Activist Mapping in Africa

Erik Hersman posts a talk he gave on Activist Mapping (complete with a riveting slide show).

a digitally connected world not only grants us a front row seat to the rest of the world, but also the power to influence events and create change in a way that was impossible just a few short decades ago. So that events that may occur thousands of miles away are in fact – quite literally – in our digital backyard. Which makes it a lot harder to just sit back and watch.

Things I’m excited about!
Geotate – imagine this kind of device used by bloggers/reporters in a hot zone
AfricaMap open source project by Harvard
Bug Labs device
DIY Drones – think what you could do with cheap UAVs in a post-disaster scenario.

The tools you create, and the work you do to map the world digitally, are incredibly useful. The world is only now beginning to wake up to the power of the digital, social and living map. . .

The Ushahidi Story (Summarized)
. . . as soon as Kibaki swore himself in to a second term, he simultaneously created a media blackout. The only way to get news now was via non-traditional news sources, like blogs. Internally, though there was only old TV and radio show reruns, though rumors and messages were still flying via SMS. In the midst of it were a couple members of what would soon become the Ushahidi team. . .

Our goals were to:

  1. Create a way for ordinary Kenyans to report in what they saw
  2. Create an archive of news and reports
  3. Visualize what’s happening on a macro level, and then drill into the details

Lessons Learned

* The importance of mapping accuracy
* Data poisoning – what happens when your antagonist starts using it?
* Verification and authentication are difficult
* Clarify why it was created and make sure that is inescapably obvious
* Create a feedback loop back to end users
* Know why you built it. Is it for advocacy, security, monitoring or information gathering? (we did it for information gathering at Ushahidi)

Other examples at the end of the presentation.

See follow-up here.

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