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SparkRelief, which shares information during a crisis and lets volunteers find ways to help, began in Boulder, Colorado, to help victims of fires quickly find food and housing, and to coordinate people who wanted to supply these amenities. In response to the Japanese disaster, the nonprofit launched a programming effort to build a site to help earthquake survivors find housing. The resulting site lets people enter in their housing needs, and aims to connect them with those who can help.

Google also responded rapidly to the disaster, launching a web site designed to help locate people displaced by the earthquake and tsunami. Google operated similar sites for recent disasters including those in New Zealand, Chile, and Haiti.

Aside from direct efforts to share information about the crisis, social media sites are also using their pull to raise money fast. At the South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, Texas, tech companies have put together improvised fund-raising software and events. Hurricane Party, an iPhone app designed to help people organize spontaneous events, put on a fund-raising party on Sunday night along with Eventbrite, a company that sells tickets online. The Hurricane Party app let users spread the word quickly about where and when an event would be, and Eventbrite sold tickets for a donation of $10 or larger. The event raised about $10,000 for the Red Cross for Japan Relief.

The organizers of South by Southwest have also set up a website devoted to raising money for the relief effort in Japan, and are encouraging attendees to donate and spread the word through Twitter, Facebook, and other social sites. As of Monday morning, the site had raised more than $23,000 for the Red Cross.

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Credit: Ushahidi
Video by Kristina Grifantini, edited by Brittany Sauser

Tagged: Communications, Web, Japan, earthquake, crowd-sourcing, Ushahidi, web software

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