A couple of years ago, I saw the Curry-Stone Design Prize video on FrontlineSMS that showed how women were documenting harassment in Egypt by map. I thought that if FrontlineSMS and Ushahidi could be used in that way, it could also be used on a larger scale by The United Methodist Church to pinpoint churches, hospitals, clinics, schools, universities and other ministries outside of the U.S.
This year, we conducted a pilot with three communicators: Ernani Celzo (Philippines); Betty Kazadi Musau (Lubumbashi, DRC); and Pierre Omadjela (Kinshasa, DRC) to test the theory. Each had already learned FrontlineSMS and had recorded the mobile numbers of many pastors in their system for group texting. In Nashville, we set up a crowdmap through Ushahidi, and provided training via Skype with our three “mapping administrators.”
The goal was to get 300 churches on the map. We surpassed that goal by almost double! Each of the mapping administrators sent messages to pastors, requesting a reply that contained the name of their church and location. The messages went to the map, where the mapping administrators could verify reports and position.
What this means: Now, not only are churches on a map, additional mobile numbers of pastors are in a system that will provide same-day communication – not a small feat in parts of the world that still rely on hand-delivered, printed communications. With this system, we can also document what is going on during a crisis. Ushahidi has been used this way many times. Ministries abroad can keep their supporters informed with pictures and even video that’s geo-located for detail. As time goes on, more uses will unfold.
UMCom is expanding these efforts to include all churches throughout Africa and the Philippines using this system. We will need funds to support more mapping administrators, and to provide an income-generating means for SMS. If you participate in global ministries of The UMC, you could be part of this meaningful work. Get in touch with me!