Ushahidi (from the Swahili word meaning testimony) is an open source platform designed to help with disaster relief by allowing site owners to be a hub for information for their community with this free software. It’s being worked on by folks from a variety of countries, including Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Malawi, the Netherlands and the United States. It was used effectively in disasters in Haiti and Chili recently.

According to its creators:

The Ushahidi Platform 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.

How To Install Ushahidi:

1. Make sure your system has the following: Unicode Support, PHP 5.2.3 or higher, MySQL 5.0 or higher, HTTP server such as Apache

2.Make sure your server has these PHP extensions installed: PCRE, iconv, SPL, mbstring

3. Set the following files on your server to have “writable” permissions:

  • application/config/config.php
  • application/config
  • application/cache
  • application/logs
  • media/uploads
  • .htaccess

4. Download and unzip the Ushahidi files (found here)

5. Upload the unzipped files to your server

6. Go to your Ushahidi URL in your browser (http://your-ushahidi-url/installer) and use the web installer to activate the files

Note: If you have Ubuntu you will need to follow these instructions instead

How To Use Ushahidi:

1. Incidents needing attention are submitted via SMS text messages sent to +0992592111 (please note, the number may change according to area. Please verify correct SMS number for your installation here) or submitted via the Ushahidi enabled web site using the “Submit and Incident” button, or via email to info [at] ushahidi [dot] com (email may also change to be installation specific – please double check before running your installation.

2. Incidents are verified by an administrator

3. The use of SMS enables reports to be made even when web access is down in an area due to disaster or crisis

4. The administrator has set up mapping preferences in the Admin interface of their Ushahidi installation. Incidents that are approved will be mapped appropriately to see where the largest crisis areas are for immediate attention

This entry has only touched the surface of a basic Ushahidi installation. It’s a complex crisis solution with many more features and layers. I highly recommend giving the official site a thorough read through to see what other features and settings may be appropriate for your needs.