Ushahidi is a platform for crowdsourcing information. Members of the public submit reports that are geo-located and then put on a map. The platform is used in disaster relief, election monitoring and just about any other situation where people need to learn things from one another quickly and concisely. Out of the box, Ushahidi allows people to submit reports via the web, mobile applications, Twitter, Facebook with support for a few SMS APIs as well.
We have created an easy-to-use application that lets people use Tropo to input data into Ushahidi via SMS. We’ve put the code up on Github and you’re welcome to submit pull requests if you find bugs or add features.
To use the code, you don’t have to install anything on Ushahidi. Here are the steps:
- In Ushahidi, create a user with “Admin” privileges.
- check out the code from Github
- edit the configuration lines at the top with your Ushahidi credentials and URL
- create a new Scripting API Application on Tropo.com.
- Once your Tropo app is created, you can add an SMS-enabled number (US and Canada currently) and optionally configure it to talk on any IM networks or Twitter.
Now, when you send a message to any of your configured numbers the application will attempt to geo-locate the message based on its contents. The app then submits a report via the Ushahidi API in an unverified state. Admins of the site can then verify the reports and publish them to the web.
In our example here, we simulated a flood in Milwaukee. The instance pulls in feeds from local media and disaster response community, accepts reports via the web and accepts reports from a Tropo app I created. We sent a message to the number configured in the app with the following content:
Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital Milwaukee WI is flooded. Power is out.
This was submitted to Ushahidi in an unverified state. The reviewer then added text to flush out the report based on other incoming data and then published the report:
This sort of crowdsourced data, gathered at the source, is valuable for many reasons. It gets the word to responders and the public more quickly so that people can act appropriately (e.g. by not going to that hospital, go to another one.) First responders become aware of the weight of a problem when more people report the same thing or when the first report comes in of a very big event.
Watervoices.ca, developed this past weekend at RHoK, will be going live with this application soon and we hope to see others using it to help the world soon. Over time, we will be adding support for Voice, PhoneGap within Ushahidi and many other features.