Gulf Coast Oil Spill Relief: Databases to the Rescue!

Databases rarely engender feelings of excitement or empowerment but Ushahidi, a crowd-sourcing tool developed as an open-source platform to map reports of violence in Kenya, is doing just that.

As described in The New York Times, Ushahidi is being used by the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, an advocacy group dedicated to reducing accidents at Louisiana refineries, to collect and log reports of the effects of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It relies on witnesses to self-report spill-related damage via tweets, texts, e-mails and online submissions. In addition to logging the reports, Ushahidi provides organizations with a platform to create community and organize.

For instance, Snowmageddon: The Clean Up not only tracked snow-related problems (cars stuck, individuals in need of assistance, potholes, etc.) it encouraged individuals to report Solutions (snowblower available, shovel to share, cleanup party).

Some of the projects that are using Ushahidi:

  • Sudan Vote Monitor is a Sudanese civil society initiative that used SMS to monitor the elections in the Sudan.
  • Chile Crisis Map is tracking the post-earthquake crisis response and recovery efforts in Chile.
  • Haiti Crisis Map is tracking the post-earthquake crisis response and recovery efforts in Haiti.
  • Wildlife Trackers is a citizen science project to track wildlife in Kenya.
  • Connection GeoMap, managed by Survivors Connect seeks to create a space to share critical information about trafficking and anti-trafficking activity globally, promote transparency in our efforts, engage communities and learn best practices, current challenges and needs in our global effort.
  • Atlanta Crime Maps tracks crime in the Atlanta metro area.
  • Stop Stockouts is an initiative to track near real-time stockouts of medical supplies at pharmacies (in a medical store or health facility) in Kenya, Uganda, Malawi and Zambia.
  • The Computer Professionals’ Union in the Philippines created the initiative called TXTpower, an effort to keep an eye on the mobile phone companies by ordinary citizens.
  • The Cuidemos el Voto mashup was an independent platform that helped to monitor the federal elections of 5 July 2009 in Mexico.
  • is a site to track the Swine Flu reports coming in from official and unofficial sources.
  • Vote Report India was a collaborative citizen-driven election monitoring platform for the 2009 Indian general elections.
  • Peace Heroes: Unsung Peace Heroes is a campaign developed by Butterfly Works and Media Focus on Africa Foundation. The goal is to nominate people who helped do positive things during and after the post-election violence in Kenya. Kenyan heroes are ordinary people who did extraordinary things for their fellow citizens or their country.
  • Congo (DRC): Deployment to the DRC Congo
  • Kenya: The initial mashup, used to track reports of incidents of violence around Kenya.
  • South Africa: Used to map xenophobic attacks perpetrated against non-South Africans.

(excerpted from

For more information on the platform and how to get involved, visit

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