The swearing-in of President Mwai Kibaki in December 2007 unleashed a spate of violence in Kenya, because of alleged manipulation in the presidential elections. As the violence escalated, blogger Ory Okolloh proposed a website that could bear witness (ushahidi in Swahili) to the events, giving voice to citizen journalism.
Several bloggers and software developers came together to create the website, which collected testimonies coming in via email and text message, and placed them on a Google map using an open source software. The software’s success in creating a record of the events in Kenya led to Ushahidi being used to generate fast, reliable information in crises around the world, including the 2010 earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, as well as the pro-democracy protests across North Africa. The team behind Ushahidi has since developed several new tools, such as Crowdmap, which allows users to create a crowd-sourced map similar to Ushahidi’s, but maintainable offline. Ushahidi also works with other open source software tools, such as OpenStreetMaps for its user interface, and FrontlineSMS for its messaging gateway.