Haiti: Interactive Supporting Disaster Relief

The recent earthquake in Haiti is devastation beyond belief. But it’s been so encouraging to see how interactive technologies are playing a part to help those in need.

The American Red Cross’ mobile giving program, where anyone can txt “Haiti” to 90999 and automatically donate $10 to Haiti relief, has been a big success. [You may want to pause and do this yourself right now.] They’ve posted information on how much has been given ($3 million as of Thursday night). The ease by which someone can donate is remarkable. And although mobile donations tend to be one-time, not the recurring gifts that aid organizations need, they’re a big help. It’s basic, but it works. (More info here.)

Perhaps the most exciting interactive-related relief support I’ve seen so far is the crowdsourcing platform from Ushahidi. (Ushahidi means “testimony” in Swahili.) They have developed an open-source engine that gathers data via SMS, email or the web and gives access to it on a map or timeline. It’s been used in South Africa, Congo, Kenya, and numerous other places.

For Haiti, Ushahidi has launched the relief site haiti.ushahidi.com. Take a look. Without seeing people use the system it’s hard to get a sense of how well it works, or how easy it is for people to use. But the interaction is simple, and there’s an immediacy to the data that’s remarkable. The only question is how people in Haiti, without easy access to smartphones or computers, can search the map and all the data it contains. Hopefully someone is working on an SMS interface for that.

Their blog post about the current Haiti crisis is a great resource – listing several other organizations and sites doing similar online efforts.

Stay tuned for future posts about how interactive media can help developing countries.