Exciting news from the Ushahidi team - the new version of Crowdmap, a hosted crowdsourcing platform that allows users to share thoughts, photos, and videos with the world, was released this week in a public beta. Crowdmap 2.0 is a newer, more social version of the platform originally designed to provide a simple, hosted collaborative mapping system
At NDITech, we are always looking for new ways technology can be used as a medium for purposes of communication, participation, crisis management, and civic engagement so as soon as our beta access arrived we dove in to take a look.
Since its release in 2010, the original iteration of Crowdmap has been used to document and collect information on crises around the world. It has also been used for social activism movements including the worldwide Occupy protests and the London anti-cut movement. While the original Crowdmap Classic provided an easy way to create incident maps, the new beta version has some new capabilities that the original did not. It's an early beta, so you need to buckle up; there are bugs there, but the team is working hard to fix them.
Notes on the differences between versions from the Crowdmap team
A report by Internews on the original Crowdmap platform presented some interesting findings from surveys of Crowdmap users. According to the report, most users - about 53% - had no prior experience with online mapping technologies, and the majority of users who set up an account did not actually end up creating a map. 30% of respondents found the technology counter-intuitive and too time-consuming. Some of the particular challenges noted by users included mobilizing volunteer involvement, generating public awareness, keeping reports up to date, and dealing with persistent technical problems. However, the most active users - including governments, humanitarian organizations, and media organizations - claimed that Crowdmap helped them to map crises and emergencies and changed the way they work. As one organization noted, a main hurdle for the original Crowdmap was improvements in the user interface.
It seems that the new version may be Ushahidi's answer to these challenges. The new Crowdmap was developed in response to requests for greater flexibility and functionality for maps and posts, and is intended as a sharable, simplified platform with seamless integration across devices. The public beta is a work in progress, and the makers are encouraging users to provide their feedback on bugs and enhancements. The sleek new interactive platform is a significant step forward in providing great tools for crowdsourcing. As we've discussed, crowdsourcing is not for the faint-hearted; creating the map is the easy part, but getting it filled with valid, useful data is the real goal. That said, excellent, usable tools like Crowdmap democratize these complicated technologies, empowering more groups to attempt their own efforts at map-based citizen reporting.