When natural disaster strikes, it is hard not to feel the aftershocks of chaos all around the world. Nepal was hit with a 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 25th, the worst that region has seen in over 80 years. It is almost impossible to know the definitive number of deaths but the approximate death toll is currently over 7,000 and continues to rise. Being located in Canada, it’s difficult to imagine the extent of damage in a foreign country and one as remote as Nepal. In addition to the earthquake, Nepal’s Mt. Everest experienced a slow of avalanches and aftershocks. The most remote villages are the most devastated as their lack of accessibility makes it difficult to deliver aid. Out of the entire population of Nepal, only a third of people have access to internet which is extremely limiting for foreign and aid communication.
After this disastrous event, people around the world have been using the internet and various social media platforms to offer funds, aid of any kind and to connect with friends and family affected by the earthquake. Facebook has started a campaign which funnels donations to the International Medical Corps. The campaign was happening all of last week and invited users to donate to relief efforts in Nepal through a message displayed on their homepage. Facebook had promised to match donations of up to 2 million dollars and raised a combined total of more than $10 million. Over 550,000 users have donated, a high level of engagement for foreign recovery efforts. The campaign was very successful in accumulating funding and reiterated that the impact of this natural disaster can reach as far as Canada, thousands of miles away. Facebook was also relied upon as a way to to get in contact with friends and family who had been affected by the earthquake. Social media is a popular way to stay in contact with other users but in times of disaster, can also be an avenue for survival. Facebook’s all around the world last week were flooded with pictures of tourists in Nepal, desperately seeking information on the whereabouts of loved ones. Status updates confirming survivor’s conditions were the fastest way to reassure others of their whereabouts and safety. Facebook’s ads and popular postings were also focused on providing relief efforts for Nepal.
Lastly, Facebook initiated a function entitled Safety Check which prompts users to confirm their whereabouts and safety when in an area affected by natural disaster. Users can also search disaster areas on a map and Facebook will relay whether any of your friends are reportedly in that location. There is debate about how effective this tool has been in this particular disaster because of Nepal’s lack of internet access but the intention remains solid and could be further improved in the future.
Although Facebook successfully engaged people around the world in terms of relief efforts, social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Google have also focused on providing aid to Nepal over the past week. Twitter was used in a similar way to Facebook as it connected different networks of people to those affected by the earthquake and provided an effective avenue for receiving updates. Twitter also provided funding through UNICEF. LinkedIn has been searching it’s business networks for nearby drone operators. Their participation could mean receiving better information about the more remote areas effected by the earthquake and could in turn help with strategic relief planning. Google has paired with the Red Cross in hopes of locating people in affected regions. This searchable database allows people to input a name, biographical information and photo in search of providing information on that person, confirming you are that person or communicating that this person is deceased. Google does not verify this data but intends to funnel information to those affected without having to sift through multiple sources.
The community and network support that these big social media and technology firms have provided has made an immense difference to relief efforts and even gone as far as saved lives. Is there anything to be criticized among these efforts or improved upon for the next natural disaster?