Global gaze was focused on Kenya on September 21, 2013 when the Al’Shabab terror struck Westgate mall in Nairobi. The attack killed about 65 people and injured many others. However, after the initial shock had settled, Kenyans rallied together to provide succor to the injured, donating blood and many other heroic deeds of volunteerism aimed at relieving the terrorized.  Technology played a significant role in many of these first-responder initiatives, and are being developed further in preparation for future uses.

The “#WeareOne” hastag for example, personified the collective resilience of a people who were bent but not broken. This Harambee (all together) attempted to ignite a digital innovation to restore order in an increasingly chaotic situation.

Ndesanjo Macha reports in Global Voices that:

Following the horrible attack, Ushahidi has come up with two tools for emergencies. Ushahidi is a non-profit technology company that specializes in developing free and open source software for information collection, visualization and interactive mapping. 

The two tech tools for emergency developed by Ushahidi are: “Ping app” and “Blood donation: location and needs” respectively.

Ping works like a group SMS:

  • ·       You create a list of your people (family, organization), and each person also adds another contact who is close to them (spouse, roommate, boy/girlfriend, etc).
  • ·       When a disaster happens, you send out a message for everyone to check-in. The admin sends out a 120 character message that always has “are you ok?” appended to the end.
  • ·       This goes out via text message and email (more channels can be added later).

The blood donation app was also born from the chaos that followed the Wastegate terror. Although the Kenyan Red Cross did a fantastic job at providing platforms for blood donation, it could not contain the surge of people who turned out to donate blood. According to Ushahidi, the blood donation tech tool was used to:

…set up a crowdmap deployment to map out all locations of blood drive centers, in an effort to match these areas with those willing to help at, either through blood donation, medical instruments or medical personnel.” 

Nwachukwu Egbunike is a book editor and writer in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria . He studied Medical Laboratory Science at the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus and currently blogs on Feather's Project,...