Tag Archives: kenya

Hashtag Analysis of #Westgate Crisis Tweets

In July 2013, my team and I at QCRI launched this dashboard to analyze hashtags used by Twitter users during crises. Our first case study, which is available here, focused on Hurricane Sandy. Since then, both the UN and Greenpeace have also made use of the dashboard to analyze crisis tweets.

QCRI_Dashboard

We just uploaded 700,000+ Westgate related tweets to the dashboard. The results are available here and also displayed above. The dashboard is still under development, so we very much welcome feedback on how to improve it for future analysis. You can upload your own tweets to the dashboard if you’d like to test drive the platform.

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See also: Forensics Analysis of #Westgate Tweets (Link)

Forensics Analysis of #Westgate Tweets (Updated)

Update 1: Our original Twitter collection of Westgate-related tweets included the following hashtags: #Kenya, #Nairobi #WestgateAttack, #WestagateMall, #WestgatemallAttack, #Westgateshootout & #Westgate. While we overlooked #Westlands and Westlands, we have just fixed the oversight. This explains why the original results below differed from the iHub’s analysis which was based on tweets with the keywords Westgate and Westlands.

Update 2: The list below of first tweets to report the attack has been updated to include tweets referring to Westlands. These are denoted by an asterisk (*). 

I’m carrying out some preliminary “information forensics” research on the 740,000+ tweets posted during the Westgate attack. More specifically, I’m looking for any clues in the hours leading up to the attack that may reveal something out of the ordinary prior to the siege. Other questions I’m hoping to answer: Were any tweets posted during the crisis actionable? Did they add situational awareness? What kind of multimedia content was shared? Which tweets were posted by eyewitnesses? Were any tweets posted by the attackers or their supporters? If so, did these carry tactical information?

Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 4.20.23 AM

If you have additional suggestions on what else to search for, please feel free to post them in the comments section below, thank you very much. I’ll be working with QCRI research assistants over the next few weeks to dive deeper into the first 24 hours of the attack as reported on Twitter. This research would not be possible where it not for my colleagues at GNIP who very kindly granted me access their platform to download all the tweets. I’ve just reviewed the first hour of tweets (which proved to be highly emotional, as expected). Below are the very first tweets posted about the attack.

[12:38:20 local time]*
gun shots in westlands? wtf??

[12:41:49]*
Weird gunshot like sounds in westlands : (

[12:42:35]
Explosions and gunfight ongoing in #nairobi 

[12:42:38]
Something really bad goin on at #Westgate. Gunshots!!!! Everyone’s fled. 

[12:43:17] *
Somewhere behind Westlands? What’s up RT @[username]: Explosions and gunfight ongoing in #nairobi

[12:44:03]
Are these gunshots at #Westgate? Just heard shooting from the road behind sarit, sounded like it was coming from westgate 

[12:44:37]*
@[username] shoot out at westgate westlands mall. going on for the last 10 min

[12:44:38]
Heavily armed thugs have taken over #WestGate shopping mall. Al occupants and shoppers are on the floor. Few gunshots heard…more to follow 

[12:44:51]*
did anyone else in westlands hear that? #KOT #Nairobi 

[12:45:04]
Seems like explosions and small arms fire are coming from Westlands or Gigiri #nairobi 

[12:46:12]
Gun fight #westgate… @ntvkenya @KTNKenya @citizentvkenya any news… 

[12:46:44]*
Several explosions followed by 10 minutes of running gunfight in Nairobi westlands

[12:46:59]
Small arms fire is continuing to be exchanged intermittently. #nairobi

[12:46:59]
Something’s going on around #Westgate #UkayCentre area. Keep away if you can

[12:47:54]
Gunshots and explosions heard around #Westgate anybody nearby? #Westlands

[12:48:33]*
@KenyaRedCross explosions and gunshots heard near Westgate Mall in Westlands. Fierce shoot out..casualties probable

[12:48:36]
Shoot to kill order #westgate

See also:

  • We Are Kenya: Global Map of #Westgate Tweets [Link]
  • Did Terrorists Use Twitter to Increase Situational Awareness? [Link]
  • Analyzing Tweets Posted During Mumbai Terrorist Attacks [Link]
  • Web 2.0 Tracks Attacks on Mumbai [Link]

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Automatically Classifying Crowdsourced Election Reports

As part of QCRI’s Artificial Intelligence for Monitoring Elections (AIME) project, I liaised with Kaggle to work with a top notch Data Scientist to carry out a proof of concept study. As I’ve blogged in the past, crowdsourced election monitoring projects are starting to generate “Big Data” which cannot be managed or analyzed manually in real-time. Using the crowdsourced election reporting data recently collected by Uchaguzi during Kenya’s elections, we therefore set out to assess whether one could use machine learning to automatically tag user-generated reports according to topic, such as election-violence. The purpose of this post is to share the preliminary results from this innovative study, which we believe is the first of it’s kind.

uchaguzi

The aim of this initial proof-of-concept study was to create a model to classify short messages (crowdsourced election reports) into several predetermined categories. The classification models were developed by applying a machine learning technique called gradient boosting on word features extracted from the text of the election reports along with their titles. Unigrams, bigrams and the number of words in the text and title were considered in the model development. The tf-idf weighting function was used following internal validation of the model.

The results depicted above confirm that classifiers can be developed to automatically classify short election observation reports crowdsourced from the public. The classification was generated by 10-fold cross validation. Our classifier is able to correctly predict whether a report is related to violence with an accuracy of 91%, for example. We can also accurately predict  89% of reports that relate to “Voter Issues” such as registration issues and reports that indicate positive events, “Fine” (86%).

The plan for this Summer and Fall is to replicate this work for other crowdsourced election datasets from Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Uganda. We hope the insights gained from this additional research will reveal which classifiers and/or “super classifiers” are portable across certain countries and election types. Our hypothesis, based on related crisis computing research, is that classifiers for certain types of events will be highly portable. However, we also hypothesize that the application of most classifiers across countries will result in lower accuracy scores. To this end, our Artificial Intelligence for Monitoring Elections platform will allow election monitoring organizations (end users) to create their own classifiers on the fly and thus meet their own information needs.

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Big thanks to Nao for his excellent work on this predictive modeling project.

PeaceTXT Kenya: Since Wars Begin in Minds of Men


“Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.” – 
UNESCO Constitution, 1945

Today, in Kenya, PeaceTXT is building the defenses of peace out of text messages (SMS). As The New York Times explains, PeaceTXT is developing a “text messaging service that sends out blasts of pro-peace messages to specific areas when trouble is brewing.” Launched by PopTech in partnership with the Kenyan NGO Sisi ni Amani (We are Peace), the Kenyan implementation of PeaceTXT uses mobile advertising to market peace and change men’s behaviors.

Conflicts are often grounded in the stories and narratives that people tell them-selves and in the emotions that these stories evoke. Narratives shape identity and the social construct of reality—we interpret our lives through stories. These have the power to transform or infect relationships and communities. As US-based PeaceTXT partner CureViolence (formerly CeaseFire) has clearly shown, violence propagates in much the same way as infectious diseases do. The good news is that we already know how to treat the later: by blocking transmission and treating the infected. This is precisely the approach taken by CureViolence to successfully prevent violence on the streets of Chicago, Baghdad and elsewhere.

The challenge? CureViolence cannot be everywhere at the same time. But the “Crowd” is always there and where the crowd goes, mobile phones often follow. PeaceTXT leverages this new reality by threading a social narrative of peace using mobile messages. Empirical research in public health (and mobile adver-tising) clearly demonstrates that mobile messages & reminders can change behaviors. Given that conflicts are often grounded in the narratives that people tell themselves, we believe that mobile messaging may also influence conflict behavior and possibly prevent the widespread transmission of violent mindsets.

To test this hypothesis, PopTech partnered with Sisi ni Amani in 2011 to pilot and assess the use of mobile messaging for violence interruption and prevention since SNA-K had already been using mobile messaging for almost three years to promote peace, raise awareness about civic rights and encourage recourse to legal instruments for dispute resolution. During the twelve months leading up to today’s Presidential Elections, the Kenyan NGO Sisi ni Amani (SNA-K) has worked with PopTech and PeaceTXT partners (Medic Mobile, QCRI, Ushahidi & CureViolence) to identify the causes of peace in some of the country’s most conflict-prone communities. Since wars begin in the minds of men, SNA-K has held dozens of focus groups in many local communities to better understand the kinds of messaging that might make would-be perpetrators think twice before committing violence. Focus group participants also discussed the kinds of messaging needed to counter rumors. Working with Ogilvy, a global public relations agency with expertise in social marketing, SNA-K subsequently codified the hundreds of messages developed by the local communities to produce a set of guidelines for SNA-K staff to follow. These guidelines describe what types of messages to send to whom, where and when depending on the kinds of tensions being reported.

In addition to organizing these important focus groups, SNA-K literally went door-to-door in Kenya’s most conflict-prone communities to talk with residents about PeaceTXT and invite them to subscribe to SNA-Ks free SMS service. Today, SNA-K boasts over 60,000 SMS subscribers across the country. Thanks to Safaricom, the region’s largest mobile operator, SNA-K will be able to send out 50 million text messages completely for free, which will significantly boost the NGO’s mobile reach during today’s elections. And thanks to SNA-K’s customized mobile messaging platform built by the Praekelt Foundation, the Kenyan NGO can target specific SMS’s to individual subscribers based on their location, gender and demographics. In sum, as CNN explains, “the intervention combines targeted SMS with intensive on-the-ground work by existing peace builders and community leaders to target potential flashpoints of violence.” 

The partnership with Pop-Tech enabled SNA-K to scale thanks to the new funding and strategic partnerships provided by PopTech. Today, PeaceTXT and Sisi ni Amani have already had positive impact in the lead up to today’s important elections. For example, a volatile situation in Dandora recently led to the stabbing of several individuals, which could have resulted in a serious escalation of violence. So SNA-K sent the following SMS: 

Screen Shot 2013-03-03 at 4.34.44 PM 

“Tu dumisha amani!” means “Lets keep the peace!” SNA-K’s local coordinator in Dandore spoke with a number of emotionally distraught and (initially) very angry individuals in the area who said they had been ready to mobilizing and take revenge. But, as they later explained, the SMS sent out by SNA-K made them think twice. They discussed the situation and decided that more violence wouldn’t bring their friend back and would only bring more violence. They chose to resolve the volatile situation through mediation instead.

In Sagamian, recent tensions over land issues resulted in an outbreak of violence. So SNA-K sent the following message:

Screen Shot 2013-03-03 at 4.37.48 PM 

Those involved in the fighting subsequently left the area, telling SNA-K that they had decided not to fight after receiving the SMS. What’s more, they even requested that additional messages to be sent. Sisi ni Amani has collected dozens of such testimonials, which suggest that PeaceTXT is indeed having an impact. Historian Geoffrey Blainey once wrote that “for every thousand pages on the causes of war, there is less than one page directly on the causes of peace.” Today, the PeaceTXT Kenya & SNAK partnership is making sure that for every one SMS that may incite violence, a thousand messages of peace, calm and solidarity will follow to change the minds of men. Tudumishe amani!

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Cross-posted on PopTech blog.

Evaluating the Impact of SMS on Behavior Change

The purpose of PeaceTXT is to use mobile messaging (SMS) to catalyze behavior change vis-a-vis peace and conflict issues for the purposes of violence prevention. You can read more about our pilot project in Kenya here and here. We’re hoping to go live next month with some initial trials. In the meantime, we’ve been busy doing research to develop an appropriate monitoring and evaluation strategy. As is often the case in this new innovative initiatives, we have to look to other fields for insights, which is why my colleague Peter van der Windt recently shared this peer-reviewed study entitled: “Mobile Phone Technologies Improve Adherence to Antiretroviral Treatment in a Resource-Limited Setting: A Randomized Con-trolled Trial of Text Message Reminders.”

The objective of the study was to test the “efficacy of short message service (SMS) reminders on adherence to Antiretroviral Treatment (ART) among patients attending a rural clinic in Kenya.” The authors used a Randomized Control Trial (RCT) of “four SMS reminders interventions with 48 weeks of follow-up.” Over four hundred patients were enrolled in the trial and “randomly assigned to a control group or one of the four intervention groups. Participants in the intervention groups received SMS reminders that were either short or long and sent at a daily or weekly frequency.”

The four different text message interventions were “chosen to address different barriers to adherence such as forgetful- ness and lack of social support. Short messages were meant to serve as a simple reminder to take medications, whereas long messages were meant to provide additional support. Daily messages were close to the frequency of medication usage, whereas weekly messages were meant to avoid the possibility that very frequent text messages would be habituating.” The SMS content was developed after extensive consultation with clinic staff and the messages were “sent at 12 p.m., rather than twice daily (during dosing times) to avoid excess reliance on the accuracy of the SMS  software.”

The results of the subsequent statistical analysis reveal that “53% of participants receiving weekly SMS reminders achieved adherence of at least 90% during the 48 weeks of the study, compared with 40% of participants in the control group. Participants in groups receiving weekly reminders were also significantly less likely to experience treatment interruptions exceeding 48 hours during the 48-week follow-up period than participants in the control group.” Interestingly, “adding words of encouragement in the longer text message reminders was not more effective than either a short reminder or no reminder.” Furthermore, it is worth noting that “weekly reminders improved adherence, whereas daily remin-ders did not. Habituation, or the diminishing of a response to a frequently repeated stimulus, may explain this finding. Daily messages might also have been considered intrusive.”

In sum, “despite SMS outages, phone loss, and a rural population, these results suggest that simple SMS interventions could be an important strategy to sustaining optimal ART response.” In other words, SMS reminders can serve as an important tool to catalyze positive behavior change in resource-limited settings. Several insights from this study are going to be important for us to consider in our PeaceTXT project. So if you know of any other relevant studies we should be paying attention to, then please let us know. Thank you!

Finally, A Decision-Support Platform for SMS Use in Disaster Response

Within weeks of the 2010 Haiti Earthquake, I published this blog post entitled “How to Royally Mess Up Disaster Response in Haiti.” A month later, I published another post on “Haiti and the Tyranny of Technology.” I also called for an SMS Code of Conduct as described here. Some of the needs and shortcomings expressed in these blog posts have finally been answered by InfoAsAid‘s excellent Message Library, “an online searchable database of messages that acts as a reference for those wanting to disseminate critical information to affected populations in an emergency.”

“If used in the correct way, the library should help improve communication with crisis-affected populations.” As my colleague Anahi Ayala explains with respect to the disaster response in Haiti,

“One of the main problem that emerged was not only the need to communicate but the need for a coordinated and homogeneous message to be delivered to the affected communities. The problem was posed by the fact that as agencies and organizations were growing in number and size, all of them were trying in different ways to deliver messages to the beneficiaries of aid, with the result of many messages, sometimes contradicting each other, delivered to many people, sometimes not the right receiver for that message.”

This platform can be used for both disaster response and preparedness. In the latter case, preparedness exercises can “Involve communities to identify threats and draft appropriate messages using the message library as a reference.” Organizations can also “Pre-test the messages with different segments of society (consider differences in gender, rural/urban, education levels, age) to ensure comprehension.” In terms of disaster response, the platform can be used to disseminate information on the “scale, nature and impact of the disaster (humanitarian news); Alerts about secondary disasters such as aftershocks, landslides or flooding; Messages about how to stay safe and mitigate risk in the face of anticipated threats.”

At PeaceTXT, we’re taking a very similar approach to SMS messaging. In our case, we are developing an SMS Library specifically for the purposes of changing recipients’ behaviors and perceptions vis-a-vis peace and conflict issues in Kenya. This shift towards a culture of preparedness is really important, both for disaster response and conflict prevention. We are currently organizing a series of focus groups with local communities to develop the content of our SMS Library. We plan to review this content in August for inclusion in the library. I very much look forward to scheduling a conference call between InfoAsAid and PeaceTXT in the coming months to share lessons learned thus far in the development of our respective message libraries.

For more on InfoAsAid’s absolutely critical resource, this short video provides a very good summary, including how sensitive messages are managed and how you can contribute SMS content to this very important service. Some serious thanks and praise are in order for InfoAsAid’s work. I do hope that the team at InfoAsAid will join us at the International Crisis Mappers Conference  (ICCM 2012) to share the latest on their excellent initiatives.

SMS for Violence Prevention: PeaceTXT International Launches in Kenya

[Cross-posted from my post on the Ushahidi blog]

One of the main reasons I’m in Nairobi this month is to launch PeaceTXT International with PopTech, Praekelt Foundation, Sisi ni Amani and several other key partners. PeaceTXT International is a spin-off from the original PeaceTXT project that several of us began working on with CeaseFire Chicago last year. I began thinking about the many possible international applications of the PeaceTXT project during our very first meeting, which is why I am thrilled and honored to be spearheading the first PeaceTXT International pilot project.

The purpose of PeaceTXT is to leverage mobile messaging to catalyze behavior change around peace and conflict issues. In the context of Chicago, the joint project with CeaseFire aims to leverage SMS reminders to interrupt gun violence in marginalized neighborhoods. Several studies in other fields of public health have already shown the massive impact that SMS reminders can have on behavior change, e.g., improving drug adherence behavior among AIDS and TB patients in Africa, Asia and South America.

Our mobile messaging campaign in Chicago builds on another very successful one in the US: “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drink and Drive.” Inspired by this approach, the PeaceTXT Team is looking to launch a friends-don’t-let-friends-get-killed campaign. Focus groups recently conducted with high-risk individuals have resulted in rich content for several dozen reminder messages (see below) that could be disseminated via SMS. Note that CeaseFire has been directly credited for significantly reducing the number of gun-related killings in Chicago over the past 10 years. In other words, they have a successful and proven methodology; one being applied to several other cities and countries worldwide. PeaceTXT simply seeks to scale this success by introducing SMS.

These messages are user-generated in that the content was developed by high-risk individuals themselves—i.e., those most likely to get involved in gun violence. The messages are not limited to reminders. Some also prompt the community to get engaged by responding to various questions. Indeed, the project seeks to crowdsource community solutions to gun violence and thus greater participation. When high-risk individuals were asked how they’d feel if they were to receive these messages on their phones, they had the following to share: “makes me feel like no one is forgetting about me”; “message me once a day to make a difference.”

Given that both forwarding and saving text messages is very common among the population that CeaseFire works with, the team hopes that the text messages will circulate and recycle widely. Note that the project is still in prototype phase but going into implementation mode as of 2012. So we’ll have to wait and see how the project fares and what the initial impact looks like.

In the meantime, PeaceTXT is partnering with Sisi ni Amani (We are Peace) to launch its first international pilot project. Rachel Brown, who spearheads the initiative, first got in touch with me back in the Fall of 2009 whilst finishing her undergraduate studies at Tufts. Rachel was interested in crowdsourcing a peace map of Kenya, which I blogged about here shortly after our first conversation. Since then, Rachel and her team have set up the Kenyan NGO Sisi ni Amani Kenya (SnA-K) to leverage mobile technology for awareness raising and civic engagement with the aim of preventing possible violence during next year’s Presidential Elections.

SnA-K currently manages a ~10,000 member SMS subscriber list in Baba Dogo and Korogocho, Kamukunji and Narok. SnA-K’s SMS campaigns focus on voter education, community cohesion and rumor prevention. What SnA-K needs, how-ever, is the scalable SMS broadcasting technology, the type of focus that PeaceTXT brought to CeaseFire Chicago and the unique response methodology developed by the CeaseFire team. So I reached out to Rachel early on during the work in Chicago to let her know about PeaceTXT and to gain insights from her projects in Kenya. We set up regular conference calls throughout the year to keep each other informed of our respective progress and findings.

Soon enough, PopTech’s delightful Leetha Filderman asked me to put together a pitch for international applications of PeaceTXT’s work, an initiative I have “code-named” PeaceTXT International. I was absolutely thrilled when she shared the good news at PopTech 2011 that our donor, the Rita Allen Foundation, had provided us with additional funding, some of which could go towards an international pilot project. Naturally, Sisi ni Amani was a perfect fit.

So we organized a half-day brainstorming session at the iHub last week to chart the way forward on PeaceTXT Kenya. For example, what is the key behavioral change variable (like friendship in Chicago) that is most likely to succeed in Kenya? As for interrupting violence, how can the CeaseFire methodology be customized for the SnA-K context? Finally, what kind of SMS broadcasting technology do we need to have in place to provide maximum flexibility and scalability earlier rather than later? Answering these questions and implementing scalable solutions essentially forms the basis of the partnership between SnA-K and PeaceTXT (which also includes Mobile:Medic & Revolution Messaging). We have some exciting leads on next steps and will be sure to blog about them as we move forward to get feedback from the wider community.

Conflicts are often grounded in the stories and narratives that people tell themselves and the emotions that these stories generate. Narratives shape identity and the social construct of reality—we interpret our lives through stories. These have the power to transform relationships and communities. We believe the PeaceTXT model can be applied to catalyze behavior  change vis-a-vis peace and conflict issues at the community level by amplifying new narratives via SMS. There is considerable potential here and still much to learn, which is why I’m thrilled to be working with SnA, PopTech & partners on launching our first international pilot project: PeaceTXT Kenya.

Crisis Mapping by Fire: Satellite Imagery Analysis of Kenya’s Election Violence

My brother Brice just sent me a very interesting study that combines satellite imagery and field reporting to analyze Kenya’s 2008 election violence. The peer-reviewed piece is entitled “Violence and Exodus in Kenya’s Rift Valley, 2008: Predictable and Preventable?” and was pub- lished in the Journal of East African Studies.

Given the use of satellites to monitor the referendum in Sudan, this blog post reviews the methodology and insights gained from the Kenya analysis. I’ll do this by providing key excerpts from the study along with my own commentary. This case study is of particularly interest to me since I was in Kenya the time and because that was when the first Ushahidi platform was launched. For more information on the use of satellite imagery to document human rights abuses, I highly recommend Amnesty International’s Science for Human Rights Explorer.

I wasn’t aware how much scrambling for information was going on in the humanitarian community:

“Over the first days, and then weeks following the December election, information about the outbreak and extent of violence was fragmented and difficult to access. Even those tasked with responding most rapidly to violence and displacement faced problems in interpreting information that was frequently distorted by rumour and misinformation.”

Interesting to know that humanitarians were facing some of the same challenges as crowdsourcing presents. Would using SwiftRiver have made a difference to try and assess the validity of the information they were collecting?

“In the early days of January 2007, UN agencies and other humanitarian bodies had numerous sources reporting that tens of thousands of people had been displaced and dozens killed across the country, yet details on the extent, location, and chronology of the violence were hard to establish, making it difficult for these agencies to plan an effective response.”

Note the need for location and time-stamped information. Would drawing on reports from the Ushahidi platform have helped? See my co-authored study on Crisis Mapping Kenya’s Election Violence. That said, this was the first time that Ushahidi was deployed in Kenya so the reports may not have been of the highest quality.

“The Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), for example, implemented the election contingency plan it had put in place prior to the December polls, but staff could not confirm reports of violence, and could not deliver essential food and relief items to those people displaced by the fighting because of roadblocks mounted by protestors. Even after carrying out a helicopter assessment mission on 1 January 2008, the KRCS still found it difficult to present an overall picture of the location and timing of the violence.”

So UN agencies in Kenya turned to satellite imagery.

“In response to the challenges facing them in January 2007, UN agencies in Kenya asked UNOSAT to produce a series of maps showing the likely location of election-related violence in the west of the country. UNOSAT has a variety of satellite imaging data available to them, but one tool used to map conflict situations is data on active fires. Fire plays an important role in forcing people from their homes and terrorizing local populations, so the location of active burn sites in a conflict zone offers a reasonable indicator of where violence and displacement is occurring.”

“Indeed, upon examining available fire data from Kenya for 27 December to 3 January, staff at UNOSAT noticed unusual patterns of fires on tea plantations—areas where fire is never normally employed for agricultural management. They then carried out further analysis, and created maps of areas where, according to a chronological and spatial evaluation of the fire data, it was ‘probable that a majority of detected fires are directly or indirectly linked to the civil unrest’.”

“The result was five maps covering a portion of Rift Valley Province from Nakuru to Kitale, as well as the eastern edges of Nyanza and Western Provinces. Map 1 provides an aggregate view of all active fire locations from 27 December 2007 to 3 January 2008.”

“Maps 2-5 show fires on specific days during that period. Each of the diamonds on the maps represents an area of a square kilometre that contained an active fire location at the time a satellite passed overhead. Fires generally have to cover an area of about fifty square metres to be noticed by this technology, though intensity can affect this. The colouring in the background, on the other hand, is a function of the relative clustering of active fire locations—purely a tool to direct the map-reader and not an indication of fire intensity.”

“Apart from demonstrating the geographical dimensions of the arson and conflict occurring in the area, the maps also begin to provide a general chronology of events into which more specific accounts from witness testimonies and other sources can be integrated. UNOSAT’s four chronological maps (Maps 2-5) cover the majority of the eight day period: 27-28 December, 29-30 December, 1 January, and 2!3 January, and provide powerful visuals of how events unfolded.”

“It is important to bear in mind that gaps in data collection occurred on 31 December and 2 January, and that satellite imagery captures what is happening in a particular fraction of a second—data acquisition times generally occurred around 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 11 p.m. Kenyan local time. Bearing this in mind, it is possible using the maps to begin to understand the broad pattern of the escalation of the violence over the period.”

The authors of the study point out some limitations:

“These maps are visually compelling, but we should note that they ‘hide’ important dimensions of the violence—on a map all fires look the same. Violence in urban areas, for instance, differed markedly from that in rural areas, and these maps do not represent this difference. Another example is how little these maps reveal about the increasingly serious situation in Mt Elgon.”

This limitation is inherent to static maps, not so for live crisis maps that are interactive and dynamic.

“The mark of a single fire in the southern part of the district included on two of the maps does not stand out from the other fire locations. However, we know from other sources that violence in Mt Elgon continued to increase in severity after the elections. If violence was occurring on the Chebyuk land settlement schemes on Mt Elgon at this time, then it did not involve fires of sufficient magnitude to be detected by this satellite technology.”

“The mapping of fires can therefore tell us only part of the story. Cohesive explanations of specific situations can only begin to emerge if we triangulate the evidence provided by the maps with other kinds of information. This research is continuing, but at this stage we can offer a preliminary analysis that highlights several significant points:

  • Even before the first wave of violence in the Rift Valley was sparked by the announcement of the presidential poll result on 30 December 2007, conflict had already broken out in some areas over the two days between the closure of the polls and the announcement of the presidential result. This correlates with evidence in media and human rights reports that some majimboist activists planned violence after the election regardless of the outcome of the vote.
  • Over the hours following Kivuitu’s announcement of Kibaki’s victory, violence broke out in several different locations across the province, some of this undoubtedly a spontaneous reaction to the alleged ‘theft’ of the election, and targeted against persons associated with the PNU and its allies. However, many other attacks were evidently planned and orchestrated. Kikuyu-settled areas of Eldoret were ablaze within two hours of Kibaki’s re-election, armed Kalenjin men arriving in lorries to carry out the attacks. These assaults were not confined to ‘aliens’, but included attacks upon properties owned by ex-president Moi and his close Kalenjin associates, including Nicholas Biwott, whose KANU party had made an electoral pact with PNU.
  • The locations of this first major wave of violence in the first week of January show a clear spatial pattern: the outbreaks were invariably in places where non-indigenous populations were living. The targets of this violence were predominantly Kikuyu and Kisii communities, who were identified as PNU supporters. Though many attacks were murderous, the main purpose was to ‘chase away’ the victims. By 6 January, the Kenya Red Cross estimated a national figure of 211,000 persons internally displaced in violence since 30 December, the vast majority of these being within Rift Valley.
  • The violence accordingly coalesced in two types of location: the first was larger and smaller towns, where populations are ethnically more mixed and where businesses are concentrated—for example the rapid upsurge of conflict in and around Eldoret. The second was on rural settlement schemes, where land has been purchased or leased by farmers from a wide range of ethnic groups—for example, Burnt Forest, Ndalat, and the Molo area of Nakuru District. The settlement schemes at Burnt Forest, the scene of dreadful violence in the 1990s, were completely cut off by road barricades by the morning of 1 January, impeding the work of relief agencies, in what was clearly an organized and coordinated assault.”

This study clearly shows the added value of combining satellite imagery analysis with reporting from the ground. This analysis was all carried out retroactively, however. To this end, lets hope that the Satellite Sentinel Project, which I blogged about here, and Sudan Vote Monitor, which uses the Ushahidi platform, will be sharing information to allow for near real-time integrated analysis.

Ushahidi for Mobile Banking

I just participated in a high-level mobile banking (mBanking) conference in Nairobi, which I co-organized with colleagues from The Fletcher School.

Participants included the Governor of Kenya’s Central Bank, Kenya’s Finance Minister, the directors/CEO’s of Safaricom, Equity Bank, Bankable Frontier Associates, Iris Wireless, etc, and senior representatives from the Central Banks of Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi as well as CGAP, Google, DAI, etc.

mBanking1

The conference blog is available here and the Twitter feed I set up is here. The extensive work that went into organizing this international conference explains my relative absence from iRevolution; that and my three days off the grid in Lamu with Fletcher colleagues and Erik Hersman.

I have already blogged about mBanking here so thought I’d combine  my interest in the subject with my ongoing work with Ushahidi.

One of the issues that keeps cropping up when discussing mBanking (and branchless banking) is the challenge of agent reliability and customer service. How does one ensure the trustworthiness of a growing network of agents and simultaneously handle customer complaints?

A number of speakers at Fletcher’s recent conference highlighted these challenges and warned they would become more pressing with time. So this got me thinking about an Ushahidi-for-mBanking platform.

Since mBanking customers by definition own a mobile phone, a service like M-Pesa or Zap could provide customers with a dedicated short code which they could use to text in concerns or report complaints along with location information. These messages could then be mapped in quasi real-time on an Ushahidi platform. This would provide companies like Safaricom and Zain with a crowdsourced approach to monitoring their growing agent network.

A basic spatial analysis of these customer reports over time would enable Safaricom and Zain to identify trends in customer complaints. The geo-referenced data could also provide the companies with a way to monitor agent-reliability by location. Safaricom could then offer incentives to M-Pesa agents to improve agent compliance and reward them accordingly.

In other words, the “balance of power” would shift from the agent to the customer since the latter would now be in position to report on quality of service.

But why wait for Safaricom and Zain to kick this off? Why not simply launch two public parallel platforms, one for M-Pesa and the other for Zap to determine which of the two companies receive more complaints and how quickly they respond to them?

To make the sites sustainable, one could easily come up with a number of business plan models. One idea might be to provide advertising space on the Ushahidi-mBanking site. In addition, the platform would provide a way to collect the mobile phone numbers of individual clients; this information could then be used to broadcast ads-by-SMS on a weekly basis, for example.

If successful, this approach could be replicated with Wizzit and MTN in South Africa and gCash in the Philippines. I wish I had several more weeks in Nairobi to spearhead this but I’m heading back to the Sudan to continue my consulting work with the UN’s Threat and Risk Mapping Analysis (TRMA).

Patrick Philippe Meier

Top 5 iRevolution Posts of 2008

Here are the five most popular posts of 2008 on iRevolution:

  1. The Past and Future of Crisis Mapping
  2. Crisis Mapping Kenya’s Election Violence
  3. SMS and Web 2.0 for Mumbai Early Warning
  4. Intellipedia for Humanitarian Warning/Response
  5. Tracking Genocide by Remote Sensing

Happy Holidays!

Patrick Philippe Meier