I’ve mentioned the work of Ushahidi in the past, specifically the work it did in raising and using local voices in Haiti to map incidents and data after the earthquake the country experienced in 2010.
The Ushahidi platform is a tool to easily crowdsource information using multiple channels, including SMS, email, Twitter and the web. It was initially developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout at the beginning of 2008 and has been used since for many humanitarian and political crises, including Haiti. Watch this video for a little more background on Ushahidi’s origins:
Ushahidi’s success in being used by citizens has come from it being able to handle offline as well as online communications and so is not limited to people with an internet connection. Therefore it’s easy to send Ushahidi a message, maximising the opportunities to get information from the ground. It fulfils one of the top criteria for any tool: ease of use.
However, you can imagine the amount of information (data) that can generate and not all of it either accurate or necessarily true. All of it needs filtering, verifying and analysing. Enter SwiftRiver, a tool developed by Ushahidi to help ‘people make sense of a lot of information in a short amount of time’. It’s free and open source. You can read more about what SwiftRiver does here (PDF), but here is a more technical explanation of the processes, data flow and what’s involved.
Whilst the platform has been developed for crisis’, like the original Ushahidi platform it can be potentially used for other situations where large volumes of real-time data need to be sorted, verified, analysed for trends and given context: news, financial data, political analysis, company/organisation crisis management.
I suspect that for this reason (amongst many others) SwiftRiver is one of the Knight News Challenge 2011 winners, announced last week (22 June 2011).