A friend of mine who lives abroad sent me a facebook message last time with a link to Ushahidi. A platform with a growing user community and application (Ushahidi means testimony or witness) . I heard about it a while ago, checked it and didn’t know that it can make life easier to do something useful. This time I had to see it deeper and see what I can make out of it to have fun and if possible bring it out there for public use. In this post I will try to describe what I have done with it so that anyone interested can do the same and implement his/her own idea. Here is a short description of what Ushahidi is: “Ushahidi is a non-profit tech company that specializes in developing free and open source software for information collection, visualization and interactive mapping.”
Eat out Addis is a sort of restaurant/bar/cafe … guide for the people of Addis or anyone coming to Addis. Let’s say you’v been a restaurant and had an amazing meal and you want to return the favor for their hospitality or what ever you like. So, what you do is, you can either go online to review the restaurant or use your mobile phone. To be honest, I didn’t try the SMS part but you can send an SMS to a specific number to do the same. So, let us say you go online or you are using your iphone or Android based smart phone to rate the restaurant. You locate it on the map, you give it a title ( which could be the name of the restaurant), a description (your review, which appears on the map), the type ( restaurant, bar or which ever it’s category is), optionally you can also give your personal information, specific location or feature and may be a picture you took there. A trusted group of people will receive your submission to either publish it on the map or reject ( based on the information).
What did it take to build such an online application? I am going to tell you what I did, but for the none developer, Ushahidi has already prepared an easier version (hosted version) called crowdmap. The first and most important thing to try out the platform is having a web server on your local machine if you are going my way. I am using Wamp , a windows web development environment with Apache, MySQL and PHP. Download it and install it on your machine ( If you are using an operating system different from Windows, please check Xampp as an alternative but I follow the windows path). Start Wamp server from you programs list and your web server is now ready. To check if there is any problem open your browser and navigate to http://localhost/ and you will see the picture to the in the left. After installation you will have Wamp/WWW folder inside the disk where your operation system resides.
Download the Ushahidi platform ( the latest version is code named after the Capital of South Sudan- ‘Juba’). Extract the Zipped file inside the directory (Wamp/www) and rename it to a name you prefer (say ‘eatoutaddis’). If you now go to http://localhost/eatoutaddis , it will automatically redirect you to http://localhost/eatoutaddis/installer and you will see a starting point of Ushahidi installation with two options (right side picture). Before proceeding to the installation, open another tab (assuming that your browser is one of the latest tabbed browsers), or another page and go to http://locahost/phpmyadmin. This let’s you manage MySQL databases. In the text box under ‘Create new database’ label give it a name which is close to that of your site or the same and click ‘Create’ button to have a database ready for your Ushahidi instance to use. I went through the ‘Basic Installation’, so cilck on ‘proceed with basic’ and you will see the requirements of the installation. Leave the top notifications as the web server has already done that for you and write down this things:
- Database name: the name you provided above in the ‘phpmyadmin’ link
- Database username: root
- Database password: is empty by default (which is not recommended actually)
- Database host: localhost
Click ‘Let’s get started!’ and fill the above in the text boxes and leave the ‘Base path’ and ‘Table prefix’ as they are and continue.
Give the site name the name you want to appear on the top of the site, like ‘Eat Out Addis’ and the tag line is the slogan of your site (‘Discover Habesha meals in Addis’). For the email address you can give it some fake email and for the last part which says Enable Clear url, just select ‘yes’. Clean url helps in many ways which is out of the scope of this but if you like to read please follow this.
Continue to the next part and provide an administrative password for your site and the last part is a summary of what you have done so far and links to manage the functionality of your site. Your site is now ready, go to http://locahost/’name you’v given’ . If you select ‘Configure your map’ from the last part of the installation page, you will get a lot of options to set the site like you want it. You can manage the categories of your report ( in my case I have Restaurants, Bars, Cafe… ). You can also select the default country, the map provider and so on. The look and feel of the site can also be modified, if you know CSS and how to get the regions you want to change and so on. You can also change the logo of the site as I did. I hope this can get you started to do something you have been thinking. Eat Out Addis is not hosted yet for you to see it but below is the screenshot of my installation. Cheers!