The Ushahidi Engine is a platform that allows anyone to gather distributed data via SMS, email or web and visualize it on a map or timeline. It is a free and open source project with developers hailing from all over the world working on it.
The creators describe their service as follows:
The Ushahidi Engine is a platform that allows anyone to gather distributed data via SMS, email or web and visualize it on a map or timeline. Our goal is to create the simplest way of aggregating information from the public for use in crisis response.
There are some implementations already out there that use the Ushahidi Engine like the “War on Gaza” website from Al Jazeera (the implementation is still a bit buggy) or the “Peace Heroes” website hosted directly on the Ushahidi website. Ushahidi is currently in private alpha but everyone is welcome to get involved and provide technical support.
Ushahidi plans to offer a downloadable version as well as they provide project hosting on their own servers which is currently their main focus.
We see great potential in the project, partly because we strongly believe in the value of mapped data but solely for this purpose there are plenty of other projects available. The other, more important part is the distributed and personal nature of the data itself. Coming from people directly involved in the crisis, the data represents a more direct and personalized view of what’s happening. Nuances could become visible that would’nt be covered by analytics on a top-to-bottom analysis.