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New Technology Generates Database on Spill Damage


Gulf Coast incident map

Red dots on the map show reported incidents such as closed fishing waters, an oil containment boom washed ashore, and a fisherman out of work. It was created using the Ushahidi open source software.

Credit: Louisianna Bucket Brigade

A technology created to track political violence in Kenya with social media is now being used to log the effects of the oil spill on the Gulf Coast. Witnesses' texts, tweets and e-mail messages generate the rainbow of dots on a map and database of spill-related damage at the Louisiana Bucket Brigade's website.

The brigade, a New Orleans advocacy group, hopes that thousands of users will help populate the map over the coming weeks with reports of odors, unemployed oystermen and oily birds and other animals.

The crowd-sourcing technology called Ushahidi, developed as an open-source platform by volunteers in 2008, has been put to versatile use, without charge, around the world. For some, it has been a tool for record-keeping and testimony — the meaning of the word "Ushahidi" in Swahili — from election irregularities in Sudan to crime in Atlanta. Its immediacy was on display in Haiti, where the map helped first responders, including the United States Coast Guard, find earthquake victims.

The Louisiana Bucket Brigade expects to form similar relationships with the government during the spill cleanup.

From The New York Times
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