February 16, 2010

Helping Haitians via mobile, crowdsourcing & social media

New platform revolutionizes the way emergency response takes place

Guest post by Katrina Heppler
envisionGood.tv

Bravo to the thousands of volunteers worldwide who are assisting with translating Creole mobile text messages to help people in Haiti following the devastating 7.0M earthquake that struck the nation Jan. 12.

You may not have heard of Mission 4636, but this is where a lot of the most remarkable relief work is taking place. Mission 4636 is a short code emergency response communication system that enables earthquake victims in Haiti to get life-saving aid by sending a free mobile text message. It’s a joint-project of Ushahidi, FrontlineSMS, CrowdFlower and Samasource.

Mission 4636 — named for one of the SMS short codes for Haiti relief efforts — is an outstanding example of global collaboration and the power of human ingenuity to help people and save lives through technology. A huge “hats off” to them as well as to the many organizations that have also come together to make Mission 4636 successful: inSTEDD, DigiCel, local radio networks, local NGOs and the many emergency responders.

In the video interview above, Brian Herbert of Ushahidi, Robert Munro of FrontlineSMS, Lukas Biewald of CrowdFlower and Leila Janah of Samasource share background on how they came together with the support of other organizations on the ground in Haiti to deploy a critical emergency communications system to help save lives and provide emergency resources to people following the earthquake. This is a massive effort across multiple non-profit and for-profit companies and individual volunteers from around the country and globe (more than 14 countries have been involved in translation).

Mission-4636

In the weeks after the tragedy, text messages to the dedicated Haiti emergency short code 4636 increased about 10 percent each day – with about one text a second coming through. Technology and people power are playing a critical role in getting information to military and aid workers on the ground. Beyond the immediate help for people in need in Haiti, the program will build computer centers so Haitian refugees can do valuable digital work, get paid, and bolster the economy around them. Continue reading