Ushahidi Works with Designit and Adobe to Give People a Voice

At the end of 2007, a humanitarian crisis erupted in Kenya after Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of the presidential election. Amidst the uncertainty, a group of four Kenyan bloggers created software that could help teams gather critical information to get real-time reports of events and crises as they happen.

Since 2008, the Ushahidi software has been used more than 150,000 times in over 160 countries, crowdsourcing 30 million reports from citizens. Users can create maps of reported terrorism or violence, direct election observers to areas of suspected voter suppression, and pinpoint survivors in need of aid after an earthquake.

“Ushahidi means ‘testimony’ in Swahili,” explains Erik Hersman, one of the organization’s co-founders. “It was a software designed as a response to a crisis in Kenya, but it’s been used in many other human rights and disaster situations, including the Syrian conflict, earthquakes in Nepal, and to map media freedom in Europe.”

Design tools complement company’s ethos

Ushahidi is celebrating its 10th anniversary and now serves a global audience. The world has changed in many ways, with technology and the ways people communicate evolving by leaps and bounds. People expect instant connectivity and access to information in the palm of their hand, so it’s critical that Ushahidi software for connecting individuals and teams be intuitive, mobile, and easy to use.

When designing user experiences, Ushahidi’s design tool of choice is Adobe XD CC. Because Adobe XD is available for free, Ushahidi can open-source design help from anywhere. In addition, the ability to share and test prototypes and design specifications via the browser enables the team to work efficiently, at global scale.

Addressing crisis communications with TenFour

In 2013, terrorists attacked the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi. After people struggled to make contact with loved ones in the mall, Ushahidi recognized a need for a fast, centralized method of checking in on team members in critical situations.

As opposed to checking across multiple communication channels to contact each team member individually, with the new TenFour service Ushahidi envisioned a single tool that would send and receive simple communications across multiple points of contact. TenFour provides a centralised and reliable way of checking in with a group of people: “Are you OK? Do you need help? Can you help?”

Designit, an international strategic design firm that is part of Wipro, supports Ushahidi designers in helping develop truly global solutions to these global problems. In a recent design jam, Designit, together with Adobe, convened a room full of seasoned designers in Berlin to add a central European perspective to the design of TenFour. Designers came up with suggestions to improve the service and designed and prototyped their proposals using Adobe XD.

“We’re always going to face crises as humans,” says Ushahidi Senior Product Designer Eriol Fox. “There’s going to be man-made ones, and there’s going to be natural disasters. What we can do is equip people with the tools to keep each other safe, and reduce the anxiety that people feel when they’re facing these crises.”

Learn more about Ushahidi, TenFour and the Berlin design jam in this video: