Kenyan software tracking U.S. voting
Software that has tracked earthquake aid in Haiti, elections in India and sexual assaults in Egypt is tackling a new challenge: any reports of violence, intimidation or fraud in the U.S. vote.
Ushahidi, which means “testimony” in Kenya’s Swahili language, is collecting data from the 50 states where Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton are running.
Ushahidi Chief Executive Officer Daudi Were told Reuters his organisation’s 50-strong team was not expecting violence but wanted to ensure voter concerns were heard.
Trump has repeatedly warned that the U.S. poll could be “rigged”, a charge dismissed by his opponents.
“We’ve also seen one of the key candidates say that they may not accept the election results, which all speaks to the need of helping citizens to have confidence in the process,” Were said.
People can send reports by phone, email, or Twitter, he added. A team uses local contacts or reputable online sources to sort and verify reports. They can pass reports to the Election Protection Committee, a U.S. nonpartisan monitoring organisation that sends legal experts to areas of dispute.
“We are adding a citizen layer on top of the extensive election monitoring efforts that are already taking place within in the U.S.,” Were said.
Ushahidi was set up by four friends scrambling to respond to post-election violence in Kenya at the start of 2008 in which 1,200 people were killed. It helped map violent hotspots.
Since then, it has been used in more than 160 countries for such tasks as monitoring polls or responding to humanitarian crises by reuniting families, tracking aid and pinpointing violence.
“Ushahidi and African technology, we’re are leading the way,” said Were. “If you’re building a good tool, it will be used around the world.”