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Tech Companies Offer Aid To Haiti

Google, Microsoft, Apple and a variety of other tech companies have signaled that they will donate funds and employee resources to help Haiti recover from the earthquake

Google, Microsoft and a range of other IT companies are donating their money and skill sets to help Haiti in the wake of the massive earthquake on 12 January that devastated the capital, Port-au-Prince, and left as many as 50,000 people dead.

While a number of nations have pledged aid and money, Haiti’s lack of infrastructure may impede the flow of both to the island nation. T-Mobile USA announced on 14 January that it would waive any charges for international long-distance calls to Haiti through until 31 January and retroactive to the earthquake on 12 January. T-Mobile customers within Haiti will be able to roam on T-Mobile’s partner networks in the country free of charge through the end of January.

Throughout 13 January, Google worked with GeoEye to make the satellite-imagery company’s latest orbital photos of Port-au-Prince available to Google Earth. The resulting images, snapped at 10:27am EST on 13 January, can also be opened in Google Maps via this link. Google will update the image layer as the data comes in, according to a post on the Google Lat Long Blog.

“In order to help the people of Haiti respond to this catastrophe, Google is donating $1 million to organisations on the ground that are rescuing those still trapped and providing clean water, food, medical care, shelter and support for those affected,” Jacquelline Fuller and Prem Ramaswami of the Google Crisis Response Team posted on Google’s official blog on 14 January.

“In addition,” Fuller and Ramaswami wrote, “Map Maker data has been made available to UN organisations and the team is working with the Map Your Community to encourage Map Maker users with on-the-ground knowledge to help update the map of Haiti with disaster response data.”

Google has also inserted a Spotlight on YouTube’s homepage and ticker designed to drive traffic to videos from Oxfam International and the American Red Cross.

Other tech companies have also pledged support for Haiti.

Microsoft made an initial commitment of $1.25 million (£767,000) toward relief efforts, and asked its employees to support relief organisations working in Haiti. The Bing homepage includes a Haiti disaster-relief link.

On top of that Microsoft activated its Disaster Response team, “a dedicated group that plans how our company, people and partners can be mobilised during issues such as this,” said Akhtar Badshah, senior director of Microsoft’s Global Community Affairs, in a Microsoft on the Issues blog post, “through outreach to lead government, intergovernment and nongovernment agencies involved in leading local and global response efforts.”

Salesforce.com has set up a special donation page on its website, for funneling Haiti-earmarked funds to the Red Cross and World Vision. Apple has also placed a “Haiti Earthquake Relief Donate Here” button on iTunes.

Unfortunately, as with any disaster, a number of online scams have also erupted. The FBI posted an advisory on 13 January reminding potential donators to “apply a critical eye and do their due diligence” before responding to web-based requests with aid.

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