After nearly 2 years of email contact, I had the pleasure of meeting in person and for the first time, Ushahidi’s co-founder and TED Fellow Juliana Rotich in Geneva last week. Disarmingly charming and with a deliciously wicked sense of humour, we talked about the more interesting requests Ushahidi has received to use its platform and, with suitably husky undertones, how Ushahidi’s installation instructions could be for purposes very far removed from what it was originally intended to support!
The ribald laughter aside and more seriously, Juliana was a key voice in a Getting it Right in Crisis Management: Going beyond the hype on ICTs, a panel held during ITU’s WSIS 2010 week as well as in a closed door roundtable discussion on the Haiti response and crisis information management, both of which were organised by the ICT4Peace Foundation.
At the closed door roundtable discussion, I made the point that what UN agencies had to recognise, whether they liked it or not, that actors like Ushahidi, using models of crowdsourcing and volunteerism, were faster in deploying crisis information management platforms and tools after the earthquake in Haiti than any UN agency.
I find that much more than the voices usually associated with marketing Ushahidi’s work, those like Juliana and David Kobia, who I met earlier this year in New York, are the real stars of the platform. Revealingly, they have a more cautious, considered and ultimately compelling approach to their work and Ushahidi’s evolution, which I have no doubt will significantly inform and frame debates on crisis information management in the future.