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Surprising Science

Nairobi Mall Siege Inspires Simple Group Check-In Tool

The tragic event compelled nonprofit tech company Ushahidi to create a rough draft of a tool that eventually can be used by even the simplest cell phones. They’ve posted the code online in hopes that others will help finish it.

What’s the Latest Development?

Recent events at Nairobi’s Westgate Mall, in which over 60 people were killed at the hands of terrorist group Al-Shabaab, have inspired Ushahidi — a nonprofit tech company founded in Kenya — to build the structure for a basic software tool that will allow groups of people to use their phones to check on each other in case of an emergency. Named Ping, it lets users create a list of contacts to which a 120-character message, ending with “Are you ok?” can be sent via text or e-mail. The message goes out continuously until people respond. For those who don’t respond, the tool will text their emergency contacts in an attempt to locate them.

What’s the Big Idea?

Although this type of instant group check-in technology already exists, Ushahidi executive Erik Hersman explained on the company’s blog that they’re targeting a bigger user base: “[W]e have a need to make it work for even the simplest phones. Our goal is to have this available for anyone globally to use.” Interested volunteers are invited to help further flesh out the tool at Github, where they’ve posted the code.

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Read it at FastCompany/Co.Exist


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