A View from Kristina Grifantini
Texting, Tweeting, and Crowd-Sourcing Help Haitian Earthquake Efforts
As donation information spreads, users are warned to be cautious of scams.
The 7.0-magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti last evening is thought to have caused the deaths of thousands of people. But social web technology is allowing for a rapid mobilization of resources and speedy spread of information–identifying points of care within the country and hastening donation efforts from around the world.
Almost immediately pictures from the disaster and requests for donations sprang up on the micro-blogging site Twitter. And other websites are being used to crowd-source useful information–for example, the open-sourced technology Ushahidi, which generates crisis maps and timelines by aggregating information submitted through texts, emails or web postings. On a map of Haiti, color-coded pinpoints show hospitals, clinic treatment centers, reports of building collapses and other of-the-moment news, aimed to help survivors in the area and to provide a reliable source of aggregating news.
Donation are being collected through “text to donate” services. By sending a text to a number representing a reputable charity, a user donates a set amount of money, which is automatically added to her phone bill, no credit card information required. For example, users can text “HAITI” to 90999 to automatically donate $10 to the Red Cross.
However, news sites are warning those who want to donate to be cautious of scammers, who often send out fake requests for donations immediately following a disaster, hoping from the influx of people looking to donate.