The Internet is once again playing an integral role indisaster relief as Web users from around the worldoffer online donations to aid the victims of therecent South Asia earthquake and tsunami.
Relief agencies have reported high traffic andheavy support from their Internet sites, and companiessuch as AOL and Amazon, are offering users a chance tohelp disaster victims through links on their Webpages.
While there were reports of some site outagesbecause of the large number of users seeking ways tohelp victims, it appears the support efforts onlineare successfully responding to thedevastating events.
Red Cross spokesperson Carrie Martin toldTechNewsWorld that a spike in the group’s Web site trafficcorresponded to a significant boost in support.
“We’ve had an amazing response,” she said. “We’ve seen anincredible influx [of Internet traffic].”
As of today, the Red Crosshad taken in US$18 million in pledged support.”A lot of that is online giving, we know, becauseit is instantaneous,” Martin said. “We know whatpeople have given. The magnitude is really apparent aspeople are reacting.”
Support from the Web
For years, the Internet has served as a rallying pointfor relief efforts, with agencies and organizationsincreasingly utilizing the good will of thosefortunate enough to have access to technology.
After the September 11 terrorist attacks, numerousgroups and companies used the Internet to organize andcollect donations for victims and relief efforts.
More recently, according to Martin, the Red Cross sawonline support emerge for victims of the summer’sseries of hurricanes, with Internet traffic anddonations spiking just after each storm hit.
Martin said relief for the devastating tsunami inSouth Asia, viewed as one of the worst naturaldisasters in a generation, was proportionate to thescope of the disaster.
While this summer’s hurricanes brought in $19million over ten days, the response to the South Asiatragedy has brought in $18 million in just three days,Martin said.
Doing What’s Right
While the public is responding to the sorrowful imagesof the Tsunami and its aftermath, companies are alsodoing their part to both offer and generate support.Amazon’s call for Red Cross relief aid was answeredby nearly 75,000 users, who donated almost $4.5million as of today.
UK users donated 20 million pounds (US$39 million) to the DisastersEmergency Committee (DEC), sending support through atoll-free phone number and via the Web.There have also been reports of Web site assistancein helping victims find lost loved ones andcommunicate with one another.
As much of a benefit as the Internet can be in quicklygathering support for those who need it, disasters suchas the recent Tsunami are also often the basis ofdonation scams.
In addition, the number of attempts at identitytheft and other online crime has risen dramaticallyover the last year, according to security experts.
Officials advised those making donations online tobe suspicious of e-mail solicitations and seek outreputable organizations that they are interested insupporting.