Ushahidi: Social media tool that helped Mumbai fight Terror

Some of you had asked me the reason for my silence on the Mumbai blasts. Well I have’t said anything coz frankly, I am sick of abusing the netas, the babus and the idiots who vote them to power. No, not this time. This time we are going to try and make a difference.

Today, I am going to talk about how the social media peeps helped manage the ground level situation and help the victims when the traditional disaster management machinery failed as usual. And how I stumbled across this great concept called Ushahidi which played a central role in managing the post-blasts chaos.

What is Ushahidi?

Simply put, Ushahidi is a way to make sense of all the incoming data on the social space and represent it in user friendly design, all in real time. This is how they describe themselves

We built the Ushahidi platform as a tool to easily crowdsource information using multiple channels, including SMS, email, Twitter and the web.

If you are still not clear about what exactly Ushahidi is, you can check out the one used for Mumbai blasts management.

Ushahidi has a proven track record the world over and has helped manage many crises like the Haiti earthquake, post election violence in Kenya.

What are the advantages of using Ushahidi during a crisis?

The immediate fallout of any terrorist attack or any other crisis for that matter is the ensuing panic and chaos. Everyone starts calling their loved ones while the social web bursts with chatter related to the event. Some offer to help while some people ask for help. But nothing really materializes coz most of the networks get choked within the first few minutes due to overload from the increased activity, thus leading to more panic.

Ushahidi helps to link the people who need help to the people who are willing to help. This aids people who are directly helped and also helps free up the networks by channelizing the data where it should go and so more and more help calls are addressed and the chaos is reduced.

Ushahidi can also keep the people current on vital information that they need to safely get out of the situation.

How to use Ushahidi when stuck in a situation?

People can send data to the platform using sms, mms, video, picture, email, twitter or a web form. If you are stuck in a situation next time and need help or want to help someone else, just find an Ushiadi platform deployed for the current crisis and send your data there.

So what exactly does Ushahidi do?

If you are still not clear about what Ushahidi is, let me break it down further.

Ushaidi displayed all data related to a crisis on an interactive map. And it collects this data from ordinary citizens who can send this using any device connected to the network. 

Here is a video about it:

It is time we stop blaming the politcos for failing to protect us. It is time we start question ourselves coz it is we who vote them to power. But more importantly, it is time we take the initiative and drive the change that we easily can. It is time.

Further Reading: Here is a TED blog about how Ushahidi helped Mumbai fight terror