In the last few years, technology has proven itself to be a mobilization powerhouse for disasters. Tales from the recent Japanese earthquake and tsunami abound. From the senior project manager who used Google’s People Finder tool to locate his Japanese grandfather, to the young schoolteacher who broadcast pleas for help via Twitter before the nearby nuclear plant exploded, technology has become a pivotal player in guiding relief efforts, making connections and educating people about disasters. Here are a few ways technology has proved its usefulness.
1. A tool in relief efforts
A key to successful disaster relief management is the rapid deployment of information and resources. People are often displaced and don’t know where to go or what to do. Buildings are destroyed. People missing. After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Google collaborated with GeoEye to display images of destruction so organizers could identify areas in need of support. Here are some examples of those images.
Using technology to assist in disasters is not new. Cisco Systems was one of the first technology responders to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, providing mobile communication kits and networks to support the massive data infrastructure needed in relief efforts.
2. Generating support
Donations are essential in providing just in time services to those in need. The immediacy of technology makes it easy to appeal to human sentiment with immediate calls to action. Apple first added a page to its iTunes store for Haitian earthquake relief and now continues the practice for Japan. The Red Cross elicits donations through its Twitter feed and via text messages. This fundraising method garnered more than $4 million for Haiti. To amplify the efforts of the Red Cross, Mashable promoted its code snippet for blog and website owners to use in soliciting additional donations.
3. Connecting friends and family
At the time this post was written, more than 5,000 people had died and 9,500 were missing due to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Almost half a million are in shelters. Immediately following the crisis, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo issued a message to U.S. citizens in Japan encouraging them to contact their family and friends using SMS texting and social media tools like Facebook and Twitter. According to the Poynter Institute, a journalism school and resource, the Twitter hashtags #prayforjapan and #tsunami received thousands of tweets per second and a Facebook page set up for the disaster attracted more than 3000 followers in less than 12 hours.
Website registries have been set up to connect families and friends of those in the affected areas of Japan. In an effort to better consolidate registries and provide a single point of connection, Google has launched an open source multilingual and bilingual people finder tool for Japan to serve as a directory and message board for families and friends, as it did for the earthquakes in Chile, Haiti and New Zealand, Within the first few hours of launching, the tool logged more than 4,000 records.
Videogames and simulation software are another way responders are preparing for disasters. Software companies are creating mashups that combine satellite images, maps and spreadsheet data to create disaster scenario planning tools. Depiction is one such simulation application, used to train first responders. The tool combines live data feeds to create a dynamic tool that can be used for scenario planning, resource management, and logistics. Users can create alternative rescue routes, for example, by inputting data streams into the system real-time.
Children are one target group that organizers are keen to educate. The International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) argues that children are amongst the most vulnerable to disasters but also the best positioned to be trained as future leaders, architects and urban planners. In response to this need, the ISDR created a multilingual online simulation game, Stop Disasters, to teach children about how to build safer cities and villages. Players can select one of five scenarios including a tsunami, earthquake, wildfire, flood or hurricane. They are given a budget and limited time to safely house residents, build hospitals and schools, retrofit buildings, and equip those buildings with evacuation plans and early warning systems. They learn how the location and construction of housing materials can improve the outcome of a disaster and how evacuation plans can help save lives. After the disaster hits, the user is scored on their success and told how they could have better prepared.
“The Day the Earth Shook” is an earthquake preparedness game for children created by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. Created by the Electronic Visualization Lab (EVL) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) and the Center for Public Safety and Justice, the game gives children the opportunity to explore a virtual world in which they learn how to create a disaster kit, locate safe locations in a home and safety tips.
6. Building and Rebuilding
The Global Innovation Commons is a vast database of over 500,000 energy-saving technologies with expired or abandoned patents. The goal of this organization is to provide access to open source technologies for life saving energy, water and agriculture devices. The patents in the database could save more than $2 trillion in license fees combined. But like most open source models, if you use anything in the database, you are encouraged to share your story with the community. In this video, Dr. David Martin, the founder of the Global Innovation Commons, talks about the organization:
While technology can’t bring back lost lives or repair billions of dollars in destroyed homes and businesses, it has proven itself to be an indispensable resource. And while technology’s role in connecting people through social media is invaluable, I do hope we can harness its powers to diminish the tragic effects of such disasters in the future.
Do you have examples about how technology is being used to assist in disasters or educate the public on preparedness? Share your comments below.
Remote controls have been an indispensible, and frequently annoying, part of television watching since Zenith introduced the Space Commander, the first practical wireless remote, 55 years ago. But the days of the familiar clicker may finally be numbered as smartphones and tablets take over the duties of remotes. Learn more about these new devices!
The performances were so amazing and the show was the highlight of my lengthy SXSW experience, so it’s really great to know the memories can live on at an official online site for the event. I would like to see more concerts like this have an official event page. A Facebook event page may drift off into the ether after the event is done. As a fan I would like to know I have a dedicated URL I can look up any time : for instance, KillersLasersPapers.com. I have my own profile page on KillersLasersPapers (link to my profile) and I’ll be uploading some of my own videos and photos from the event over the next few days to share with fellow fans. Also, because there was a Twitter hash tag for the concert – #KillersLasersPapers – I can go back and review the conversations about the show.
UStream's Social Stream from KillersLasersPapers
The site featured a live stream of the show to fans across the globe with Gurj Bassi from MTV’s Downtown Girls hosting and providing back stage interviews with the artists. Also via UStream’s social stream, a real time chat on the front of the site (pictured right), kept the fan conversation about the show going. The social stream feature allowed fans to chat with each other during the show using their Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and AOL Instant Messenger accounts. Janelle Monae fans call themselves ‘fandroids’. Uber ‘fandroid’ Lady Maestra tweeted the right answers to questions during the online scavenger hunt, winning herself the custom designed Killers Lasers Papers Flip cam (pictured).
Some show highlights – Donnis opened up the night performing his hit ‘Eat You Alive’. B.o.B followed Donnis’ set backed by an amazing live band. He and the band played his hits ‘Nothing on You’ and ‘Airplanes’. The band really kicked into gear during a really triumphant performance of the heartfelt song ‘Don’t Let Me Fall’.
B.o.B. at KillersLasersPapers
Whiz Khalifa followed, and immediately had the crowd going with his rap ode to the Pittsburgh Steelers, ‘Black and Yellow’. Khalifa moved on to a new rap song from his catalog called ‘The Thrill’ which borrows from Empire of The Sun’s ‘Walking on a Dream’. He even did a tribute to rapper / singer Nate Dogg who recently passed away.
Wiz Khalifa talks to Scott Brown (at right), Cisco Media Solutions Group Marketing Director, about making his videos with Flip cams
Janelle Monae’s group, all dressed in super crisp black tie outfits, ran through really danceable songs like ‘Wondaland’ and ‘Dance or Die’ at the beginning of their set. She then worked up to dramatic fast moving numbers like ‘Cold War’ and ‘Tightrope’ by the end of a set that went much longer than we all expected. She pushed her performance right up to the 2 AM show close. Earlier in the evening, our marketing director Scott Brown was whisked on to the tour bus to present Miss Monae with a Flip cam. Scott remarked that Janelle is super soft spoken – likely she just saves her energy up for such epic and dramatic performances.
We will share more behind the scenes photos and videos from KillersLasersPapers on the blog when we are back from SXSW but you know the real place to stay tuned to for content from the show is KillersLasersPapers.com
Some great shots from Scott Brown follow in the slide show below.
Janelle Monae and her very talented band performing ‘Sincerely Jane’ from her first album Metropolis, at KillersLasersPapers
The proliferation of video is evident. Most marketing or PR conferences you go to will have a session on video or will mention video at some point. Or maybe the conference is being recorded or streamed live to hundreds of virtual attendees. But you don’t have to go to a conference to be exposed to the world of video – it’s never been easier to snap some footage on our mobile phones or with our camcorders.
If I had a dollar for every time I hear the word “video”, I’d probably be writing this blog post on the deck of my beach house somewhere in the Caribbean while sipping on a delightful coconut concoction (non alcoholic). And while I let my imagination run wild and feel the warm sand gently tickling my feet, I want to leave you with this infographic on how video continues to change our lives and the way we communicate. Read More »
Talk2Cisco will be broadcasting live on Tuesday, March 15 at 10 am PT! Join Cisco executives Carlos Dominguez and Lance Perry as they share the benefits of incorporating web 2.0 technologies into work and life! Follow @Talk2Cisco on Twitter for updates on the broadcast and see you live on Tuesday!
The book publishing industry is stuck in a rut and desperately needs new ideas. The Domino Project, a publishing platform that uses the power of social media to help writers spread their ideas and connect to readers could be the answer according to writers Marc Gunther and Seth Godin! Read more about how the book publishing business is becoming more social!
Does it take you awhile to adopt new technology? If so, then this is the article for you! Check out this fun, tipped-filled article aimed at those who don’t fall into the early adopter or fanatical enthusiast set.
Here is some stuff to look out for next week…
The Dawn of the Networked Remote Control Feature: After half a century, the familiar clicker is being replaced by smart phones and tablets. Find out more about the new remote control on Monday!
Machine-to-machine mobile communications emerges as new growth area: M2M mobile communication is any situation where one machine communicates with another over the mobile network, without human intervention. Learn more about this new development next week!