Skip to content
Subscriber Only

To Report Election Violence in Kenya, Text Ushahidi

A wall of election posters for Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya's deputy premier, on a street ahead of the presidential election in Nairobi on March 1, 2013
A wall of election posters for Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya's deputy premier, on a street ahead of the presidential election in Nairobi on March 1, 2013Photograph by Trevor Snapp/Bloomberg

In the crisis that followed Kenya’s last presidential election at the end of 2007, more than 1,100 people were killed and at least 350,000 were driven from their homes. Inflammatory text messages and emails helped incite the attacks across one of Africa’s most wired countries.

To document the violence, a small group of volunteer programmers, mostly in Kenya, enlisted the same tools. They wrote software to map reports of trouble sent by witnesses online or by mobile phone. Tens of thousands of Kenyans, as well as global media and humanitarian groups, used the site to track the chaos in near-real time. The developers called the project Ushahidi, Swahili for “testimony.”