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New technologies boost Haiti aid efforts

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In an unplanned and impromptu test, innovative uses of new technologies showed early promise in aiding relief efforts after the earthquake in Haiti a year ago, a new study says.

Relief workers found creative uses for technology as they strove to locate the missing, provide food and water, and coordinate with other aid workers, says a study funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Aid workers, for example, used “crowd sourcing” to gather information on medical emergencies and locations of trapped victims, then used the information to create online maps for relief workers.

Short-message-service texts were used by relief groups, cell-phone companies and the media to distribute messages about critical public-health issues.

And volunteers used their handheld global-positioning systems to create real-time maps to help relief crews navigate damaged areas.

While radio continues to be the best tool for communicating with local people affected by large-scale tragedies, new technologies employed in Haiti increased the effectiveness of radio efforts, Mayur Patel, director of strategic assessment for the foundation and assistant to its president, says in a statement.

“The Haitian experience strongly suggests that digital media and information technology can significantly improve relief efforts with the right on-the-ground coordination,” says Patel.

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