All posts tagged ‘haiti’

by CalebMay 3, 2010

SMS Donations Harness Our Impulse Altruism

Illustration: Leo Espinosa

Technology played a huge role in the Haiti earthquake relief efforts earlier this year. Twitter offered free SMS tweets and Red Cross enabled a text-to-donate campaign. In two days over $8 million was donated, just by users texting HAITI to 90999.

Wired's Scott Brown describes how mobile technology is serving our "immediate altruistic response", boosting dopamine levels in the brain, and shaping the future of giving.

Want to help? Text in some shekels to 90999 and suddenly you’re part of the solution — which, as we now know, feels good on a neurochemical level. In fact, one can easily imagine socio-technological advances knitting us into a kind of decentralized superorganism — a pan-humanity nerve array that senses where it hurts and sends help in real time.

We all have this altruistic impulse, but it's the ability to act on it immediately that is key. This is where SMS comes in. As Indiana University's Melissa Brown explains, “Generation X and the Millennials don’t want to go through the trouble of entering a 16-digit credit card number to make a $25 donation.” By providing a call-to-action in the moment and making it simple to act, SMS campaigns can be highly successful.

by CalebFebruary 22, 2010

Twitter Offers Free SMS Tweets To Digicel Haiti Customers


To continue Twitter's push as a positive force in Haiti, co-founder Biz Stone announced on the official company blog that they have struck a deal with Digicel Haiti.

Kevin Thau and our mobile team have recently arranged free SMS tweets for Digicel Haiti customers. To activate the service, mobile phone users in Haiti can text follow @oxfam to 40404. Accounts are created on the fly and any account can be followed this way.

This is just a small step to long term restoration in Haiti, which officials say could take ten years at the cost of billions. Twitter's low cost (now free to some) mobile communication channel will help, as it already has.

by CalebFebruary 2, 2010

Social Media Week: Haiti Journalists Point To A Need For Better Mobile Connectivity


Last night we stopped by The New York Times to listen in on a panel discussing social media and how it was used in Haiti for reporting and organizing aid efforts. As we all know, Twitter has played a big part in international events like this and the Iran protests. One important point that was brought up was the difficulty of connectivity, whether it be lack of reception, or simply not enough power outlets for recharging.

NBC's Ann Curry told stories about how Twitter has broken down walls for her in reporting and directing the public's attention. Because of its asymmetric social construct, she has been able to meet with people spur-of-the-moment upon realizing their presence. During Haiti, people state-side would direct her to the locations that needed help.

Again, in order to keep this powerful new means of communication, or "global consciousness" up, batteries are required. Erik Parker, a journalist who was in Haiti when the earthquake struck, discussed his experience politely fighting and jockeying for one of few power outlets. He described it as frustrating, not being able to send tweets, photos, and other information out.

MediaBistro quotes Erik:

We didn't know what to do with ourselves after the earthquake. The first thing I could think to do was to see if there was someplace where we could provide help. The second thing I could think to do was to document it. I resorted to using my iPhone to record video.

Without energy, the mobile devices that empower so many in third-world countries would be useless. We take for granted having outlets in every room, but for those in places like Uganda and Kabul, access is provided differently. For Jan Chipchase's photo documentation of this, click here.

As we're seeing in emerging products and technological developments, there is hope in creating a better powered mobile phone. Engineers at Princeton University are harnessing natural body movements to power mobile devices, and companies like Sharp aim to take their solar powered cellphones worldwide. Hopefully these solutions will make it in time to aid in any future crisis situations.

by AllisonJanuary 26, 2010

Ushahidi Enables Real-Time Crisis Mapping in Haiti


Mobile giving to Haiti has topped $30 million, but wireless devices on the ground in Haiti are helping relief efforts as well. (testimony in Swahili) is a crisis map of Haiti that allows for people on the ground there to report emergencies and missing persons after the January 12 disaster.

By texting to 4636, Haitians can report their location and their needs -- things like food and medical supplies, lists of survivors, even amputations. The service is being promoted on the ground by FEMA, the Red Cross International, and the U.N Foundation, the Clinton Foundation and others. In addition to SMS, reports can be contributed via web, email,  radio, satellite phone, Twitter, Facebook, TV, listserves, livestreams and situation reports. All the collected  information is mapped in close to real time on the site.


The incoming data is largely unstructured, so efforts to parse it are being crowdsourced. According to the site, volunteers at the Fletcher School's Situation Room are mapping about 50% of the reports 24 hours a day. The other 50% of reports come from the Ushahidi team and volunteers around the world. All reported incidents are available for download in .csv format -- right now there are about 1550. Each one includes an incident title, date, location, description, category, latitude and longitude and whether the submission was approved and verified.

The site also links to other crowdsourced efforts, including The Extraordinaries, which lets you tag photos coming in from the news, so they can better match images against missing persons databases, and's Person Finder, a gadget that lets people  submit information about missing persons and to search the database.

Crowdsourcing and citizen journalism efforts like this have been on the rise over the past few years with mobile taking a major role. Indeed, the phone is becoming a global equalizer, as we saw during the Iranian elections last summer. Mobile tools especially make sense in Haiti. According to a report from Research and Markets, Haiti’s fixed line teledensity was amongst the lowest in the world in early 2009, at less than 2%, while mobile penetration was over 40% in September 2008 and growing strongly. Given the stagnating fixed-line infrastructure and poor fixed-line penetration rates, the report concluded that mobile is likely to remain the principal form of telecommunications for the short-to-medium term.

Ushahidi itself is a great example of how mobile is being used to empower citizens in places where wired Internet access is low. The platform was initially created to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout at the beginning of 2008.  Reports were submitted via the web and mobile phone and, according to the site, this initial deployment had 45,000 users in Kenya. Since then, it has developed into a larger-scale open source project for mobile citizen journalism. Their goal is to create a customizable platform that allows for any person or organization to set up their own way to collect and visualize information. It's alpha version was used by a number of groups and institutions including Al Jazeera during the War on Gaza, Vote Report India (to monitor the recent local elections) and Pak Voices (to map incidents of violence in Pakistan). Now in beta, is continually being tested with various partners, primarily in Kenya.

Thanks to Oscar Salazar for telling us about this project.

by SarahJanuary 13, 2010

Text to Donate: Organizations Use SMS for Haiti Earthquake Relief Efforts


Immediately after the 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti yesterday afternoon, many global relief efforts popped up on Twitter and Facebook. This use of social media is not entirely surprising, but what about the impact of mobile and text message donations? Last night, the Red Cross tweeted:

You can text "HAITI" to 90999 to donate $10 to Red Cross relief efforts in #haiti.

Once you send this text-message, your cell phone bill is automatically charged for the $10. But how many of us have actually responded to text message donations previously? This time proves to be especially notable. The Red Cross pledged an initial $200,000 donation and increased that amount this morning to $1 million.

Many other news organizations have aimed their efforts to organize the conversations about the Haiti disaster on Twitter. The Huffington Post created a Twitter List surrounding the topic.

Musician and Haitian-born Wyclef Jean has a foundation called, "Yele Haiti," which is also utilizing a similar text-message donation effort. He continues to encourage the masses to donate through his tweets:

Help Haiti Earthquake Relief Donate $5 by texting YELE to 501 501 right now.

We can assume that he has also made an impact and raised mobile efforts by his 1+ million Twitter followers alone. In light of this natural disaster and tragedy, the immediacy of social media and text messaging has had a positive influence in less than 24 hours.