Interview with Patrick Meier on Ushahidi and crisis mapping

I interviewed Patrick Meier on Ushahidi and crisis mapping for netzpolitik.org. Patrick is a fellow member of DigiActive and serves on Ushahidi’s board of directors:

Simon Columbus: […] So what is Ushahidi?

Patrick Meier: Ushahidi is a free and open source platform that allows organizations to crowdsource information and to visualize this information dynamically on a map.

Simon Columbus: That sounds really technical. Can you delve a little deeper into Ushahidi’s structure?

Patrick Meier: Sure thing. Ushahidi simply aggregates information, so users can text in information or tweet in or go directly on the Ushahidi website and enter in information that way. The easiest way to think of Ushahidi is as a clever website, which you can send information to using different communication technologies. Information on human rights abuses, for example, or human trafficking. This information can then be mapped geographically, such as riots in a particularly neighborhood of Tehran.

Simon Columbus: What is mapping such information good for? In the last years, you have worked hard to establish “crisis mapping” as an academic field, so it is more than just a nice overview, I guess?

Patrick Meier: Sometimes it’s easier to understand information when it is mapped. For example, take a spreadsheet with lots of numbers: It may be difficult to make sense of the spreadsheet, but one could take the numbers and graph them, which would reveal more about the information. The same is true with mapping. It is simply a way to visualize information in order to reveal more about said information, e.g., like patterns. And yes, crisis mapping as a field is not just about mapping. It’s about information collection, data visualization, geospatial analysis and decision-support for operational response.

You can read the full interview in English on netzpolitik.org.

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