A Kenyan start-up will be monitoring the U.S. elections through crowdsourcing

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

Tuesday’s U.S.  presidential elections could prove to be a close vote. That’s why a start-up from Kenya wants to help make sure things go smoothly.

TechCrunch reports that the software company, Ushahidi, is promoting its online service called the USA Election Monitor where it will track voting irregularities reported online by email, text and social media and post its results to an interactive map.

The service isn’t new. The company’s technology was originally created in response to Kenya’s violent 2007-2008 elections and has since “gained global recognition as a highly effective tool for digitally mapping demographic events anywhere around the world,” according to the TechCrunch report. Since then its founders say the software has been deployed 100,000 times in 160 countries. Back in 2012, it was used to monitor the U.S. presidential election primarily for polling by the Obama campaign.

Now Ushahidi, which has received Silicon Valley funding, is expanding its reach even further in the United States. with added features to report long lines, ballot issues, and incidents of voter suppression. Why the U.S.?  Because the company believes that there are some issues surrounding this year’s elections that are “pretty unprecedented.”

The operation will be run from the company’s Nairobi headquarters and through its team of 30 people in eight countries, including the United States. The company is currently interviewing its crowdsourced volunteers for its verification team who will be active in screening, verifying and reporting election events as they happen.

“It’s a citizen-inspired, citizen-led election deployment,” Ushahidi’s Executive Director Daudi Were told TechCrunch.

What if problems are found? Were is confident that his software’s methodology is sound and that incidents will be reported to the “proper local authorities.”


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