Ushahidi, free software in times of crisis

Ushahidi ("Testimony" or "witness" in Swahili) is a internet platform that allows mapping vital information in disaster zones or conflict. It was created in Kenya to receive complaints of violence during the post-election crisis in early 2008. Since then, similar projects have been organized in Gaza, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Africa. The software has also been used to monitor elections in India and Mexico, track the H1N1 influenza virus, and support humanitarian efforts after the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the Chile earthquake the same year.

Ushahidi combines social activism, citizen journalism and new geospatial information technologies. It is based on the concept of crowdsourcing, a model of massive collaboration based on volunteering.

Ushahidi is a social P2P to distribute useful information in times of crisis. It empowers citizens, gives them a voice and ears in places where traditional communication channels are insufficient, inappropriate, or prohibited. It promotes activism (in the broadest sense) where people can collaboratively inform, report, visualize, analyze and help.


The Ushahidi platform is especially useful in areas where there is no internet access. This makes the mobile phone its essential component. Here are some of its features:

  • The information originates mainly from SMS and smartphones. Applications for reporting situations to Ushahidi sites can be downloaded and installed on devices with support for Java, Android and Windows Mobile.
  • It should be installed on a web server in no more than a couple of hours and without all the fuss. It is free software developed mainly with PHP, following open standards and released under the LGPL license. Version 1.0, named Mogadishu, is available on github.
  • It is crucial that the information can be verified and qualified as such. However, all information, verified or not, is properly posted and displayed on a map.
  • All the text, audio and video of the reports can be received from email, web, SMS and smartphones. Each information object is cataloged in a suitable way for later analysis.
  • Events must be located with the utmost precision. There is support for georeferencing with KML format. It uses OpenLayers, a JavaScript library to load maps from Google Maps, Bing Maps, and OpenStreetMap.

The project page describes the steps to follow for its installation in Ubuntu.

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  1.   Let's use Linux said

    Reducing it to a minimum: it is as if it were a google maps but instead of telling you where there is a cool restaurant it tells you where the bomb exploded or where it was flooded, etc. The advantage is that anyone can report things, with which the map is enriched with information minute by minute.
    Cheers! Paul.

  2.   Croador Anuro said

    I would like an explanation in "Spanish" to understand what we are talking about and what it can benefit from, although I recognize that the site in English is very clear, but I am lazy to read so much documentation for a simple explanation; This reminds me of the use of OSM in Haiti that the site says was very helpful when collecting information after 3 days after the earthquake.