Department of “Cool Uses for Blogs” Department

BoingBoing has a story about Ushahidi, a website that allows Kenyans to post stories about the post-election violence there. It’s pretty cool: the posts turn into icons on a map, so you can see where they are coming from in relation to each other. Clicking on one gets you the writer’s description of what the problem is, and what assistance people in that area need.

Apparently the website grew out of a the TED Global conference in Tanzania last year. Go TED Conference! (Extra points will be awarded to any publicly-minded conference/organization that recognizes that poor countries can use technology, not just farming tools.)

There are relatively few posts (only about three pages’ worth), so it looks like the site hasn’t gotten off the ground as much as one might hope.

However, I still think that it is super cool. My favorite part is that people can send in their posts via SMS (text messaging). Cell phones are much more common than computers are in Kenya, and that becomes more true as people get poorer and areas get more rural. (Apparently, one of the first things Kenya’s government did when violence broke out was to block the sending of mass SMS messages, to prevent the “incitement of violence”) The SMS option means that a website like this could gather a lot of information from a broad geographical area very quickly, keep track of which areas were getting worse and which were getting better, and communicate directly with the people asking for help. I think it’s a great idea, and one that is definitely worth pursuing in future conflicts and disasters as well.

Amanda Taub

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