Ory Okolloh Joins Google To Shape Africa’s Internet Policy


The success of Ushahidi as both an activist organization and as a technology startup is one that is widely recognized as Africa’s first big ‘garage’ startup success story. The organization was born out of the 2007 post-election unrest in Kenya when Ory Okolloh put out a call to map citizen reports of violence. Erik Hersman, David Kobia and Juliana Rotich all heeded the call and Ushahidi.com was born.

Ory Okolloh @ the launch of iHub Nairobi (c) AfricaKnows.com

In a blog post – Stepping Down as Ushahidi Executive Director; Ory Okolloh states;

For me, what has always been the most important aspect of the work we do has remained simple, building a tool that makes it easy for individuals and groups to tell their stories, and making it easy for these stories to be mapped/visualized.

Ushahidi has grown to be that and much more, thanks especially to the wider community – which saw potential uses beyond crisis reporting and who largely shaped our growth and direction to date be it through translation efforts (Ushahidi now available in 10 languages!), or custom themes, or pushing for a hosted version (Crowdmap), or challenging us to address the shortcomings of the platform (through tools like SwiftRiver and our community resources page).

Beyond the growth of Ushahidi as a platform and an organization, I always tell people that I am most proud of the fact that the Ushahidi story has provided an inspiration to other techies in Kenya and Africa – an example of the kind of talent the continent holds, but also a reminder that we have just scratched the surface. And so after 3 years, I feel it is time for me to take on the next challenge. Those of you who know me well know I’ve got a 1001 ideas floating in my head that I need to get out.

The Kenyan Lawyer and Activist answered the question; Where next and for what?

I will be joining Google in the New Year as the Policy Manager for Africa. The role will involve developing policy /strategies on a number of areas of relevance to Google and the Internet in Africa and will involve working with different parties including government leaders, policy makers, regulators, industry groups and so on.

It is a huge opportunity to bring Google’s resources to bear as far as the growth and development of the internet in Africa (and hopefully a reminder of why I went to law school in the first place!). I’m very excited about the move and I hope I can continue to lean on your support and insight in my new role.

Who takes over as Executive Director at Ushahidi? Guess, who?

Ushahidi co-founder Juliana Rotich will be the acting Executive Director. As Program Director (and pretty much since the very beginning of Ushahidi) Juliana has been our key interface with the wider community of techies, implementers of the platform and volunteers.

Her ability to be a bridge between the core of Ushahidi and the wider community (along with her uber-geek status!) gives me and the rest of the team every confidence that the transition process will be smooth and bigger things lie ahead for Ushahidi.

My friends at Afrinnovator did an interesting piece on Ory’s move to Google and also touched on a few relating articles worth taking a closer look at below:

Ory Okolloh Co-Founder of Ushahidi talks to CNN’s AfricanVoices Ory Okolloh, one of the founders of Ushahidi, talks with…

Ushahidi’s Ory Makes Top 40 Women Under 40 Ory Okolloh, one of the directors of the Ushahidi project…

Ushahidi/FrontlineSMS Talk at UoN It’s hard to talk about what’s happening in technology in…

For a full insight into the making of the Ushahidi platform; read Erik Hersman; @whiteafrican ‘s post: Making Ushahidi

 

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Maker Faire Africa 2010: Nairobi, Kenya!


In two weeks time, I’ll be traveling to Nairobi, Kenya to attend Maker Faire Africa. This is an event which is bringing together inventors, ingenious craftsmen/women, artisans and innovators under one roof to showcase their latest inventions & products, dialogue between experts and non-experts and also network in promoting their works.

Maker Faire Africa is a celebration of African ingenuity, innovation and invention and will take place in from 27th – 28th, Aug 2010. Last year, I volunteered at the very first Maker Faire Africa event in Accra, Ghana.

According to one of the organizers; Erik Hersman of Ushahidi & AfriGadget;

“The aim is to identify, spur and support local innovation. At the same time, Maker Faire Africa would seek to imbue creative types in science and technology with an appreciation of fabrication and by default manufacturing. The long-term interest here is to cultivate an endogenous manufacturing base that supplies innovative products in response to market needs.”

Among the projects and workshops which will be take place during the 2-day event are:

a). Match-a-Maker: A project which link people who needs some sort of support with their projects and inventions.

b) Entrepreneur Workshops : Talks by various local and international experts on various topics on everything from manufacturing, fueling your business with social media to fostering partnership with other inventors.

I want to say a BIG Thank You to Bertelsmann Stiftung & Future Challenges for making it possible for me to attend and blog at this event by sponsoring my air-fare and lodging whiles in Nairobi, Kenya.

For more information; Follow Maker Faire Africa Blog and also via Twitter: @Makerfairafrica. Photos from the event will be on their flickr page; MFA10 Flickr Page

Kukutana na wewe katika Nairobi, Kenya. [trans; Meet you in Nairobi, Kenya]

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Ushahidi & Talk Morocco Wins The BoB’s Award


Ushahidi won the Weblog of the Year award from Deutsche Welle at the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum in Bonn, Germany. The award ceremony took place on Tuesday 22nd June, 2010 at the Planery Chamber of the World Conference Center where the Climate Change and the Media forum were on-going.

@MacJordan with Erik Hersman; @WhiteAfrican displaying Ushahidi's Award

According to award recipient – Erik Hersman;

“The Ushahidi platform is an African technology innovation that is changing a lot of things, not least of which is the way that information flows during human rights events.”

Ushahidi is a blog that collects and shows reports from users who have the Ushahidi application built into their own websites. This application makes it possible to visualize information from conflict and disaster regions on an interactive map. The application was first used in Kenya in 2008 to map out the violence and riots after the elections. Since then, users in many different countries have used Ushahidi to help save lives – like in finding the survivors of the earthquake in Haiti.

“One of our goals with Ushahidi has always been to help save lives and speed recovery,” ~ Erik Hersman.

Also at the same event; Talk Morocco; a blog by Jillian C. York & Hisham Almiraat also won the 2010 Best English Weblog People’s Choice and Jury BOB awards!

Jillian C. York & Hisham Almiraat displaying their award.

According to Co-found; Jillian C. York,

“Blogging plays an important social role in Morocco, where bloggers often tackle subjects the main press cannot. Talk Morocco provides a unique a platform for established and unknown bloggers, journalists and authors, Moroccans and non-Moroccans, English speakers and non-English speakers, to comment on subjects relating to Morocco and the Moroccan diaspora.”

Congrats to Erik Hersman of Ushahidi, Jillian C. York & Hisham Almiraat of Talk Morocco for their blog awards.

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Mobile Web East Africa, Nairobi-Kenya.


MWEA10 Banner

MWEA10 Banner

Last week, I saw a couple of tweet updates from my colleague blogger; David Oluniyi Ajao about the Mobile Web East Africa Conference which took place in Nairobi, Kenya from 3rd– 4th Feb, 2010 at the Hotel Intercontinental. The hash tag for the event on twitter was #MWEA10.

The event focused on “harnessing the potential of the internet and applications on mobile devices”. Even though I couldn’t make it to the event, I followed a couple of bloggers for more updates on the proceedings from Nairobi.

Joshua Goldstein of In An African Minute wrote; the conference has several key themes. To me, the most interesting questions relate to how consumers will experience the mobile web in East Africa, and what this will mean for social and economic innovation. For example:

What handsets, standards, networks and designs will allow consumers to successfully access the content and consume it?

How will the consumer be able to discover that content – through a portal, application, browser, search engine, advert, and social network?

 Erik Hersman of White African and Ushahidi fame did a web-stream from the venue. Following Erik’s blog is just like you were at the venue. Read more here….

 Emer Beamer from Butterfly Works also spoke on Positive Chain of Events. See Emer on the podium giving a talk here: Emer Beamer @ #MWEA2010 Emer Beamer @ #MWEA10

 There were some fantastic speakers at the event, amongst them were Eric Cantor of Grameen Foundation, Vincent Maher of Vodacom South Africa, Agosto Liko of Pesapal and Jon Gosier of Appfrica Labs

 Ghana Blogging Group is working around the clock to host a Blogcamp in Ghana soon.

 Stay tuned for more….!