“The land belongs to the people.” This is not political slogan but rather the motto of Deriban, an online project in Ukraine that emerged from the Internews Social Innovation Camp held in the summer of 2011. In Ukraine, as in many other post-soviet countries, land distribution among citizens is often plagued by corruption and other legal violations. But using crowdsourcing tools, civic activists are now able to send reports about violations to the Deriban platform for publication.
Ukrainian NGO “Nevus” launched Deriban.net to track land violations through a visual display. The goal of Deriban (derived from modern Ukrainian political slang that means “capture of land”) is to encourage active members of society to overcome barriers to access to information about general city planning, illegal distribution of parcels of land, corruption and so on.
The project utilizes Ushahidi, an open source crowdsourcing platform that provides geolocation options, to display reported land violations. Deriban allows civic activists and ordinary citizens to submit reports on violations, select a category (for example corruption or improper use of land), locate them on the map, upload photos, add the links to video (Ushahidi does not have the capacity to upload video so the reporter must upload to YouTube or Vimeo and share the link to the video) and write comments. The Ushahidi platform accepts reports not only via the website but also from iOS and Android applications, which makes it very useful for crowdsourcing.
(Screenshot of Deriban.net homepage)
Leonid Kolesnykov, who is affiliated with the NGO “Novus” in Alushta and has been one of the key drivers behind the Deriban.net concept, explained that, “Citizen journalists in our region are not very active yet, but every year the activity grows”. Civic activity has also provoked a response from the local government. The mayor of Alushta city told “Segonya,” the local newspaper, that the city administration was ready to accept reports from Deriban. But he was also concerned about possible fake reports and manipulation.
Spreading activities: Alushta-Ukraine-transit
The project started as a local platform just for Alushta, then reports started to come from the Crimea peninsula. Next reports from Kiev appeared. After that, Deriban became international; activists from Moscow and other regions of Russia started to report land violations through Deriban. As Leonid Kolesnykov explained, “Russian activists connected with us and asked for help to share their problems, too, and as it open platform, we didn't argue.”
The shift in activity on Deriban.net from Ukraine to Russia continues with the majority of the most recent reports from Moscow and other regions in Russia.
The ubiquity of land rights issues
It is clear that not only Ukrainian society struggles to defend its land rights. Some post-soviet countries face equally daunting fights against corruption and land rights violations. There is significant potential for the use of Deriban to spread to other Russian-speaking countries that have yet to find an effective platform to report their grievances.
Considering the pervasiveness of conflict over land, other organizations promoting land rights can benefit from the experiences of the Deriban.net team to create their own tailored reporting platforms using Ushahidi’s customizable features.