Helping Nepal from afar: appreciating the work done by Google, Twitter & Apple

Earthquake damage in Nepal.  Source: CNN/Getty Images

Earthquake damage in Nepal.
Source: CNN/Getty Images

When I heard about Nepal’s earthquake late Friday night I had a feeling it was going to bad. Not only was the quake estimated at over 7.5 on the Richter scale right at the beginning (it ended up being classified as 7.8!) but Nepali buildings were not built to withstand such tremors. News over the last few days has been terrible, with the number of dead rising every hour. As I write this, the latest numbers are close to 4,000 dead and more than 7,000 were injured.

Having been to Nepal and hiked through the Himalayas, I can personally attest that the Nepalese very welcoming and hospitable, yet given their limited resources, they have probably not built the most seismically-safe buildings. From what I saw in villages and cities, most structures are built from wood, mud and some stone. Photos show overwhelming destruction of houses and temples as well as the obliteration of entire villages by mudslides.

Google's People Finder

Google’s People Finder

Today I’m hearing how the tech community is pitching in with tools to help the survivors. I especially admire Google for creating People Finder, a product that helps both locals and tourists. Since internet access might be in short supply in Nepal right now People Finder also offers a way to search the database via SMS. It also tries to collect information from emergency responders and organizations, making it the most complete list and probably the best go-to resource to find people. I admire their quick response and setup of the service and way they’ve improved the product after each disaster. I wonder when they added SMS support, realizing that voice and text only mobile networks are more likely to be available than mobile data connections.

I also admire how other tech companies are stepping up. For example, Twitter has helped focus donation efforts by sharing the info of the various organizations that need help and, even better, Apple has made it super easy to donate to the Red Cross at the touch of a button (or a tap of an icon.)

Carry on, Silicon Valley.

 

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