Earthquake In Haiti and The Mobilization Ability of Twitter
Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 10:48PM
[Raul Keally]

Photo Credit: Thomas Hurst

Watching the pictures and videos stream in via Twitter and on Television of the aftermath of the 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti this past Tuesday at 4:53 PM has been very sobering.  After seeing several ReTweets claiming that an immediate donation of $10 could be given to the Red Cross simply by sending a text message, I decided to participate.  Taken straight from the Red Cross web site you can "text “HAITI” to 90999 to donate $10 to American Red Cross relief for Haiti".  You should receive several follow-up text messages after your initial text confirming a $10 charge to your mobile phone and opt-in request to receive future messages from Red Cross International.

The devastation in Haiti is something that is just hard for me to comprehend given that I've never experienced such a catastrophe, which this situation in Haiti truly is.  The feeling I have now is similar to what I felt during Hurricane Katrina in that I physically want to donate my time an energy to helping the victims.  After a little research tonight I learned that those that wish to volunteer in-person during disaster relief efforts are not able to assist unless they have some sort of disaster relief experience.  The Center for International Disaster Information web site is where one would go to fill out an application for relief assignment.  Details on what types of experience and expertise is listed for those that are interested (ex. medicine, communications logistics, water/sanitation engineering).

Twitter has played yet another important role in this International event that has set off a windfall of relief efforts from the U.S., China, Canada, France, Germany and even the Dominican Republic which has been known to have strained relations with Haiti.  Similar to the voice that Twitter gave to Iranians during the protested election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June of last year - Twitter is now helping to mobilize relief efforts in Haiti.  Twitter is known by most for being part of the "social media" fabric today but what I see more is a new communications tool that has the ability to mobilize a very large audience very quickly like no other medium ever has.  Twitter is a powerful platform that is incredibly useful for quickly tapping the consensus of a large interactive community to effect real change.

Twitter takes advantage of what is the fragmentation in media (all forms) and offers one singular communication platform.  Twitter is free, easy to access, uncluttered and immediate.  Of course,  Twitter is starting to see a growing legion of Spam artists, etc.. but the good thing is that users have control over who they follow.

Not to lose sight of the disaster facing the people in Haiti, I find it fascinating how news and information now makes its way to people.  For all the questions that remain about what Twitter may become - it has already provided an invaluable service to people across the World. 

Although it seems like the donation page is currently down, you can donate money to the relief effort in Haiti through Red Cross.  

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