Where Africa and Technology Collide!

Using Technology to Chronicle Incidents of Violence

Sometimes there’s nothing more that you can do at the time than report what you see. That’s the idea behind the project that Ory thought up while reporting on the Kenyan elections. Basically, let’s create a mashup that people can report into on incidences of violence that they see.

Basically, you have an incident – that hopefully someone gets a picture or video of. A report on what happened and who was involved, and a location. That information is submitted and then populated into a map-based view that is easy to search by location and/or category.

It seems to me that the easy part is the mashup. Many past examples of map mashups pull from a database (or RSS feeds). In this case, a new database would need to be created. It too could have an RSS feed for “new” reports though and become the nexus for cataloging post-election incidents in Kenya.

An Example:
Below we see a reported atrocity in near Eldoret, Kenya shown on Google Maps. Imagine if this was done with all such incidents of violence throughout the country.

(click on the flames)

View Larger Map

An image of what happened:

Church Burning in Eldoret after the Kenyan Elections

Something like this, but more centralized and easy to access by anyone around the world.


  1. This is a little bit like the “Communities of conscience” discussed in a BBC report last year, covering the use of Google Maps to allow people to drill down and see the real story behind the images. That was reported at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/6543185.stm and covered the refugee situation in Darfur.

    In this case, the whole thing was set up by The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC. As you seem to suggest, Erik, it would be cool if citizens could somehow contribute to something like this by taking a photo with a camera phone and uploading it to a site, which might then automatically create the various layers of information and icons.


  2. That’s exactly right Ken. We’re working on what this mashup will look like now actually. More news as we get it done…

  3. We’ve actually got a mashup already going at http://www.kenyanpeople.com.

    All events submitted are reported real time to the engine so that they will display immediately.

    We are working on getting different marker images to go with the different event ‘types’.

    I am also hoping to make a ‘.kml’ file available for download directly into Google Earth. Look for that soon.

    Please let us know your thoughts and comments.

  4. great idea, but what comes into my mind: how to solve the problem that most of the incidents and violence are happening in areas where basically noone has access to internet – lets say the very striking example of nairobi slums? and another thing: any ideas on how to spread the word apart from email? sorry for asking the obvious,

  5. Check out http://socialight.com/

    They’ve been doing that for a while now. A few other companies have similar things – automatically upload/tag photos onto global maps via gps/etc.

    I’m sure one of those companies would jump at the chance for PR by helping out a nonprofit.

  6. Google Earth is a wonderfull tool to plot world events. I plotted the site above from news accounts on the Internet. The site in the photo is typical of the general area under high resolution. I am not an eye-witness. I work at home in Oak Park, Ill., and plot news events around the world on Google Earth as a hobby. Thank you for the opportunity to bring world events a bit more in focus.

  7. What a brilliant idea – I had thought of this at one point for the Niger Delta – collate all the sights of oil spills, fires and leaking pipes – but I did / do not have the technical know how so abandoned the idea which is pretty sad but……If there is anyone who would want to help me with the technical side of doing this please give me a buzz.

  8. Something very similar to this was used during hurricane Katrina.

    You can see the actual Mashup for Katrina here:


    Check out some of the markers and you get an idea of how useful it could be.

    My wife was in Kisumu until September and a Mashup would have been really helpful for information on the violence since the MSM only provided nationwide information, not specifics on neighborhoods.

  9. Well, it’s looking good so far. I’d suggest turning on the option to show the satellite view – it’s very helpful for where the map information is wrong.

    The link above seems to have included the “.” in the url – this is fine for the browser, but makes the google maps code think that the url doesn’t match the one you registered for the API key. (Once I removed the “.”, it was fine.)

    Also, is there a way of refining the map location of the events? The ones you have up are all posted simply to the centre of Nairobi, but there is information in the text that could be manually translated to more refined locations (eg: “Kibera Slum”)

    Great work so far, by the way. I’d be quite happy to try to help out a little. It looks like you could populate it quite rapidly from the various Kenya blogs (http://josephkaroki.wordpress.com/ alone has a lot of events).

  10. Great idea! I will post a link to a mashup once it is up and running. I tried the link provided above to http://www.kenyanpeople.com but got an error message about the interface with google maps. Will try again from another computer, but I can generally open google maps so there may be some error in the coding.

  11. I’m a large scale ecologist and have lived in kenya since 1965. Great idea, but most effective if incidents can be linked to visualize and solve patterns of civil disturbance. Like the use of the Kabolet forest in Cherengani to shelter armed cattle raiders and follow them to points of disposal, Nairobi, Uganda and S. Sudan. Nation 6 March 08 connects this with Sabaot Land defence force killing 100’s displacing tens of 1000s and stealing over 30000 cattle in Trans Nzoia E. Districs during post election violence.

    In last 2 years over 40000 cattle have been raided from south west Samburu and N west Laikipia By armed gangs from The same forest shelters. over 100 Samburu have been killed.

    Guns and Lorry transport are supplied by unknamed “tycoons from Kaplamai and Cheptargai. Photo info is not often possible. But
    places, names and times and extent of losses that can be mapped can help locate and publicize the terrible patterns of these related cases of violence. Best regards Mike

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