Juliana Rotich: A Map App for Crises

From Kenya, an open-source solution for navigating chaos.
Juliana Rotich

Juliana Rotich was born in Kenya, studied in the United States and had a business career in IT. “I was your typical geek in Chicago,” she said in a TED lecture. When Rotich was in Kenya for a vacation in 2007, violence broke out following the contested election of Mwai Kibaki. Rotich and her colleagues quickly set up a Web app to help people share information and avoid the violence.

That app, Ushahidi, makes it easy to upload information to an interactive map. It has since proved valuable in crisis management—it was used by both aid agencies and survivors after the Haitian earthquake. Ushahidi is open-source, works on the Web and mobile devices, and is constantly being adapted by its users.

Rotich says maintaining it is sometimes “like trying to fix a plane as it is flying.”

Rotich is now focused on the application of IT to sustainable African development. She’s one of the world’s leading women in technology, and a senior TED fellow.


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