Ushahidi and the Changing Face of Media

I, and the rest of the Ushahidi team are honored to win a WeMedia Gamechangers award. Other winners include: ZeFrank, SocialVibe, Innocentive, Freewheelin’, Twitter, David Plouffe (Obama campaign), and the Knight Foundation. It’s important to understand how the lowering of barriers is creating a situation where true gamechangers come from non-traditional areas. Who would have guessed that a group of bloggers and technologists from Kenya would create a potentially gamechanging platform for crowdsourcing crisis information…?

Dale started my talk off with a fake “alert” that there was a tsunami hitting South Beach (Miami). We had decided to start with this because we wanted to show the power of using the Ushahidi platform anywhere in the world, not just in Africa.

Recently, I had a long discussion with a Reuters senior correspondent on the changing media landscape. I’ll be the first to admit that I know little about traditional media from an academic or professional sense. I’ve been a consumer of that media instead. However, there was one comment that stood out to me, when he said that services like Ushahidi provide a much quicker route to information. If you know anything about the wire services, speed is of the essence.

This is true, but it’s not the whole truth.

What is more interesting is if you take a look at a study done by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative on media during the post-election violence in Kenya. They compared Ushahidi data with bloggers and traditional media. Here is a screenshot of that. What you see is that while many times bloggers and traditional media focused around the same areas and echoed each other, while Ushahidi had information coming in from places well off of “the media grid”.

In effect, Ushahidi was not just providing a way to get information quicker, but what we had stumbled upon was a way to gather information from areas where media wasn’t.

I think that is the true power of tools like ours. That they allow anyone, with the most rudimentary of devices, to send in a report or story of what is happening around them in near real-time. Then, that report is made public and others can act upon it.

6 Responses to “Ushahidi and the Changing Face of Media”

  1. Indeed, “crowdsourcing” improves reporting in two dimensions, both in speed and in breadth. And potentially also in depth (because there’s no restriction in airtime or print-space), but that’s more something for the blogosphere I think.

  2. Depth, in the past, seems to have been provided by the big media players who have the money to go into great detail when reporting a story. However, you maybe right here – the sides and narrative around an event could come from multiple non-professional news people in the future.

  3. Yeah, probably most “depth” reporting will still come from professionals the coming years. But with bloggers becoming increasingly empowered to do investigative research themselves, and with readers seemingly not willing to pay for reporting, we’ll see a shift in the balance towards amateurs. I think the fear of journalists is right that in the short-term this could mean a lowering in quality and amount of “in-depth” reporting.

    In my comment, I actually was pointing to the fact that in-depth reporting is not really on Ushahidi’s street right now. Blogs already function as a kind of crowdsourcing mechanism for this. It’s hard to lower the bar of participation even more.

    Come to think of it, a “Techmeme” for a specific domains might work, and give a chance for not the less connected bloggers to have their voice heard. We may also call it a decentralized Global Voices.

    Re the future of media, I think we could go on and on. :)

  4. Ushahidi is a fantastic journalism project, always has been, and Erik you’re the professional publisher of the future!

    Reporting is dead, long live reporting!

  5. uckily to read your article,thank you. With very best wishes for your happiness in new day