Erik Hersman

Talking about real world uses of our work, in terms of issues.

Grew up in Sudan, Kenya, now write two blogs “White african” “afrigadget”.

Excited about very light weight, good in the field with unskilled people.

Also AfricaMap, very exciting as geolocation data was hard to find in Kenya.

Buglabs, any time you can hack hardware and software is seriously good. As more people use it, it’ll get cheaper and might get to 3rd world.

DIY Drones - great for crisis scenarios, how normal citizens can use it to help out

Illustrating that tools that we make are being used by people, perhaps with different background. Interesting over the coming years as GIS tools become easier to use, similar to how we see in CMS areas. We’re going to see something really big happen in the next few years.

Kenya Elections 2007 - issues and irregularities, opposition leader didn’t agree with the outcome. What started as apolitical fracas devolved into ethnic one. Showing slides of maps of polarities. People were kicked out of differing descents.

At same time, there was a media blackout, difficult as no way to get information out. Only way to get messages was SMS and phone calls, outside could only see through blogs and social media. Harvard law grad’s blog in Kenya got information out on her blog -

“Our Goals”

  • way for everyday kenyans to report incidents of violence
  • create an archive of news and reports
  • show here majority of violence was happening

“Building It”

  • Detailed geospatial data is hard to come by in Africa
  • How much should it be web-based in a mobile phone culture?
  • Mobile phones - getting a full report in 140 characters is not easy
  • What data points do we need?

We’re not part of humanitarian industry so don’t know what’s needed.

[Calendar of events] Dec 27 elections Dec 27 - 30 - Period of uncertainty Dec 30 - Jan 1 - Media blackout. Launched by end of January.


Only took a few days but really worked. Allowed us to do something not everyone could do. Timeline of events, see events occurring in the field. Draggable timeline and events on updates.

Had the beginnings of a crowdsource crisis information, realised this was pretty new, we were knew so hadn’t realised. So now decided what we do next.

Lessons Learned

  • The importance of mapping accuracy
  • Data poisoning - what happens when your antagonist starts using is?
  • Verification is difficult
  • Clarify why it was created and make that inescapably obvious - this was for rough data, not for ICC
  • Create a feedback loop to end user

“So, did it work?”

  • Advocacy? - Yes, mainstream media was affected and brought attention to the situation
  • Security? Probably not
  • Monitoring? Probably not
  • Information Gathering? Yes, pretty well.

Formed by Erik and four other Kenyans, also funded now.

Types of activist, beer activist, anarchics, passionate about illegal immigrants, passionate about immigrants.

Activism always has two sides, both sides are passionate.

“It turns out activists are just everyday people, most with limited technical acumen.”

Going to go through several activist sites.

Crisis in Darfur google earth application, US holocause museum and amnesty international.

Sudan ICC war criminals website, warrants out for their arrests

Access Denied map from global voices, online censorship maps in closed countries.

“Tunisian Prison Map” - applying transparency to prisons in tunisia.

Bahrain land rights, showing difference between quality of life between haves and have nots.

Operation Murambatsvina - zimbabwe - showing land distribution, very heavy handed.

Mapping election conditions in Zimbabwe - taking news data about heavy handed government acts against normal civilians well before the election time. Showing that there was a track record well before the election happened.

The Great Whale Trail Map

Planet action - different environmental causes around the world

“I love mountains” - US based, enter zip code or state or city and see how you’re connected to mountaintop removal.

Mapping for human rights violations vs Mapping for activism - two separate things.

First is GIS/neogeo - this is what happened, used for taking criminals to court, second is to create awareness of buy-in of an issue

“Think about how you can use your skills to help in a cause that is important to you”

We have the ability to affect issues miles away which we couldn’t do not long ago.

Enemies Around Every Corner: Mapping in an Activist World

Technorati tags: activist, where, where2.0, where2008