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The Role of the Internet in Times of Disaster and Crisis

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How crucial is the internet in times of disaster and crisis? Below are testaments that show just how relevant it is:

  1. When Mount Merapi in Indonesia erupted in November 30, 2010, it only took one tweet to gather 6,000 rice bowls for the survivors. All thanks to a small radio community called Jalin Merapi, who constantly sent out news on needed aid via Twitter.
  2. In 2011 when a tornado ravaged Jolin, Missouri, there was no way for Alycia Williamson-Smith to know whether her second cousin James Williamson was alright. With no one to turn to, Alycia started uploading pictures of James on Facebook in hopes of having someone identify whether James is still missing or not. Within a day, a comment on a Facebook page called Joplin Tornado Citizen Checks said that James has been found by local search and rescue and is currently volunteering with the team look for other missing residents of Joplin.
  3. A project of the Google Crisis Response under the division of Google.org, the Google Person Finder allows people to post and search for missing family members and friends affected by a disaster. Launched fairly recently in 2010, the Google Person Finder has been deployed in a number of disasters such as the January 2010 Haiti Earthquake, the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombings and the recent November 2013 Typhoon Haiyan that affected the Philippines.

While some people refer to news channels for updates or for a chance of seeing a missing relative on the TV screen, a considerable chunk of the population that are well-connected to the internet whether on their computer or mobile phone turn to the World Wide Web for information on the aftermath of the disaster, where they could possibly look for missing relatives or how they can provide aid. This puts the internet, regardless of what type the connection is, at the centre of the crisis trying to make sense of all the extraordinary events that unfolded and piecing a devastated place back together again.

Ultimately, whether it is an FTTH connection or a satellite internet, the role it assumes during the most trying times is critical just as it is vital for everyday living.