Ushahidi being used to assist Kenya carpools

Ushahidi, a Kenyan non-profit organisation specialising in free and open source software, has aided the Kenyan carpool Twitter surge by creating a crowdmap to capture, categorise, geo locate and visualise as many tweets as possible.

The strike by the matatu (taxi) operators in Kenya left many of the country’s people stranded without transport and brought the country’s public transport system to a standstill. As a result many people took to Twitter under the hashtag #CarPoolKE to encourage carpooling in order to alleviate the transport problem.

The Ushahidi team’s software has helped to create an archive of what happened online in response to the strike and debilitating state of mobility in Kenya.

According to Angela Oduor, a developer at Ushahidi, the aims of creating this crowdmap were to reduce the noise to signal on the Twitter hashtag so the information could be visualised and organised easily.

She added: “Kenyans on Twitter embraced the idea and are using the hashtag to offer and request for rides. Civic compassion at work!”

But as time went by, “the signal faded with the hashtag being used for jokes and not for its original intended purpose,” she adds. This was not a major problem as Ushahidi used their in-house tool called SwiftRiver to filter the information based on how relevant and useful it is.

The#CarPoolKE initiative was started on Twitter by Simeon Oriko (@Mtotowajirani) with the aim of “crowdsourcing” information using social media to encourage carpooling and help people with their transport requests.

Oriko is a Co-Founder at StorySpaces, a digital storytelling platform, and also at JamLab, a community of co-creators.

As well as Oriko, Ushahidi were spurred on by The Kenyan Red Cross (@KenyaRedCross) and Kenya Road Safety (@KenyaRoadSafety).

The matatu strike came about as a result of the Kenyan government deciding to gazette new traffic rules that would see Kenyan motorists facing stiff penalties for traffic offences, starting on Saturday, December 1.

Thus, on Thursday, November 29, matatu operators, the largest public transport providers in Kenya, decided to strike in protest against the new law. This strike then brought the public transportation system in Kenya to a standstill resulting in many Kenyans finding themselves stranded.

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