Launched in 2010, Crowdmap is the creation of Ushahidi, Inc., a non-profit software company based out of Nairobi, Kenya. This application evolved out of the Ushahidi platform which was created during the aftermath of the Kenyan crisis of 2007-2008. The original Ushahidi platform is a tool that allows users to crowdsource across multiple channels such as Twitter, text messages and emails. With Crowdmap, users can now set up personal deployments of the Ushahidi platform and begin mapping events and visualizing information in real time.
Crowdsourcing is the act of outsourcing a task to an outside group of people. In this case, that group of people is the general public. Through crowdsourcing, a company or organization can broadcast an issue to a wide range of people, allowing for an equally wide range of solutions. In many cases, crowdsourcers are able to keep internal costs down while still managing to find solutions to their problems. The crowd might be compensated for their input, but more often than not, they offer their time and ideas freely.
Ushahidi means “testimony” or “witness” in Swahili, making it an appropriate name for the platform that allows people all over the world to set up their own interactive map and share their experiences.
The first example of this came about during the Kenyan crisis that surrounded the 2007 presidential election. The election was heavily disputed and many instances of violence and riots broke out. The platform was created as a way for the people to map out any reports of violence. Ushahidi was very successful at reporting acts of violence as they happened, and the information collected was more reliable than the mainstream media’s.
Crowdmap in Action
Crowdmap has long since evolved from the original Ushahidi platform. Now users can use the application for keep up with local events and news reports, crisis communications, political elections and public affairs.
Crowdmap was used during the 2010 November elections in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. A local news source created a deployment and then voters reported to the Crowdmap site via Twitter and text. Users were able to follow the election in real time and report on different incidences that took place throughout the area. This is just one example of Crowdmap’s news-friendly benefits. News sources can use this application to manage and receive real time updates on important news events, which allows for better reporting and more comprehensive news coverage.
The applications was also used during the massive flooding that took place in Ann Arbor Michigan in May 2011. Users were able to report specific damages throughout the Ann Arbor area such as storm water flooding, gas main leak and power outages. Through Crowdsouce, the public was able to better navigate the situation because they had access to an interactive map showing the types of damage taking place and where.
If you would like to create your own deployment, check out Crowdmap.com and get started.
For helpful hints, check out the videos on Ushahidi’s YouTube page.