author: Mark Belinsky
date: 2010-03-06 18:03:36+00:00
title: Training the Ushahidi-Chile Team in a Flash
This post initially appeared on the Ushahidi blog.
Working in the tech sphere, it’s the power and passion that people have that never ceases to astound me. Following the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti, people around the world contributed an incredible outpouring of support for the people of Haiti. Now, as that support expands to Chile, it is evident that we are participating in a game changing moment.
On January 12th when the earthquake in Haiti struck, Digital Democracy had two team members on the ground looking at the economic livlihoods of young Haitians . Worried for their safety and the greater loss of life, my colleague Emily and I immediately joined Patrick in the Situation Room at Fletcher, and collaborated with the core team to establish a system that allowed hundreds of volunteers to glean emergency instances from the ground and place them on the map for response. Those first volunteers have trained many more, and their tireless work has directly saved lives.
When an 8.8 magnitude earthquake hit Chile on Saturday, we were called on again to train volunteers. The Fletcher Ushahidi team, their hands full with Haiti, was able to rapidly set up the site for Chile.Ushahidi.com, but needed help training new volunteers. Digital Democracy collaborated to adapt the training module for the Situation Room at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, and on Sunday night we conducted an hour+ training on Skype for a core team at SIPA at Columbia in New York City who are now running the Chile operations. Their ability to quickly respond to the devastating emergency in Chile, despite it being midterms week, speaks to the dedication and passion of the volunteers. The 10 people we trained on Sunday trained 40 more the next day at SIPA, plus a growing number of volunteers in Santiago.
For us, this has been a particularly rewarding process, as we’ve been following and working with Ushahidi since fall 2008. Watching Ushahidi evolve from mapping post-election violence in Kenya to elections reporting when we helped with VoteReportIndia, we’ve worked to harness Ushahidi to empower ordinary citizens. At Digital Democracy, we’ve applied Ushahidi to map human rights abuses in Burma through Handheld Human Rights and peace mapping in Kenya through Sisi Ni Amani – “We are Peace.” In each case, we’ve worked with local community organizations to determine needs and apply the technology – Ushahidi – to best meet their needs.
Our mission is to utilize technology for civic engagement, and these examples demonstrate how technology can encourage deeper engagement with the world around us. At the core, it’s not the technology but the people who use it. Ushahidi is a tool that’s a key part of our arsenal because of the open community around it. As technology enables more and more people to contribute to meaningful actions to save lives, I for one am excited to see where it leads.