This post was authored by Rebecca Wanjiku
There is something nice about people who attend our Ushahidi 101 sessions in Kenya. They come to us having heard lots of good things about our information-mapping platform, and many have intentions to implement it within their organization or project.
These sessions, which we started earlier this year, attract new users, current users and those who have deployed and have lessons to share. The majority are new users and they come to the iHub in Nairobi in search of answers and a way forward.
For many, the intention is there, but they wonder about when or how to deploy Ushahidi. Many are already collecting very interesting information that they can share with users on the ground and get feedback, but they are not sure of how to go about it. In the end, they often hesitate and never get going. The fear of using new technology seems to take hold.
This has been the case for a variety of people and organizations. Whether it is the United Nations or a community-based organization, the decision on how or when to use our platform seems to be a challenge. I have been assisting users for the last year, and out of more than 30 presentations that have been given about our project and our tool, only five groups have gone ahead and implemented Ushahidi. There is optimism, but not as much action.
For those who don't move ahead with an implementation, I always drop an email to ask why. The most common reason given is a lack of technical expertise or a lack of funds to outsource implementation to an outside party. Others tell me they are still considering the platform.
Just Do It
When people express hesitation about using Ushahidi, or ask when they should get started, my default answer is to tell them to start now. The platform is free, after all. So if you have information to share that would be better presented graphically, then just start putting up the information and get to work; the platform doesn't require high-tech knowledge. You can start with the basics and work your way up.
People often worry that Ushahidi will be too difficult for users who have little or no familiarity with technology. In our experience, people have a way of surprising you. If the information is vital, people will go to any length to share it.
With the growth of fiber optic connections and the availability of affordable connectivity, the next frontier is content. Ushahidi provides an easier way for organizations to upload their content online and to present it graphically.
A good example of an implementation is the Stop Stock-Outs campaign (above), which was created to monitor the supply of the vital drugs that treat TB and malaria, as well as the supply of morphine. The campaign was successful because health organizations in rural areas worked with local communities to report the information. One can argue that people in rural areas do not have a lot of familiarity with technology, but their use of SMS ensured their voices were heard.
All it takes is the initial effort to try and then anything is possible.