typhoon

Our world has watched in horror and shock as the Philippines was devastated by a typhoon. All forms of media have been buzzing with up-to-date news coverage and stories of search, rescue, survival, and death.

I’ve been amazed at the use of social media to help bring aid and relief to victims. Numerous sources have written about and commented on the use of social media to rally people and retain resources to help in time of need.

From Twitter to Instagram to Facebook, people and organizations are getting the word out about how to bring help and order to what seems like chaos.

According to TechCrunch, relief efforts are now underway, including one by the Geeklist Corps of Developers, which is recruiting coders, product managers and other tech experts from around the world to build tools that will help coordinate rescue efforts, enable crisis communication and make sure emergency supplies and food are quickly distributed to areas in need.

The initiative is working with the government of the Philippines to deploy and start using finished projects. Kat Borlongan, the initiative’s coordinator, tells me that they are searching for designers, developers, product managers and social media experts to help out.

So people are employing and utilizing social media experts to bring help and aid, but even ordinary people are taking to their own initiatives to bring relief. Check out the following story:

“We are just doing as much as we can and I put a post on Facebook. I said: ‘Can you help? I am going up there with the car.’ So I got a lot of donations from my friends and family,” said Simon Timmins, as he made his delivery. “I got about 1,000 pounds so I have got enough for at least two trips up here. This is the first trip and I will be coming up again later in the week.” This is just an example of one person who is trying to make a difference and using a simple tool like Facebook to collect supplies and donations.

Patrick Meier is director of social innovation at the Qatar Foundation’s Computing Research Institute in Qatar. He develops tools, like the just launched website MicroMappers, that quickly sort through online data, from tweets to uploaded photos, and then display the information on satellite maps. Aid agencies can view the maps, which change in real time based on data coming in, and then use that information to help plan their relief efforts.

When National Geographic asked how they are mobilizing to help victims of the typhoon? Meier answerd, “We launched MicroMappers in order to very quickly tag tensof thousands of tweets (and soon pictures) coming out of the Philippines. More specifically, and at the UN’s request, we are asking volunteers from all around the world to tag tweets if they are related to “requests for help,” “infrastructure damage,” and “displaced populations.””

We’re doing this entirely online via the Digital Humanitarian Network and anyone can volunteer, no prior training or experience required. You can learn more about the efforts at MicroMappers.com.

When asked about their specific goals for crisis mapping amid the typhoon’s aftermath, he said, “Our goal is to rapidly map the needs and damage resulting from Typhoon Yolanda so that our UN colleagues can respond more quickly with their relief efforts.”

This is the good of social media, friends. We saw this with Hurricane Sandy, and in Chile, Japan, Iran and Haiti. People took to social media to mobilize, coordinate, raise support, communicate and raise awareness – and bottom-line, make a difference.

This is why we champion and focus so much on social media here at CMM and this is a great example that technology is not a waste of time. God has given us these amazing tools to communicate with others and who knows, maybe even save a life.

 

Greg Atkinson

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