Expressing my view!

Sharing with whoever would read my thoughts

The rise of technology in time of Disaster

By Antoine Craigwell

About nine minutes after disaster struck, the first Tweet was sent to the outside world, alerting those on the sender’s Tweet list of the devastation.

Red Cross International reported on Wednesday, Jan 13, that as of then, approximately $3 million was raised through people texting “Haiti 90999” since the earthquake and untold amounts of money was donated, also by texting, to “Yele 501501” to the charity headed by Haitian singer Wyclef Jean’s Yele Foundation. In a 24-hour period, the Red Cross raised $1.7 million through text donations.

Contrary to some schools of thought, that social media, including FaceBook and Twitter, and Skype encourage the sharing of an inordinate amount of personal information – though social media detractors do have a point, as it is in some cases used by many subscribers who divulge the minutia of their everyday lives, either as a sign of boredom or of exhibitionism run amok; that it is through the power of this media that at least three major global events were transmitted to the wider world, against other established and traditional forms of communication which had failed, were severely compromised or damaged.

On Nov 24, 2006, when most Americans were sitting down to their traditional Thanksgiving dinner, and when the attackers had laid siege to the hotel in Mumbai, India and were wreaking havoc, journalists, members of the Society of Asian Journalists, who Tweeted, using their allotted 140 characters to send reports and updates of what was happening on the ground.

Last summer, when protests erupted in Tehran, Iran over the results of that country’s general elections, and the government had shut down phone service, blocked Internet access, expelled journalists, threatened its citizenry with arrest and imprisonment for using cell phones to Tweet or to take photographs, that some brave souls in the capital risked their lives to Tweet about the state of affairs. It was through the brave efforts of those who Tweeted about the scale of the protests and the wanton use by the government of the Revolutionary Guard and the basjee to violently suppress all protests, was the world outside of Iran made aware.

Once again, when, at 4:53 pm EST time that the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck, hitting the port city of Port-au-Prince, Haiti and the traditional communications networks had been destroyed, telephone infrastructure leveled, it was through people on the ground with their cell phones who were texting and Tweeting the state of affairs, what they were seeing and experiencing. As with the attacks in Mumbai, the protests in Tehran, and now the earthquake in Port-au-Prince, the first pictures appearing in mainstream media, though blurred, were taken and distributed by cell phones.

Following this explosion of cellular activity, it came as a technological surprise to many when two organizations put abroad that donating money for the relief efforts could be sent by a “text” and the amount would be added to the sender’s cell phone bill. Not forthcoming or asked about is for those making donations over their cell phones, the cell phone companies making a pledge or commitment to donate a portion of their grossly inflated revenues to the Haitian cause, and only later did the cell phone companies agree not to charge taxes and miscellaneous fees normally levied on subscribers.

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January 31, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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