Ushahidi: Collective intelligence in times of crisis (and coronavirus)

After two years without writing anything (mainly due to lack of time) I take advantage of this time of confinement to retake the blog a bit. It’s not because I have more time, but because I feel challenged after seeing that what I investigate has a reflection in reality (that’s hopeful).

Over the years I have continued researching about crowdsourcing and collective intelligence. In fact, a new paper of mine will be published in short in the European Journal of Criminology (I will soon start to break it down here on the blog). It turns out that this article talks about how citizens, NGOs, etc. can organize themselves to give answers to situations of high criminality, emergency situations, social problems in neighborhoods, etc… without having government agencies in their making. This does not mean that they reject working with government organizations. In fact, many of these initiatives reach their maximum effectiveness by supporting and serving as a source of information for the work of the State’s Security Forces and Corps. We talk about initiatives that simply come from the citizens.

One of the most representative examples of citizen organization are those carried out through the Ushahidi platform. Basically, Ushahidi allows the implementation of a voluntary collaborative map through which different types of advices, warnings, messages, etc. can be inserted. Obviously, these ads are geolocated.

Ushahidi has mainly been used in two situations: in times of natural disasters and as a civil response in certain political events/situations (e.g. voting with the possibility of electoral fraud). In the first case, the situation itself moves people to participate. In the second case, participation depends more on community mobilization by civil groups, etc.

These maps are very useful in cases of natural disasters (including the current pandemic) for two reasons: 1) they allow civil society to organize and support the community and 2) they allow government agencies to obtain information quickly for a more effective and coordinated response.

In the case of the Covid19 pandemic, FrenaLaCurva initiative and its Ushahidi version have appeared in Spain. This initiative makes it possible, by means of geolocalisation, to both demand and offer help. FrenaLaCurva is limited to Spain, but different initiatives are already emerging using Ushahidi in other countries with the same aim: Italy, France, Kenya, etc.

In total, since 19 March (22 days ago), a total of 8457 messages have been published. The vast majority have to do with offering help: from going food-shopping, to throwing out the garbage, to calling on the phone to talk for a while… although only 122 have to do with some kind of request for help.

In the activity section you can access a control panel that allows you to visualize the data in different ways, grouping them by typologies, specific needs, etc.

This map about FrenaLaCurva project is available in:

  • Crowdglobe (2012): Mapping the Maps. A Meta-Level Analysis of Ushahidi & Crowdmap, Washington DC: Internews
  • Livingston, S. (2013). Africa’s Information Revolution: Implications for Crime, Policing, and Citizen Security. DTIC Document.
  • Meissen, U., & Fuchs-Kittowski, F. (2014, May). Towards a reference architecture of crowdsourcing integration in early warning systems. In ISCRAM.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.