The initial question that guided Ushahidi was “What is the view from the ground” “What is going on wherever you are” “What are you witnessing” “How can people find information to help them or to be aware of near real time information?” Can we take all this information, share it and archive it online?
Fast forward to now. What are some of the questions we ask our team, our users and our community in the work we do? Once we get the answers, what do we do?
The first question we continually ask ourselves and the community is how do we make the work of the deployers easier? We answered this by reducing the time it takes to use our software, first from 3 days, to 30 minutes and with Crowdmap, 3 minutes.
Are there ‘light tool’s that they can use quickly?
How do deployers make the best use of the platform? We keep reiterating that the platform is only but 10% of the solution, it takes hard work, community and partnerships to make a deployment work.
We set up the Community website, worked with researchers and started the deployment partner program to help extend our reach. We would like to assist many deployments closely; whenever we can we do. It is however not easy to do when there are many, many deployers using the tools we make for various context and location. However we provided guidance with resources on our site, a toolkit to review before setting up an Ushahidi deployment, and the channel to engage with others via Skype. We recently revamped our wiki to help answer community questions that come up.
We are currently exploring ways of partnering with other major international organizations to provide a comprehensive toolkit that includes the work done by Citizen lab, Witness.org and others to help deployers have the information they need to crowd source information effectively, and to provide the notifications they require in areas where security, censorship and mobile surveillance are prevalent.
How can deployer’s work be more discoverable? This has been a long running question that we have tackled in two ways. One is a simple search form in Crowdmap and proximity search within the mobile applications so users can find deployments that they can contribute to. We also have the global view of deployments on our community site where deployers can add links to their work. There will be more done here so that when you search for information via google or other search engines, that you can find relevant crowd sourced information. We are working more on this particular question and will have more steps towards this in the month of April, look out for some exciting announcements from our of our largest partners in GIS.
How can ushahidi increase engagement with deployers?
This is a particularly big question that we are taking seriously. This is because it ties into many questions that are discussed in the Open Data movement, citizen engagement movement and government 2.0 efforts around the world.
There are more than 20,000 deployments, but of those deployments, there are various levels of activity, depending on context, level of media exposure of the deployment and available channels that they are using. We have worked with researchers from GWU George Washington University, Internews and others to first, analyze the data we have so far. The analysis was useful to figure out the main types of uses. The hope is that Ushahidi can start to create templates that have useful features for a majority of the use cases and customized versions. E.g If a use case involves Crisis Mapping, that the recommendations and improvements made over time are surfaced and viewable.
More detail will be provided by GWU, Internews and Ushahidi when the report is finalized.*
Second, we’ve done some surveys to ascertain where the pain points are for deployers. All this information will inform the changes you will see in Crowdmap.com and current platform roadmap: The page will be kept up to date with planned features/fixes for each release. You can add to the growing wishlist on our wiki and comment on what you would like to see in the next version. For deployers who would like choices on the look and feel of their Crowdmaps, there are now several themes to choose from and we invite designers to submit more for inclusion. For those who would like to award badges as part of their deployment, we’ve created some that they can get started with.
What other questions do you think Ushahidi should be answering as we continue this exploration of what it means to gather data and contextualize an issue – together?
*Post Edited, findings of the report will be released soon.