David, Chris and I attended the International Conference on Crisis Mapping (ICCM) this past weekend. It was the first time academics, governmental and nongovernmental agencies, software developers and people from the field have met under one roof to discuss crisis mapping. Everyone, about 70 in all, came together to discuss issues in an open forum ranging from the usefulness of tools, monitoring and evaluation to exciting new fields of research. What surprised me the most was the amount of buzz surrounding Ushahidi.
Being a developer on Ushahidi has meant that I’ve spent most of my time behind the computer, writing and perfecting new code. It was great to have the opportunity to engage with the people who are involving Ushahidi in their projects. Organizations as big as the UN and the World Bank and as small as an activist group in Phoenix, AZ have seen the value that Ushahidi can provide. Without performing a scientific survey, I came to the conclusion that roughly half of the participants at the conference are either looking at or have already implemented Ushahidi as an integral part of their projects.
In a traditional non-profit, fundraisers will fundraise, marketers will market and developers will develop. While it’s difficult to break down these roles entirely (a fundraiser may not be able to write software), Ushahidi does its best to give core staff and volunteers a wide range of responsibilities. For instance, we are encouraged to engage the public through our blog, IRC chat and forums, regardless of our position. Beyond virtual conversation, we are also given opportunities to interact face-to-face with the people who will ultimately be operating with our software in the field through conferences like ICCM. These interactions with our customers help to give us software developers a better understanding of how our software will be used in the field.