Video of the Week: Erik Hersman on Texting on a Crisis

At TEDU 2009, Erik Hersman presents the remarkable story of Ushahidi, a GoogleMap mashup that allowed Kenyans to report and track violence via cell phone texts following the 2008 elections, and has evolved to continue saving lives in other countries.

Erik Hersman grew up in Kenya and Sudan and is, as he puts it, “one of those guys who’s much more ‘at home’ in Africa.” From his home in the US, he keeps two influential blogs: WhiteAfrican, where he writes about technology on the African continent, and AfriGadget, a group blog that celebrates African ingenuity.

During the Kenyan post-election crisis of 2007-2008, Hersman helped create the website Ushahidi, a place to report incidents of violence via the web and texts. The original Ushahidi tool was written in two days; later that year, it won the NetSquared Mashup Challenge (and a nice check to help further development). Now the Ushahidi team’s next project is to build the Ushahidi Engine, a free and open-source tool for crowdsourcing information and seeing communities online. And you can help.

Erik Hersman is an alumnus of the TED Fellows program, having attended TEDGlobal 2007 in Arusha, Tanzania, and TED2009 in Long Beach, California. Find out more about the TED Fellows program.


Confirmed: Ambassadors to Europe and the Western Hemisphere

The Senate unanimously confirmed these nominees to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the following countries in Europe and the Western Hemisphere:

282, Ann Derse – Ambassador to Lithuania

284, Kennth Merten – Ambassador to Haiti

285, Donald Beyer – Ambassador to Switzerland – Liechetenstein

286, John Nay – Ambassador to Suriname

287, Vinai Thummalapally – Ambassador to Belize

288, Nicole Avant – Ambassador to the Bahamas

289, Howard Gutman – Ambassador to Belgium

290, Vilma Martinez – Ambassador to Argentina

291, David Thorne – Ambassador the Italian Republic

It looks like eight nominees did not make it out of the Senate for one reason or another this round: Capricia Penavic Marshall, Philip L. Verveer, Nancy J. Powell, Maria Otero, Carlos Pascual, Arturo Valenzuela, Thomas Shannon and Jeffrey D. Feltman. I will post the congressional record for those confirmed as soon as it becomes available.