December 3, 2009, REDWOOD CITY, Calif. and NAIROBI — Omidyar Network announced today a $1.4M grant to Ushahidi over two and a half years. The funding will enable Ushahidi to establish a hub in Kenya, scale its crowdsourcing platform, and develop verification technology. Stephen King, Director, Investments, who leads Omidyar Network’s international government transparency and social media investments, will also join Ushahidi’s board. Formerly Chief Executive with the BBC World Service Trust, King has deep experience applying media and technology to create positive social impact.
Born out of the Kenyan post-election violence in 2008, Ushahidi started as a website enabling citizen-generated information reporting and sharing in the aftermath of a crisis. The impact was both wider coverage of crisis conditions to protect local populations and increased government accountability in handling the situations. In the subsequent 18 months, Ushahidi’s open source platform has been deployed more than 375 times across a diverse set of situations. Omidyar Network’s support comes at a critical time for the organization, allowing it to establish a Nairobi base with an expanded development team; invest in building a next-generation verification technology; and expand its partnerships with media organizations and NGOs.
“Ushahidi’s innovative use of technology to strengthen democracy is inspiring, and their rapid growth is impressive,” said Stephen King, Director, Investments at Omidyar Network. “We are honored to partner with an organization that connects individuals to information in a way that can ignite transformative change for an entire country — and we hope other funders will join us.”
Ushahidi’s technology allows anyone to submit information through text messaging, email, or web form. The platform enables information to be gathered from multiple locations and visualized on a map or timeline. A wide variety of NGOs and media organizations have deployed Ushahidi; recent applications include monitoring elections in the Congo, India, and Mexico to tracking the availability of medical supplies in Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, and Zambia.
“Every day people find creative new applications for Ushahidi’s technology. Expanding our development team is critical to meet this demand, and building a permanent hub in Nairobi will allow us to invest back into the community from which we started and establish a footprint in the region,” said Ory Okolloh, Executive Director, Ushahidi. “With continued support from our volunteer developers and organizations like Omidyar Network, we will be in a better position to nurture a vital community of support for organizations implementing Ushahidi. Together, we can enable Ushahidi to achieve massive social impact across the globe.”
Ushahidi, meaning “testimony” in Swahili, is an open source platform that was developed to catalyze effective crisis response by crowdsourcing information submitted by citizens via SMS messaging or the Internet. The platform’s administrators build on this participatory reporting by verifying, aggregating, and mapping information, which might not otherwise be well covered in the mainstream media. In early 2008, volunteers developed Ushahidi as a website to map reports of post-election violence in Kenya. The platform has since been deployed more than 375 times in countries across Africa, Asia, as well as Central and South America. NGOs and media organizations have been at the forefront of applying Ushahidi to ever-more diverse situations, including election monitoring, xenophobic attacks and tracking medicine stockouts. Ushahidi’s goal is to create a platform that anyone anywhere can use to collect and visualize information. To learn more about Ushahidi, please visit www.ushahidi.com.
About Omidyar Network
Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives. Established in 2004 by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam, the organization invests in and helps scale innovative organizations to catalyze economic and social change. To date, Omidyar Network has committed more than $300 million to for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations that foster economic advancement and encourage individual participation across multiple investment areas, including microfinance, property rights, government transparency, and social media. To learn more about Omidyar Network, please visit www.omidyar.com.