Tuesday, 16 March 2010
Technology from unexpected places...
If you think all the latest high tech comes out of Silicon Valley or the concrete canyons of New York City then read this.
The Ushahidi is a small Kenyan-born organization that uses various sources like cell phones as an Internet mapping tool “to allow people anonymously to report violence and other misdeeds.” It began after the disputed election in Kenya in 2007 and the violence that followed. This technology was also used to locate victims of the earthquakes in Haiti and Chili; and is now being looked at for use in areas like Afghanistan to locate members of the Taliban or insurgents in Iraq.
It works by gathering data (not depending on one sighting or report) and then plotting these on a crisis map. “Ushahidi suggests a new paradigm in humanitarian work. The old paradigm was one-to-many: foreign journalists and aid workers jet in, report on a calamity and dispense aid with whatever data they have. The new paradigm is many-to-many-to-many: victims supply on-the-ground data; a self-organizing mob of global volunteers translates text messages and helps to orchestrate relief; journalists and aid workers use the data to target the response.”
You have to love the 21st century!
“Ushahidi remixes have been used in India to monitor elections; in Africa to report medicine shortages; in the Middle East to collect reports of wartime violence; and in Washington, D.C., where The Washington Post partnered to build a site to map road blockages and the location of available snowplows and blowers.
Think about that. The capital of the sole superpower is deluged with snow, and to whom does its local newspaper turn to help dig out? Kenya.”
It sets a new paradigm of reporting historical events. Always before “history is written by the victors”, now it can be texted by those who are there at the time. Can you imagine if Anne Frank had a cell phone, or the Rwandans had access to texting? Perhaps history will be written from more than one viewpoint from now on? Something to think about…