Ory Okolloh is a Kenyan activist, lawyer, and blogger who is currently employed with Google as the Policy Manager for Africa. In addition, Okolloh has also been known to create a number of websites (engaging in mobile phones, social media, and Google Maps) in order to increase the use of communication and information practices in underdeveloped nations, specifically within the region of Africa where her geographical area of focus is. I chose to write about Ory Okolloh because I feel as though she is an incredible example of applying ICTs to underdeveloped nations by identifying a need and then applying that need to practices of communication and information.
Okolloh’s first ICT4D endeavor was during the year of 2006, where she had co-founded the parliamentary watchdog site Mzalendo, defined as Patriot in Swahili. The website’s mission is to “keep an eye on the Kenyan government” (www.mzalendo.com). In addition to Mzalendo, Okolloh had also assisted in creating the website Ushahidi, defined as testimony in Swahili. Ushahidi collects and records witness reports of violence by using technological resources such as text messages and Google Maps.
Furthermore, although Okolloh has worked with underdeveloped nations through a number of ICT4D practices, she also has her own individual online blog that is called Kenyan Pundit. Kenyan Pundit was created in result of Okolloh’s website Ushahidi. Reporting on happenings in Kenya and also referencing other Kenyan blogs of similarity, it acts as an outlet of information and communication for individuals that reside in Kenya and within other nations around the world. However, Okolloh has decided to resign as Ushahidi’s executive director, leaving a good-bye post on Kenyan Pundit. Okolloh states that since the beginning of the creation of Ushahidi “it has been a crazy ride…from producing an incredible open source platform and working towards scale, to building and working with an incredibly talented team, to seeing multiple uses of Ushahidi around the world, to numerous awards and press mentions.” For me, what has always been the most important aspect of the work we do has remained simple, building a tool that makes it easy for individuals and groups to tell their stories, and making it easy for these stories to be mapped/visualized. Ushahidi has grown to be that and much more, thanks especially to the wider community, which saw potential uses beyond crisis reporting and who largely shaped our growth and direction to date be it through translation efforts (Ushahidi now available in 10 languages!), or custom themes, or pushing for a hosted version (Crowdmap), or challenging us to address the shortcomings of the platform (through tools like Swift River and our community resource page) (Okolloh, www.kenyanpundit.com). Nevertheless, what Okolloh is most proud of, is the fact that Ushahidi’s platform has extended to underdeveloped nations around the world, each attempting to diminish the digital divide and continue to strive for increased accessibility of communication and information practices.