Digital Community offers Lifeline in Haiti
On 12th January 2010 a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti and the country is still reeling from the disaster.
As the world watched with concern the collapse of traditional channels of communication just once again highlighted the important role of social media and the internet in the face of such disaster. As social media and the Digital World took center stage it reminded us of our humanity and that we all belong to one village.
In a sign of how much he media landscape has changed since the Tsunami in 2004 or Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Twitter users around the world quickly turned to this massively popular microblogging site and other social networks like Facebook to read the latest news, express their sympathy and learn how to help. Within hours of the tragedy Tweets and Facebook updates reached big news agencies like CNN. The news mobilized the general public, charity organizations and governments of many countries to donate money for the cause.
A number of citizen journalism projects are providing news and media from the ground. Global Voices, a non-profit blog aggregator for international news, has created Twitter lists of people on the ground in Haiti. So has The New York Times. The Boston Globe’s Big Picture also has a truly heart-wrenching collection of photos, which is where the top picture comes from.
According to CNN, a fundraising campaign done solely through text messages and networking sites like Twitter and Facebook has raised more than $3 million for the Red Cross’s relief work in Haiti.
Ushahidi, a non-profit project that uses mobile phones to crowdsource news and information in times of crisis, started up a Haiti site where hospitals can show what services they offer and people can post messages to search for family or friends.
One victim caught in the collapse of the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince used a medical application he downloaded and the light from his iPhone to diagnose and treat injuries to his foot and head, and to help prevent going into shock.
Facebook reported 1,500 status updates a minute mentioning “Haiti” running through this platform in the days following the disaster.
It’s wonderful to see that although we can disagree on a daily basis with our friends, colleagues and people from around the world when devastation like this occurs, we pull together as a community to reach out, bring relief and support those less fortunate using the power of digital technology and social media that’s now available to all of us. Most importantly this offers a new perspective for all those critics who have been condoning social media as a time waster.