This past week has been a trying one for many communities affected by Hurricane Sandy. From Haiti, Cuba and North Eastern USA. The Ushahidi community assisted remotely whenever they could. Our team shared resources and helped new mappers get going with our technology. There are gaps ofcourse, Ushahidi do not have a dedicated call center/tech support section to serve each and every new mapper, but we made do with what we can. A summary of the maps that came up in response to the Hurricane is available on this blogpost. A document showing the various maps, contact info and other pertinent information about whether the data is open and accessible is available here as a dynamic document that changes as things go along. Any new maps should see the current state of maps and try to not duplicate efforts, but instead to lend a hand by contacting the mapper and coordinating with them directly. The developer chat is also available for technical questions, we will put you in touch if we can, just contact us.
As we continue to work on the next version of Ushahidi and redesign of Crowdmap, we are open to hearing from you about your needs. We’ve been in touch with several municipalities would like to integrate and use crowdsourcing technology in their cities. Some, like Fairfax county are testing the technology now and will incorporate it in their plans in future. Our team will be following up to make sure we can provide even more useful software particularly for crisis mapping. The need for an Open 311 plugin remains. We will be working with our community to create these plugins and welcome any organizations interested in collaborating on this.
In addition to the toolkits and lessons we shared, here is one more lesson from our developer community.
“This has been my experience with @ushahidi – local is better. know the people who can use the info.” – Bill Morris @vtcraghead
Some more useful links:
Twilio + Crowdmap hack, for Crowdmappers to incorporate SMS easily into their maps. Leif Percifield, we thank you oh so much. The use cases in North America could be numerous, we cant wait to see how impact-ful this will be to citizen engagement projects on Crowdmap.
Great summary of the big picture from Alex Howard, giving more information about the community of Hurricane Hackers and others working to assist
HOT OSM Project: Viewing maps to help rate damage assessments (this is heartbreaking). There are over 2000 images to identify and so far over 1000 helpers.
Last but not least, do consider donating to The Red Cross, there are many who will need assistance to recover from this disaster.
Another major use case for Ushahidi technology is around elections. One initiative we’d like to point you towards is OurVoteLive. With hundreds of volunteers in dozens of call centers throughout the United States, OVL is the largest capacity free, online operation for fielding questions and concerns about voting issues before, during, and after the November 6th presidential elections. It’s certainly Ushahidi’s biggest election related deployment to date and possibly the most complex, a statement to the work that has come before it in creating something highly operational with not just monitoring in mind but providing valuable assistance to its users. Our external projects team assisted in technical capacity with the bulk of the work done by Election Protection Coalition and NOI, and made possible with generous support from Craig Connects. You can read more about it here.
The technology improvements from OurVoteLive and other uses of the platform around the world, when shared with the community, will be empowering to other countries with future elections of their own. Our sincere thanks to all the hackers, partners, community leaders, and mappers who help address the various challenges faced in many communities, with a pathway to assisting each other with information, with solutions.