Technology to the Rescue

The Internet shows its true worth when crisis hit. For instance, within an hour of the devastating 8.9-magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami that shook Japan yesterday, Twitter published an average of more than 1,200 tweets per minute from Tokyo. In the face of a disaster, the traditional form of communication – telephone lines – prove insufficient when compared with online platforms, and social media sites in particular. Phone lines are often the first thing to go down, and even if they’re not down, they’re probably busy – and when their not down or busy, they’re designed to connect individuals, one by one, which is not generally ideal when time is precious. Skype and Twitter are much better options.

When it works, mobile technology is perhaps the best way to collect funds quickly. While Twitter offers feeds of communication, donations actually feed, clothe, and help rebuild the lives of natural disaster victims. Telus customers, for example, can donate funds to the Salvation Army in Canada by texting QUAKE to 4567, or they can donate to the Canadian Red Cross Society by texting ASIA to 30333. Rogers has a similar program; their customers can donate $5 to the Red Cross by texting ASIA to 30333.

Google’s Person Finder web app, available in both Japanese and English, has also played in impressive role in the recent disaster by linking victims with family and friends. More than 67,800 names have been entered to date.

YouTube is not to be forgotton either. Individuals who uploaded to CitizenTube instantly reached audiences of millions who watched, tweeted, and donated in response.

In sum, the ability to instantly connect people with people and organizations that help people with money is fantastic – but we still need to figure out how to beam people out of dangerous areas. And it needs to be an iPhone app. So good job, Internet, but we still have lots of work to do.

Photo credit: Aljazeera