At first, we were at a loss of what to say about how technology can help in post-Katrina relief efforts. The immediate problems seemed to stem from lack of organization and decision-making, not technical solutions to saving people.
But over the past few days, as the attention focused on the problem of locating, and relocating people, the tech community has kicked in big-time. Jeff Jarvis, at Buzzmachine, has done a tremendous job summarizing the key developments, and he is worth reading in full. First, there are various bloggers (one example) in each of the hit towns acting as information nodes. There is the PeopleFinder Project. There are boards at Craiglist and elsewhere, where people are offering to open their homes to survivors. There are the job boards, many hosted by Silicon Valley companies including Hotjobs, Craigslist and SimplyHired, which are posting jobs for the survivors, who it seems obvious will be spending a prolonged time away from their homes. Many will never go back.
Silicon Valley companies like Intel and Cisco are among those building voice and data communication networks to link evacuation centers. There are other innovative telecom projects to help people locate each other, as Om points out.
Jarvis has concluded with a call to convene Recovery 2.0, to bring together…
…”the best of the web ï¿½ software, hardware, infrastructure, media, money ï¿½ to start to gather around needs and solutions.”
Then there is the political struggle. With the nation already deeply in debt, and now finding itself burdened with unexpected costs in Iraq and with post-Katrina relief, there are people leading the charge against wasteful pork-barrel projects of Congress. For example, Dan Gillmor points to the $223 million in tax-payer funding for a bridge that, if built, will connect an Alaskan town of 8,000 to an island with a population of 50. He suggests Congress kill it, and it’s hard to argue with him. (Gillmor runs the citizens media group, Bayosphere, based in San Francisco).
And we’re seeking clarity on who will lead decision-making here in the Bay Area if San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland and other densely populated cities get leveled by a big earthquake. We should think about how we’ll respond. It saddened us when a neighbor said he is thinking about having to buy a shotgun.