Coop 2.0 interview: Juliana Rotich

This post is part of a series of interviews collected at this years conference Coop 2.0 in Gijon.

Juliana Rotich is a renowned and experienced Kenyan blogger, her blog is named after her alias – Afromusing – and as she is one of the co-founders of the “Crowsourcing Crisis Information” – mapping project Ushahidi she also blogs on the Ushahidid blog.

Hear her talking about the Ushahidi project, the underlying infrastructure provided by FrontlineSMS and the conference Coop 2.0 in Gijon.

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Coop 2.0 interview: Juliana Rotich
was published on 30.05.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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Cooperation 2.0 Gijon, day 1 – best practices

As Ismael is blogging from the other room (Notes of Ismael on Coop 2.0 best practices session), I thought I would give him a hand and cover the sessions in this room 1 here.

The sessions are about best practices in existing ICT4D projects.

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CEDDET – La Fundación Centro de Educación a Distancia para el Desarrollo Económico y Tecnológico

Objective: contribution & cooperation for development – ICT4D

Basic tool: knowledge management throught the usage of ICTs

Exchange of knowledge between Spain and Latin America

2 types of activities

  • online teaching
  • virtual networks of experts
  • no model, they should find their own track for development

Target:

  • toplevel civil servants
  • experience of 5 years
  • all kinds of sectors – which have an economic repercussion

Achievements:

  • more time & geographical flexibility
  • increased number of experts
  • p2p communication – exchange of experiences

Weaknesses:

  • evaluation
  • therefore training is also longer
  • shortage of technological resources
  • not applicable to all types of knowledge – e.g. presence required

Work with ~50 institutions, implementing online training courses

Average age – 39 years, 15 years experience

Feedback by assessment by trainees

After 7 years

  • 449 training courses
  • more 10 000 civil servants
  • 16 networks of experts with > 4000 members

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UshahidiJuliana Rotich

Started in January 2008 when in Kenya after the elections there were riots

Blogs were an important source of information during that time

Ory Okolloh started the project – visualizing information about these riots

  • create an online archive about the incidents
  • create a way for everyday Kenyans to report incidents
  • show where the majority of violence was occuring

Three ways to enter information to the web

  • Mobile
  • Email
  • Directly over internet

User generated content is due to its amount at least as interesting as content created by professionals

A little later:

  • DR Congo – Ushahidi in French
  • Engine for Al Jazeera Labs – War on Gaza, incorporating Twitter reports
  • Peace heroes in Kenya – positive incidents

At the beginning it was all volunteer work – the funding came later

The whole projects is predominantly based in Africa – programmers from Malawi, Ghana, …

If it works in Africa, it works everywhere

Partner with FrontlineSMS of Ken Banks to automate incoming sms-reports

Lessons learned:

  • mapping accuracy and value of geolocation
  • data poisoning – danger of wrong information and intentional misinformation
  • verification is difficult but by partnering with (hyper)local NGOs that could be achieved
  • it’s not only about gathering data – create a feedback-loop with sms & rss alerts; make those customizable
  • offline (newspapers, radio), online (blogsphere) and mobile (here: FrontlineSMS, but also other possibilities) strategy

Q & A:

What about the cost? How much does an sms cost?

  • It can get really expensive

People pay anyway?

  • It has come down since then, but it would be great to partner with the mobile phone companies

In offering “heroes” it was difficult to create specific tags – how difficult is it to replicate this process for organizations which are not as tech-savy? Would you provide support?

  • Right now, there is a Beta version which can be downloaded and there the categories can manually defined. For the customization PHP knowledge is required. So it’s not that difficult. The tool itself is very intuitive. It’s also possible to use different map providers.

Do you design only for citizens? How are you funded?

  • Future: Mass collaboration
  • Funding: first 5 months – all volunteers, no funding. July 2008 Humanity United donated some money, but still Ushahidi doesn’t rely to heavily on funding.

Would funding make a difference? Would you expand the tool? What would you do with 4 mio. $?

  • Growing the the community of supporters
  • support more technology (sms chat, …)
  • Geo-RSS – notifications dependent on location
  • Freedom Fone integration  – Audio -> SMS

– With 4 mio. $ we would make a very robust application which would run on every mobile and provide an online system and filter the data semi-automated

– Or crowdsourcing crisis response – how many NGOs, volunteers are in that area and willing to help? Moving from crisis reporting to crisis response.

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Cooperation 2.0 Gijon, day 1 – best practices
was published on 10.02.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global, south asia
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Ushahidi extended

The highly innovative project Ushahidi – initially dedicated to report post-election violence in Kenya by displaying them on Google Maps – has been taken another step further and now generally provides a platform for “crowdsourcing crisis information”.

A note by one of the creators – Erik Hersman (also editor of the wonderful blog whiteafrican.com):

Ushahidi is moving from being a one-time mashup covering the post-election violence in Kenya to something bigger. We are setting out to create an engine that will allow anyone to do what we did. A free and open source tool that will help in the crowdsourcing of information – with our personal focus on crisis and early warning information. [snippet from here]

The engine is right now in use for the initial purpose as well as for mapping anti-immigrant violence in South Africa.

The project was granted funds and many people joined in to help developing.

The “old” Ushahidi was already extremely useful for getting an overview on the state of things in Kenya and made it possible for everybody to contribute and report crimes.

Great idea to make the tool available for everybody.

Check it out – Ushahidi.com

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Ushahidi extended
was published on 06.09.2008 by Florian Sturm. It files under sub saharan africa
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