Ushahidi -- a Swahili word that means "testimony" -- has become almost synonymous with the concept of crowd-sourced live reporting. The technology platform is completely open-source, meaning a community of developers are working to improve it constantly. It doesn't make money in any way, and according to many accounts in Haiti and the Congo where it was deployed successfully, it has saved hundreds if not thousands of lives.

Now that technology has come to the Louisiana Gulf to collect vitally important data about the BP spill's impact on nearby coastal regions -- everything from dead animals and toxic fumes to sickness outbreaks and food shortages. The goal is to create a comprehensive map of impacts that will support not only scientists and engineers in their cleanup efforts, but also lawyers when the time comes for BP to go on trial. 

Right now there are three ways to contribute reports -- text message, MMS (media messages with photos) and computer uploads. Soon iPhone and Android will both have applications that will upload as well. It sounds simple but the technology needed to pull together and locate all the data points (either by time or geography) and publish them on a single chart is quite sophisticated. 

The Gulf map, which lives on the Louisiana Bucket Brigade is tracking 10 different impacts related to the BP oil spill -- oil sheen, oil onshore, wildlife, odor, smoke, health impacts, birds, wildlife, work interrupted and property impacts. Click on "All Categories" then "BP Oil Spill."

If you are in the Gulf, the simplest way to contribute any information is via txt at (504) 272-7OIL. Read more at the New York Times

Also read about Google's Crisis Response page on the gulf spill.

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