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Using Ushahidi for Reconstruction

April 28, 2011

A couple of days ago, I posted the following comment on the Jungle Light Speed‘s article “Evaluating crowdsourcing for humanitarian response“.  Below is their response:

  1. Chloe Demrovsky Says:
    April 25th, 2011 at 3:46 pmHas any thought been given to how Ushahidi could be used to assist reconstruction efforts?
  2. Rob Says:
    April 25th, 2011 at 11:07 pmHi ChloeThere has been a lot of thought about how mapping strategies can assist reconstruction efforts. Open Street Map have been especially active. The Noula platform built by the Haitian company Solutions has much of the same functionality as the Ushahidi platform (http://www.noula.ht/) and is used by a number of national and international orgs. People who worked on Ushahidi Haiti helped with its development although I don’t think it actually uses any Ushahidi code or components (the strategy is more important than the actual technology used, as I’m sure both Ushahidi and Solutions would agree).

    For Ushahidi itself, the only deployment in Haiti since that I am aware of is a non-public one that George Chamales and myself deployed for relief organizations in the lead up to Hurricane Tomas. Different organizations within Haiti had different pieces of vital information: official safe shelters; buildings declared strong enough to survive the hurricane; the distribution/population of people living in camps; and the contact details of community leaders in those camps. The various organizations had not yet agreed on data-sharing technologies (we had to collect from some data sources by memory-stick/motorcycle) so we used an Ushahidi instance to simply aggregate all the information (the plugin architecture gave it a slight advantage, but other mapping solutions could have been used too). That way, if it became necessary to evacuate the camps the powers-that-be could quickly contact the camp leaders who would in turn direct people to shelters/safe buildings with appropriate capacities. Haiti resident Sabina Carlson was the driving force behind the preparation (http://citizenhaiti.com/2010/11/ioms-sabina-carlson-takes-the-crisis-mappers-conference-by-storm.html). It was also tied into the Information Ministry who had previously used the Noula platform with success to send out cellphone-tower-specific SMS alerts to people in camps with imminent flood danger – one of the more innovative uses of SMS in Haiti that has been under-reported in the popular media/blogs.

    We were all relieved when Tomas ultimately passed through Haiti much more mildly than was first feared. So the alerts were not sent and this particular instance was not made public.

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