Thursday, January 22, 2009

Web Tool Reports on Congo Conflict

Via BBC News

A web-based reporting tool is allowing Africans caught up in political unrest to report incidents of killing, violence and displacement.

The website is called Ushahidi, which means ''testimony'' in Swahili and was first developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout.

Ushahidi is now being used in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to report on the war that has torn the country apart for the last 15 years.

Its goal is to create a simple way of aggregating information from the public for use in crisis response.

The site is a free open-source mash-up which can be run by anybody, anywhere in the world to to gather distributed data via SMS, email or web and visualise it on a map or timeline.

Users can report an incident by filling in a very simple form with a description of what happened, when it took place and put it in a category.

The incident data is colour coded on the website into categories for things such as riots, looting, illness and sexual assault.

With web access being limited in much of rural Africa, people can also post incidents to the website using text messages sent from their mobile phones.

Reports that are posted on the website are verified by local NGOs and are also given a credibility rating.

"If we can regularly bring in information from the conflict zones, information about human rights abuses and community action to rebuild peace, then we will keep this problem on the front burner," she said.

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