Crisis-mapping technology has emerged in the past five years as a tool to help humanitarian organizations deliver assistance to victims of civil conflicts and natural disasters. Crisis-mapping platforms display eyewitness reports submitted via e-mail, text message, and social media. The reports are then plotted on interactive maps, creating a geospatial record of events in real time.
The first generation of these humanitarian technologies was powered by free, open-source software produced by organizations such as InSTEDD, Sahana, and Ushahidi. For example, Ushahidi (the name means “witness” or “testimony” in Swahili) developed an interactive-mapping platform linked to a live multimedia inbox and used it to document violence that erupted in Kenya after the disputed presidential elections of 2008. Eyewitnesses sent reports of ethnic attacks and other violent incidents to the Ushahidi Web site via e-mail and text message. Ushahidi then plotted the location of each incident on a Google map, creating a public record of events.
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