In the past few weeks, I’ve been writing about crowdsourcing that responds to everything from the need for communal transcription, to potential income opportunities, to cleaner water. Crowdsourcing crosses industries, audiences, and opportunities, but in recent weeks, I’ve been most interested in the companies and groups that have been using crowdsourcing to serve the public. Jaroslav Valuch of Ushahidi says that when it comes to serving people and humanitarian causes, “you can trust the crowd.”
Ushahidi is a website launched by a group of bloggers in 2008. It was launched in order to respond to and track a wave of ethnic aggression that occurred after the elections. Since then, Ushahidi has worked in response to crisis around the world (the earthquake in Haiti, the tsunami in Japan, etc.). But now, Ushahidi is launching Huduma which will use crowdsourcing in Kenya to track the efficacy of social programs. The Kenyan public will be able to send reports (through email or text) on the operations and effectiveness of services like healthcare and education. Ushahidi will then map the reports on the Huduma site, identify the authorities, and the districts can compare progress. Not only does this increase program accountability, but it gives communities more opportunities to compare and contrast the progress of various districts. It is a project that may extend well beyond Kenya in the coming years.
Paul Massey, Executive Vice President of Social Impact, writes about the potential impact of crowdsourcing in support of social change in response to a SXSW panel he attended on the subject saying that crowdsourcing adds value to delivering long-lasting solutions. He writes “crowdsourcing is appealing for a number of reasons – it surfaces new perspectives, invites people from nontraditional sources to contribute, and infuses real energy into the process of generating ideas and content.” He goes on to call it empowering, engaging, and much more. It is a sentiment that a number of people have come around to, when you can crowdsource all kinds of important information and ideas: from documentaries on the Egyptian revolution to the impact of social communication in serving that revolution.
What do you think? Is crowdsourcing an avenue to serving those who are in need? How do we continue to ensure that “you can trust the crowd” when crowdsourcing for humanitarian issues? In what ways have we been seeing crowdsourcing evolve in communications over the course of our history?