According to TIME Magazine, “The TIME 100 is not a list of the most powerful people in the world, it’s not a list of the smartest people in the world, and it’s a list of the most influential people in the world. They’re scientists, they’re thinkers, they’re philosophers, they’re leaders, they’re icons, they’re artists, and they’re visionaries.”
Kenyan activist, lawyer, and blogger, Ory Okolloh has made it to the 2014 TIME 100, the annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, released with May 5 issue of TIME, which became available on Friday, April 25, 2014.
From being regularly thrown out of school in Kenya because her parents couldn’t pay the fee, to earning an undergraduate degree in Political Science from the University of Pittsburgh, to getting a Harvard Law degree, to getting a job offer from a D.C. law firm, Ory Okolloh has certainly led an inspirational life. But after graduation from Harvard Law school, she came back to help build a more accountable and transparent Africa.
Okolloh’s work is striking particularly in its uniqueness of purpose: she wants to use technology to ensure that the voices of African citizens are heard. She symbolises hope for those who believe that the internet can yet nurture culpability in corrupt governments.
In 2006, she co-founded the governmental watchdog site Mzalendo, aimed at increasing government culpability by recording bills, speeches, standing orders and more. And in the wake of the much disputed Kenyan presidential election in 2007, she co-founded Ushahidi, an online service for crowd-mapping data using recorded eyewitness reports of violence via text messages and Google Maps — be it occurrences of fraud in Kenya, survivors of the hurricane in Haiti or traffic problems in Washington; and served as the organization’s Executive Director from inception until December 2010.
But Ushahidi evolved, to become a non-profit tech company that develops open-source software platforms to be built and implemented for citizen journalist applications, so much so that her efforts there caught the attention of Google, where she served as the Policy Manager for Africa, and then philanthropist, Pierre Omidyar.
Ory is currently the director of investments for Omidyar’s government-transparency initiative in Africa and it is her mission not to give aid but to support African entrepreneurs and citizens in building their own businesses and, by extension, economies. A regular speaker on citizen journalism, technology in Africa, and the role of young people in activism, she has spoken conferences like TED, World Economic Forum, Poptech, CGI, Techonomy, Mobile Web Africa, and the Monaco Media Forum.