Helping Haiti: Byte By Byte

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As much as I love design and interactive media, reading the newspaper every day is a sobering reminder of the fact that this is generally not a life-saving profession. It is greatly inspiring, then, to see how new media has been put to incredible use in helping the ailing Haiti.
Here are some fascinating examples.


Ushahidi is an open source project which allows users to crowdsource crisis information to be sent via mobile. They have created a Crisis Map of Haiti in collaboration with International Network of Crisis Mappers. The map represents a comprehensive and up-to-date crisis overview for to the humanitarian community. It is populated in near real time and gathered from reports coming from inside Haiti via SMS, Web, Email, Radio, Phone, Twitter, Facebook, Television, List-serves, Live streams, and Situation Reports. This information can inform organizations on the ground about the specific needs reported by the people. An amazing application that synthesizes all the chatter and noise.

Google collaborated with satellite imagery company GeoEye to make images of the destruction available in Google Earth and Google Maps. The goal is to create a helpful tool for aid organizations.


The Extraordinaries allows people to contribute images and tag them in order to help find missing people.


Crisis Commons is a volunteer network of professionals that create technological tools and resources for mitigating disasters and crisis around the world. They have has set up Crisis Camps, all-day events in which people help build a variety of online tools to help disaster response in Haiti. Crisis Commons has also created a Haiti OpenStreetMap with the most complete digital map of Haiti's roads, hospitals, triage centers and refugee camps currently available - the kind of street maps that save lives.


Skype and Google are offering free calls from Haiti. Google Voiceis directly offering free calls from its website and Skypeis sending vouchers for an hour's worth of calls to the US to every Skype user already registered in Haiti.


Immersive Media, a pioneer in delivering 360 degree, full motion, interactive videos, has been providing 360 degree coverage in Haiti with interactive videos of Port-au-Prince. The videos literally allow you to navigate the moving landscape in the round, and research the landscape remotely.


Texting "Haiti" to 90999 donates $10 to the American Red Cross, which automatically gets added to the cell phone bill. The American Red Cross is reporting that $22 million has been donated so far.

Wyclef Jean's Yele Haitiis leveraging the same technology by texting "YELE" to 501501 to make a $5 donation. This is the kind of texting that saves lives.


Within a few hours of the crisis, a Google Group called Haitian Earthquake Registry was set up as an online person finder database to help Haitians in and out of the country locate missing relatives, which currently contains more than 54,000 records. Leveraging the kind of technology that we use for online dating, this platform re-unites families.

Worldwide population technology at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, known as LandScan, is being used to help rescue workers find survivors in Haiti and get them supplies they need. Integrating numerous census data and satellite imagery, it is able to provide information about locations of where homes used to be, as well as how much food and shelter is required.


Telecoms Sans Frontieres [TSF] is a non-governmental organization that provides humanitarian help in telecommunications for emergency situations. TSF has deployed emergency response teams to establish Internet connections and high-speed satellite lines at airports, government offices, and at the camps.


We Have We Need is a project created in partnership with the U.S. State Department to create a Craigslist-style site where nonprofits working in Haiti can post needs and requests and find donors.

What can we do for Haiti?
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