All posts tagged ‘ushahidi’

by CalebOctober 20, 2010

Five Mobile Trends Redefining Health

Everywhere Access of Information

Mobile phones are helping people make more informed health-related decisions. Hundreds of mobile websites and apps are providing reference for topics like anatomy, first-aid, and drug-related conditions. Everywhere access to these tools are saving lives. Filmmaker Dan Woolley survived the Haiti earthquake by referencing a first-aid app to treat his wounds. Chicago art instructor Tanya Gill was saved during a stroke using NPR for iPhone. WebMD puts it well, "Better information. Better health."

Mobile is also enabling patients to connect directly with doctors and experts. PricewaterhouseCoopers found that fifty-six percent of US consumers liked the idea of remote healthcare, 41 percent prefer care delivered via mobile device. Today, this is being played out through SMS. For example, some doctors like Brooklyn's Jay Parkinson are making themselves reachable via mobile IM or email. San Francisco-based Truth On Call lets people text questions to a group of physicians. Text in the City helps teens develop a relationship with their clinic through texting.

Affordable Tools for Physicians

Consumer devices are being used as affordable alternatives to industry standards. As of late, Apple's iPad is especially popular. Its weight, Wi-Fi support, and resistance to dust and liquids help it compete with the Panasonic Toughbook H1 and Cisco Cius. Smartphones are also prevalent in the workplace. According to Spyglass Consulting Group, 94 percent of physicians are using everyday smartphones and consulting apps like Epocrates or Johnson and Johnson's BlackBag while on-the-job.

In addition to the standard hardware, add-ons and peripherals extend device capabilities to create a "hand-held hospital". Affordable modifications like Crabfu’s $5 microscope and MIT's $1 plastic lens attachment can turn a phone into a scientific Swiss Army knife. Other tools include iStethoscope, UCLA's mobile microscope, and the AirMicro A1 for iPad. All of these are enabling what's known as "telemedicine" and leading to the decentralization of healthcare. As William J. Mitchell states in City of Bits, telemedicine "make old-style assemblies of patients around specialized medical facilities less necessary."

Quantified Self

Just as people have long used journals, diaries and logs to track their symptoms and behaviors, mobile phones are being used to monitor aspects of  health and well-being. This can help with compliance, creating a sense of control and motivating healthy behavior. It is also a much more efficient way to collect information that can be passed along to doctors. PricewaterhouseCoopers found that 88 percent of physicians would like their patients monitoring their health at home.

The phone is not just an on-hand computer we can use to type in data points, it can collect information automatically through its sensors (GPS, microphone, accelerometer, clock) or wearable sensors can send their data to the directly phone. This creates a body area network, or as Frog Design describes it, "Google for our bodies". Some of these wearable sensors include Fitbit, S2H Replay, and BodyMedia, but The Quantified Self lists many more. Once reaching the mobile phone, captured physiological metrics can be sent off into the cloud and then to the physician. It can also be analyzed and sent back to a patient. With increasing computational intelligence and real-time information flow, apps will soon influence decision making on the fly. Both Sleep Cycle and Lark already do this for better sleep, optimizing ourselves and our environment.

Social as Motivational Force

Sticking to a healthcare regime is not easy, which is why there are support groups for nearly every illness. These networks of like-minded people provide a mutual source of motivation. Since at least 1982, support groups have sprung up online in the form of niche social networks, forums and blogs. Sites like 43things let us publicly establish our goals while networks PatientsLikeMe, Disaboom, and Inspire connect us around particular needs.

Mobile phones can keep these groups connected anytime, anywhere. Combine this with their ability to collect data as described above and we see the emergence of a real-time information-rich social experience. Groups can build each other up—or spur on friendly competition—by viewing peers' real-time progress or lapses. We see the beginnings of this in Nike's recent integration with Facebook, where friends can cheer each other on during a run.

Societal Level Health Management and Geo-Medicine

Aggregate personal data will lead to better management of societal level health issues. Insights and solutions will be drawn from open data to make high-level decisions. We're already seeing mobile phones used as early warning systems in disease outbreak detection. Several universities are using SMS to bring disease reporting to rural areas in South Asia. Google Flu Trends uses aggregated Google search data to estimate flu activity around the world.

A smartphone's location awareness makes it even easier to track health trends. Medical data tied to a place, what we can call "geo-medicine," enables us to see even more patterns and correlations. In a TED talk, Bill Davenhall discusses how cross-referencing where he went with a map of toxic release inventories by the EPA, he was able to visualize and draw conclusions on how his location affected his health. The Ushahidi platform is being used to do this on a larger scale, enabling the collect visualize and map health-related information in emerging nations.

by CalebAugust 25, 2010

Mobile Crowdsourcing: Boskoi Informs Foragers About Wild-Food Sources

Boskoi is an Android app based on the Ushahidi platform that "augments foraging" by helping users locate and share edible urban wild-food sources.

According to Inhabitat:

Named after the greek word for grazer, the app lays out a map of local fruits and herbs and allows users to edit and add their own finds.

Boskoi also points you toward further info on your found plants, so you can verify that you’re not about to eat something that’s actually inedible. Foraging culture is typically very territorial, and Urban Edibles gives very clear guidelines: don’t tread on stuff, only pick what you can use, and ask if ownership is unclear.

As we saw with Marmota, a topographical AR application, mobile phones are helping us understand nature and our environment in new ways. Google Maps let us navigate foreign cities as if we're a local, now apps like Boskoi can make wilderness survival a little less scary as well.

by AllisonJanuary 26, 2010

Ushahidi Enables Real-Time Crisis Mapping in Haiti


Mobile giving to Haiti has topped $30 million, but wireless devices on the ground in Haiti are helping relief efforts as well. (testimony in Swahili) is a crisis map of Haiti that allows for people on the ground there to report emergencies and missing persons after the January 12 disaster.

By texting to 4636, Haitians can report their location and their needs -- things like food and medical supplies, lists of survivors, even amputations. The service is being promoted on the ground by FEMA, the Red Cross International, and the U.N Foundation, the Clinton Foundation and others. In addition to SMS, reports can be contributed via web, email,  radio, satellite phone, Twitter, Facebook, TV, listserves, livestreams and situation reports. All the collected  information is mapped in close to real time on the site.


The incoming data is largely unstructured, so efforts to parse it are being crowdsourced. According to the site, volunteers at the Fletcher School's Situation Room are mapping about 50% of the reports 24 hours a day. The other 50% of reports come from the Ushahidi team and volunteers around the world. All reported incidents are available for download in .csv format -- right now there are about 1550. Each one includes an incident title, date, location, description, category, latitude and longitude and whether the submission was approved and verified.

The site also links to other crowdsourced efforts, including The Extraordinaries, which lets you tag photos coming in from the news, so they can better match images against missing persons databases, and's Person Finder, a gadget that lets people  submit information about missing persons and to search the database.

Crowdsourcing and citizen journalism efforts like this have been on the rise over the past few years with mobile taking a major role. Indeed, the phone is becoming a global equalizer, as we saw during the Iranian elections last summer. Mobile tools especially make sense in Haiti. According to a report from Research and Markets, Haiti’s fixed line teledensity was amongst the lowest in the world in early 2009, at less than 2%, while mobile penetration was over 40% in September 2008 and growing strongly. Given the stagnating fixed-line infrastructure and poor fixed-line penetration rates, the report concluded that mobile is likely to remain the principal form of telecommunications for the short-to-medium term.

Ushahidi itself is a great example of how mobile is being used to empower citizens in places where wired Internet access is low. The platform was initially created to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout at the beginning of 2008.  Reports were submitted via the web and mobile phone and, according to the site, this initial deployment had 45,000 users in Kenya. Since then, it has developed into a larger-scale open source project for mobile citizen journalism. Their goal is to create a customizable platform that allows for any person or organization to set up their own way to collect and visualize information. It's alpha version was used by a number of groups and institutions including Al Jazeera during the War on Gaza, Vote Report India (to monitor the recent local elections) and Pak Voices (to map incidents of violence in Pakistan). Now in beta, is continually being tested with various partners, primarily in Kenya.

Thanks to Oscar Salazar for telling us about this project.