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How Tech Helped Mumbai Blast Victims Get to Safety

mumbai-skyline

Mumbai city was rocked with yet another series of bomb attacks yesterday. Terrorists planted multiple bombs in crowded areas of the city, and detonated them in peak-hour traffic, trying to inflict maximum damage by hitting commuters trying to get back home.

As police and emergency personnel tried to take stock of the situation, and secure the city, some tech savvy Indians quickly resorted to technology to coordinate disaster response. Below are some of the great ways technology was (and is currently) being used to help affected people.

Google Spreadsheet

A google spreadsheet was created within hours of the Mumbai blast to coordinate help offers. At first Twitter users across India were simply publishing their phone numbers and offering help to their twitter followers. The reason for this was that phone networks were jammed as people panicked, and there was no way to reach anyone over mobile phones. So instead, twitter was the communication channel to exchange information.

One user, @fonseyka, tweeted: “Anyone stuck on the western suburbs side and need shelter, hit me up.” Another, @anilchintz, said: “At Saat Rasta, byculla..Call me on 9———6 if u r stuck somewhere around. Dont risk travelling.”

Then Nitin Sagar (@nitinsgr), a twitter user in New Delhi took it upon himself to compile the information into a single spreadsheet, and then asked other users to add their details. The google spreadsheet titled “Mumbai Help” spread virally on twitter, people adding information as per the columns created – #here2help, #needhelp, bloodgroup, missing, injured.

@nitinsgr Started the Mumbai Help spreadsheet with 5 phone numbers. Came home to find 200+. Before I choke, I salute everyone.

The spreadsheet has since been taken down by the creator. A few hours after it was posted the document was updated to say – “The document has been protected from public view due to privacy concerns. I am inclined to believe the spreadsheet served its purpose”

@nitinsgr Took the spreadsheet down. Its job is done. Sorry people but it wasn’t meant to be a place for outrage of any kind. Thank you.

Real-Time Disaster & Help Tracking Web Page

A real-time Mumbai web page to report incidents on the ground, help offered and resources available was also created within hours after the blasts. The lead was taken by another twitter user @anandwrites who quickly created a crisis map on Ushahidi’s platform, an open source technology for real-time crisis mapping.

@AnandWrites Anand Giridharadas
A great crisis map here; more data: please use this one: maps.myindia.bz/mumbai/

Twitter

To coordinate disaster response, two hashtags quickly developed on Twitter – #heretohelp and #needhelp used along with #mumbaiblasts . Twitter users are using these two hashtags to help and coordinate response. These hashtags are also being used to populate data for the Mumbai Page set-up to track incidents, help & resources available for Mumbai blasts.

#Mumbaiblasts tweets Map: A google map of tweets around Mumbai following the reports of three blasts. The map pulls in tweets using the hashtag #mumbaiblasts which have geolocation data available. This map is not updated in realtime.

@mid_day the city’s popular daily newspaper was very helpful in tweeting real-time information about the traffic situation and allowed commuters to make decisions about travel and safety.

@mid_day: Sea Link is open. Western and Eastern Express Highways open. Traffic affected, but moving. #MumbaiBlasts

We also saw the Mumbai police for the first time making use of text messaging to keep Mumbai residents informed. Minutes after the blast a text message was sent out to all mobile phone users in Mumbai. The SMS said, “Bomb blasts reported at Zaveri Bazaar, Dadar. Please be careful. Stay indoors. Watch news channels.”

Have you come across any other use of technology to coordinate relief efforts for disasters such as the Mumbai terrorist strike? Please share below in the comments.

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    Deepa Chaudhary
    I have extensively worked at grass-roots from working in the slums of Mumbai to being on the frontline of numerous disaster relief efforts. I'm passionate about social entrepreneurship and I love discovering and writing about new trends in the social good space.

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