educated. Therefore, the citizens using such a platform are part of a limited group, and it is unknown if the citizens that are participating are a good representation of society, or if they are an elite. When we analyze the country on a macro-level, we can determine the potential of a social media service. Those who deploy and design the social media tools can choose a strategy of focusing on the potential of the social category that is likely to use the platform, or focus on enabling other social categories by, for example, using automatic voice based response. Social media can only, truly level the playing field if, for example, also poor people, less-educated people, and women use the platform. At this moment, the use of social media to foster democratization is relatively new and most projects are focused on gathering valuable information, regardless if they are generated by a certain social group or elite. In the short-run, finding the right partners, marketing the platform and funding these projects are probably more important issues, and will remain to be important issues in the long-run when other, more difficult to enable social groups will be targeted. Other important issues are about offering alternative ways to interact, how social concepts like crowdsourcing and community building are fostered with the right policies and providing proper contingency planning. Although ultimately, all citizens should be able to use these systems, this is currently not feasible, even in the developed countries. With these projects, organizations should analyze the environment and objectives for the social media service, and then determine how they are going to market the platform and which social category is marketed. This allows organizations to cancel projects in an early stage, or take the right decisions to make the project successful.



This research is an exploratory single-case study and therefore it is aimed to provide insight into the interaction between social media and democracy. Although it might be difficult to repeat this particular research under the same circumstances, other case studies on Ushahidi and comparable social media platforms are needed to generalize results of this research on how social media and democracy interact and how this interaction can be influenced positively and negatively. One must also be careful to draw conclusions for other social media services, but the theoretical propositions might be very interesting for other research for external generalization of that study, and verifying and/or falsifying the results of this research. Theoretical propositions on democracy, the effect of media information, and IT system performance are largely based on academic journals as they are expected to provide the most up-to-date, valid and reliable information. Additionally, secondary data in the form of web articles is used to find interesting information on Ushahidi and cases in which Ushahidi is used. The content of these sources might not be valid or reliable, and these sources are avoided for this research where possible.


When conducting unstructured or semi-structured interviews, reliability is always pressured by possible bias of the interviewer or the interviewee. The interviewer can cause biased results by asking certain questions which cause a certain response of the interviewee. The interviewee’s behavior might be influenced by the setting or the mood of the interviewer. Also, the beliefs and perspectives of the interviewer might influence the questions asked. The interviewee might be biased when the answers twist reality, consciously or unconsciously. The interviewee might protect certain interests and therefore deliberately alter or not mention information, but the interviewee might also be misinformed or not remember the information correctly.



This research was exploratory and therefore further research is very important. However, this study is already an useful source for those who want to deploy Ushahidi or design new social media platforms for fostering democracy. Ushahidi is a relatively new platform and its deployments are done by relatively small organizations which are often doing their work voluntarily. These organizations can use the results of this study as a helpful guide to determine if a project is feasible and to make better deployment decisions. When deploying Ushahidi, information on the level of democracy, development, literacy, economy and technology diffusion can help in determining if a project is feasible in the first place, and how the project can best be deployed. The web of system performance is helpful at defining requirements on different levels and getting a better understanding of how the Ushahidi instance interacts with it environment. The combination of the media system dependency theory and web of system performance is especially helpful when developing new software platforms and designing new social media services. For scholars, this research offers enough theoretical propositions to allow quantitative studies on the effect of societal factors, design and deployment decisions by analyzing multiple cases. Although the media system dependency theory and web of system performance are useful theoretical propositions for deploying and designing social media platforms like Ushahidi, further research is needed to integrate them into a useful and grounded theoretical framework for scholars, and especially for organizations like Small World News and eMoksha. Further research should focus on the importance of different societal factors, design decisions and deployment decisions and how they influence each other. As the interaction between social media and democracy addresses a wide range of research fields, research should focus on integrating findings from a wide range of fields into comprehensive theories. The media system dependency theory and web of system performance do not address the importance of the partnerships, marketing and funding of these projects. The importance of these factors was one of the main findings of this research and therefore this research did not include theoretical propositions on these topics. Further research from fields of marketing and finance is therefore very helpful in addition to theories on the societal factors and IT-system design.




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Because the appendices may contain sensitive information the appendices were removed from this version of the master thesis.

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