An open source software mapping platform co-founded by a Kenyan woman is being used by young Somalis to help drought and famine-stricken families get emergency relief. The name of the platform is Ushahidi, which in Swahili approximately means “to witness and record.” Ushahidi has already been used to coordinate earthquake relief efforts in Haiti and Chile, record environmental damage in Louisiana, monitor wildfires in Italy, provide winter road condition information in the District of Columbia, organize political protests in Libya, and even monitor the controversial elections that resulted in Donald Trump becoming the 45th President of the United States.
In essence, Ushahidi gathers, organizes, augments, and presents crowdsourced information about events happening in real-time. Some of the features of Ushahidi include geotagging, SMS integration, and messaging. As its name suggests, the platform provides eyewitness accounts with a high level of transparency and without having to rely solely on journalism accounts. In March 2017, a group of Somalis residing in Europe adopted Ushahidi to report on the devastating drought that is quickly degrading into a widespread famine across parts of Somalia. The adopted platform is named Abraaraha, which is the Somali term for drought. The idea behind Abraaraha goes beyond reporting this crisis; it is also being used to reach out to benefactors who can provide immediate help.
Crowdsourced information collected from Abraaraha can be turned into crowdfunding campaigns. According to a recent report in online news source Quartz, one campaign collected $2 million in less than a week. Using Abraaraha means that this vital aid package can move faster to communities that are in need of immediate relief before the situation becomes exacerbated. In other words, tech platforms such as Abraaraha can move faster than United Nations relief programs.
Tech giants such as Cisco are paying close attention to solutions similar to Ushahidi since they fit within their corporate social responsibility plans. Cisco is ready to collaborate with Ushahidi executives so that they can address issues such as the drought in Somalia, which is extending to parts of Nigeria. Cisco is also interested in providing solutions to ameliorate the global refugee crisis at a time when the Trump administration in the US has proposed to reduce its asylum and refugee programs.