Crowdsourcing Crime Information In Kenya

    by Juliana Rotich
    March 17, 2010

    Hatari.co.ke is is a website that allows anyone in Nairobi, Kenya, to submit reports about crime and corruption in the city. (“Hatari” means “danger” in Swahili.) It will provide the growing city and its inhabitants with a repository of public information about incidents such as carjacking, corruption, police harassment and others.

    This initiative builds on other crime maps such as SpotCrime and MapATL. The idea of crime mapping is not new (see EveryBlock, an Idea Lab success story), but it’s unlikely that law enforcement officials and the general public in Kenya previously had a tool to visualize crime information. This is why Hatari has potential.

    Using Ushahidi

    Screen shot 2010-03-15 at 3.26.09 AM


    This website uses the Ushahidi platform, an open source solution for crowdsourcing information. (The New York Times recently wrote about the project.) Ushahidi, which is Swahili for “testimony,” was created to map reports of violence in Kenya after elections in early 2008. Since then, the United Nations OCHA/Colombia branch has used Ushahidi for coordinating humanitarian response during the Bogota earthquake simulation. Other notable deployments of the free crowdsourcing platform have seen it used for election monitoring in India, Lebanon, Mexico and Afghanistan, among other projects.

    Crowdsourcing crime information is new in Kenya. As a result, some of the potential questions and issues arising from this implementation include: Is it legal for someone to take a picture of a corrupt cop? And what sort of information can the public expect from the law enforcement agencies regarding crime in their neighborhoods? The answers are not immediately apparent, and it will take some time to figure things out.

    With implementations like MapATL, and hyper-local sites such as EveryBlock, the availability of public data makes this kind of work much easier to do in the United States. The same cannot be said of Kenya. On the other hand, this shows that there’s an opportunity to innovate and find out whether implementations such as Hatari can encourage the government to provide more data to the public, and push closer to something like Data.gov.


    Creating a Sustainable Platform

    Some of the major challenges for Hatari include inspiring participation among the public, and figuring out how to close the feedback loop. In essence, it’s about answering the question, “Why should I report what I see?”

    To this end, Hatari includes the option to subscribe to SMS/email alerts so that people can be notified when someone reports an incident near an area they are interested in. This is the first step in providing value to the users of the site. It also leads to another challenge, which Ushahidi is working on: Making the SMS alerts system sustainable. Currently, there is a cost issue, and if the project gains more traction, the costs will rise as more people sign up for alerts. Hatari is currently reaching out to mobile service providers to see if they’re willing to donate a short code.

    Ushahidi implementations always work best with extensive partnerships with organizations on the ground. Ushahidi has reached out to several organizations and it is in the process of formalizing these partnerships. An announcement will be forthcoming in the near future. For now, though, Hatari looks like it could be the project that best showcases how crowdsourcing data can have a direct impact in the daily lives of Nairobians.

    For anyone who’s curious, here is how people can submit reports to Hatari:

    1. By sending a text message to +254719457500
    2. By sending an email to [email protected]
    3. By sending a tweet with the hashtag/s #hatari #nairobi
    4. By filling out a form at the website
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    Tagged: crime crowdsourcing everyblock kenya mapping nairobi ushahidi

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