Tech companies try to help Haiti search, relief

January 14, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
The satellite images coming out of Haiti have helped relief organizations understand the scope of the damage.

Google worked with the satellite-imagery company GeoEye to make the photos available to Google Earth. And now, people with on-the-ground knowledge are encouraged to use Google Map Maker to update Haiti's map, to make sure relief workers have the most current geo-data.

"To be able to get absorbed and involved and solving the problem through technology, I think it brings people closer to the drama and gets them involved in feeling like they're part of the solution," says Internet strategist Michael Stein.

Workers at the San Francisco start-up, the Extraordinaries, are also using their tech skills to help.

They have set-up a page on their website where people can upload photos of their missing loved ones and view the countless images coming out of Haiti.

Starting on Friday, the hope is that volunteers around the world will go on the site, to see if they can match a missing person to the photos from the disaster zone.

"Donations are awesome and are obviously encouraged and let's send money to those organizations that are on the ground. What if you want to do more? What else can you do? Now you can actually take some time and help people find loved ones," says Extraordinaries co-founder Sundeep Ahuja.

But so far, the new form of technology that has really taken off in this time of crisis, is donating by way of text message.

Simply by texting the word "Haiti" to 90999, the Red Cross will receive $10. The charge will appear on your next cell phone bill.

"Didn't have to look it up online, didn't have to figure out where to go, didn't have to drive anywhere, didn't have to write out a check or anything like that, so it was really convenient," says text donor Dan Katz.

By Thursday evening, the Red Cross raised $7 million through text messages, a significant chunk of the $35 million raised so far for earthquake relief.