Amid fears of more than 100,000 dead, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it's too early to estimate how many people fell victim to the massive earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Tuesday. It was the strongest earthquake to hit Haiti in 200 years.
But tech giants aren't waiting for a final assessment of casualties and damages. Major industry players like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Intel, Cisco Systems, Verizon and Sprint Nextel are rushing to offer financial help and setting up donation mechanisms for the public.
While many questions remain, one thing is certain: The assistance is needed. Much of Haiti's telecommunications system was shut down and there is severe damage to hospitals, hotels, homes and many other buildings in Port au Prince and surrounding communities in southern Haiti.
Tech Players Find a Common Cause
"In order to help the people of Haiti respond to this catastrophe, Google is donating $1 million to organizations on the ground that are rescuing those still trapped and providing clean water, food, medical care, shelter and support to those affected," said Jacquelline Fuller and Prem Ramaswami of the Google Crisis Response Team. "We've also reached out to the YouTube community for help."
Google is working to make it easy for anyone to donate money by including a link on its home page to information, resources and ways to help. On YouTube, Google has posted a Spotlight on the home page and a ticker across the entire site that drives to videos from Oxfam and the American Red Cross.
Meanwhile, Apple has set up a way for digital media lovers to donate to earthquake victims via iTunes. And Microsoft is making an initial commitment of $1.25 million, which includes cash and in-kind contributions. Microsoft is also helping drive awareness and donations for relief efforts through MSN and its Bing search engine.
"By activating our disaster response team -- a dedicated group that plans how our company, people and partners can be mobilized during issues such as this -- through outreach to lead government, inter-government and nongovernment agencies involved in leading local and global response efforts," said Akhtar Badshah, senior director of global community affairs at Microsoft. "We're currently engaged with humanitarian relief organizations to assess how we can make a difference."
Internet Spreads the Word
The Verizon Foundation has announced $100,000 in grants to World Vision and Food for the Poor to assist earthquake victims. The foundation has also launched an employee-donation matching program to aid earthquake victims and will match every dollar donated by Verizon employees to those organizations, up to $1,000 per employee.
The Internet itself has proven to be a strategic venue to help earthquake victims by getting the word out. Web sites around the world are showing images of the devastation in Haiti and pointing to reputable organizations that are accepting donations. And social media, once again, is proving its information salt.
There are thousands of Twitter posts related to the Haiti earthquake. Facebook groups are springing up to rally support and disseminate information. YouTube videos are showing footage from the ground, and Google is offering satellite images via Google Earth. These resources will continue to prove invaluable as the tragedy continues to unfold.