Focus on Ushahidi: Kenya's Witness Eye

Cornelia Mathis and Zurine Jalon | Social European Journalism | February 2, 2012

This was the reason why Ushahidi was founded, three years ago, by Kenyian born Ory Orkolloh, out of a voluntary effort. She graduated from law school and worked for a human rights group in Kenya. Her aim was to gather information about what is happening to the citizens during an emergency situation. Ushahidi means ‘testimony’ in Swahili.

Ory Orkolloh was deeply concerned about the lack of information available from the traditional media, which stood under governmental censorship. Therefore she created a platform easy to use and accessible to anyone, which should deploy worldwide what is going on in this war-torn country. Anybody can contribute to information by a simple text message from a phone or by sending photos or videos from a smartphone. At that time, Ushahidi reached 45,000 users in Kenya.

Everyone could upload eyewitness reports, on a digital map of the country, about what was happening. Color-coded markers helped identify the locations of government forces and refugees, pinpointing where riots, looting, rapes and other acts of violence were occurring. Later on, this platform has been used to monitor unrest in Congo or to track violence in Gaza. But it was also applied to monitor the 2009 elections in India. In the same year with the outbreak of the swine flu, reports were gathered globally to inform citizens about the peak and the progression of the epidemic...