Working in Tech 4Dev

After spending the first half of my internship in Nairobi, I am now wrapping up the summer at Ushahidi’s San Francisco office, where I’ve been working in a business development capacity to develop a new mapping platform. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of product management, an exciting combination of business development, marketing, engineering, and design. In fact, I’ve been surprised how much I’m loving this role thus far- it’s cross functional, involves working with experts, and allows me to leverage my knowledge gained in the first MBA year.

The product I’ve been working on is largely enterprise-focused and still in beta mode, but Ushahidtec4devi’s greater mission of technology for development—“tech4dev”—is worth writing more about. The company uses cloud-based technologies—your smartphone, your computer, and even SMS, to quickly aggregate data from a base of users onto a map. This can include the location of relief supplies after earthquakes, pothole sightings in municipalities, or reports of violence, genocide, and bombings in areas as disparate as Syria, Congo, and Gaza.

The model of “crowdsourced activism” is a fascinating one, and likely to be increasingly important as government and NGO budgets are squeezed.  The City of Los Angeles, for example, used our platform to crowdsource broken sidewalk locations for repair, saving the city a costly location survey estimated at millions. Ushahidid’s platform provides ease of use, transparency, and cost saving solutions that leverage free and readily available technologies that involve the whole community. It’s a dynamic space to be working in that feels like the future of government-tech collaboration!

While I’m not totally certain where I’ll land after graduating in May, this summer has held a number of important lessons: my enjoyment of product management, my confirmed belief that governments and organizations can be made more efficient through smart technologies and data-optimization, and my love of start-up culture. It’s been an unforgettable summer of learning and exploration, and one that I suspect will shape my trajectory in ways I can’t yet realize.

– Jen Bullock, MBA 2015

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