Typhoon Haiyan (locally referred to as ‘Yolanda’) made landfall in the Philippines on Friday November 8th 2013. Officially, 1839 people have been killed as a direct result of the disaster, 2624 have been injured and 84 people are missing.
Public donations have been inspiring, with UK residents pledging over £1.5 million ($2.4 million) within hours of televised appeals being broadcast; a response that the chief executive of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) described as “staggering”.
The tech community, too, has been swift to respond. Online communities such as Geeklist and The Standby Task Force have organised hackathons, coordinated crisis mapping and opened discussions with first responders. I have seen first-hand – and been involved with – just one of the projects that has sprung up out of campaign, of which their Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda hackathon forms a part. The project in question is a crowsourced, interactive map, which plots reports of school closures, locations of aid stations, clean water and even data connectivity through Twitter mining and user submissions. It has even attracted the attention of the President’s Office in the Philippines.
This is of course not the only example of technology and technologists being used to aid the relief effort. Geeklist alone has 14 active projects, and an ideas pool of over 30 proposals for apps, websites, coordination tools and official news outlets.
Evidently, technology is beginning to change the way in which communities, aid agencies and even Governments respond to natural disasters. Social media in particular has kept the world up-to-date with live tweets, videos and images of the disaster in the Philippines. Before the Typhoon even made landfall last Friday, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) sent an urgent request to the Digital Humanitarian Network (DHN) requesting it utilise its volunteer base to trawl through social media outlets and other online resources, to begin digitally mapping the impact of Haiyan.
Technology then, is having a greater influence over how we – as the Global Community – can respond to natural disasters, and do our utmost to ensure that whatever the consequences, we can play our part in managing the recovery process.
Campaigns and organisations such as Geeklist’s and the Standby Task Force are still very much involved in the relief work being undertaken in the Philippines, and contributors and volunteers are still highly sought after to get projects off the ground – projects that might just save lives. If you are interested in helping those affected by Haiyan, you can donate, volunteer or even join a hackathon to develop something life-saving.
We can all do something.
“Typhoon Haiyan: Philippines declares state of calamity.” 2013. 14 Nov. 2013 <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24901993>
 “Updates: Typhoon Yolanda | Official Gazette of the Republic of the …” 2013. 14 Nov. 2013 <http://www.gov.ph/crisis-response/updates-typhoon-yolanda/>