Rebuilding Nepal with Social Media

After the earthquake struck Nepal on April 25, killing over 8,000 people and leaving more than 250,000 homeless, social media sputtered with safety reports and helps. Groups of Nepalis, foreign aid workers and academics were moved with this disaster and organise an internet movement.

Facebook for example activated a Safety Check feature which gives safety status updates. Twitter made their movement as well with #NepalEarthquake. Few days later Facebook and Twitter exploded with messages. Requests for help started to appear as a never ending process. Social Media Feeds were and still are active with stories of help.

Here some briefs: “300 people are stranded on the hill opposite last resort,”…. “4000 people in Kavre need tents and blankets,”…”Trapped people badly need food and tents in Sitapaila,”… “Muchchok, Gorkha is devastated, all homes collapsed.”

The blood donation group Youth for Blood in 2011, created a website where you can see the needs and offer any help: Rapid Response Team was built to fill a big gap: phones weren’t working.  People who couldn’t contact family could now use an app and receive earthquake updates.

The organisation said that the team received 300 texts in 36 hours and over 8,500 hits on their site. The team made at least 1,000 calls to track people down since the first earthquake.

Quartz India’, native news website,  reports another volunteer group called Sankalpa had been using third-party mobile messaging service, Sparrow SMS, to text urgent blood needs pre-quake. “The same technology was converted to a texting app for urgent rescue needs. “The text reports, alongside Tweets and Facebook posts, were then compiled into one relief map. Sparrow has received about 1,000 texts, which were made into 350 reports.”

Barbara Grossman, 30 year old American who left Nepal two days before the first earthquake, was one of the first posting on Facebook. She created Nepal Earthquake Relief Volunteers. “It became very clear there was just total confusion because of the inability of the cellular networks to handle the traffic,” she explained.

“Three days after the page was opened, they had 129 posts that reached some 50,000 people on Facebook. Then, a day later, on April 29, the group coordinated 1,500 tents to Sindhupalchowk and 400 to Dolakha, two of the most severely affected rural districts. Grossman said the page’s posts had reached 200,000 people by May 3”, says Quartz India.

Only just 40 pc of the country is online.  Social media is typically limited outside urban population centres. Although who is in the hinterland can send a text to someone in the city, who can post it on a Facebook wall, that post can go to a coordination group, and finally a volunteer will enter it on a relief map.

It’s just a few, but still it’s an important movement to help those who’re still lost.

Shitu Rajbhandari, who helps the Kathmandu Living Labs’ project, said “It might be a drop in the ocean, but it’s still a drop.”

Also see Quartz India article.

Nepal Social Media Infographic

Nepal Social Media Infographic

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