Friday, January 15, 2010

Information Technology Speeding Donations to Haiti

This is a followup to my last post (touching on chapter 3 of the book), on the potentially positive sides of speeding up money flows. This applies to the Haiti situation in particular. The Red Cross is making it very easy to make donations (hopefully for the relief effort in Haiti and not for administrative costs). According to an email I just received from one of the listservs I'm on:

To help, text "HAITI" to "90999" and $10 will be sent to the Red Cross, charged to your cell phone bill. Please visit the U.S. Department of State's website to read up-to-date information and to learn about more ways to offer assistance at Please share this message as widely as possible.
That's pretty slick and fast, so there's no surprise that people had donated millions of dollars to the Red Cross already (according to NPR this morning). The only problem is that relief supplies are facing bottlenecks. The airport is not only tiny (with one runway) but it also has structural damage. The main port facility at Port au-Prince has also been destroyed, so cargo ships can't dock there, and there's only one other port facility available, and it's small. One NPR reporter tried to get in with relief experts, but their flight was deleted to the Turks and Caicos Islands.

So all the money in the world won't help if they can't figure out a way to supplies in quickly. The whole situation is deeply disturbing. The infrastructure of an entire country has crumbled. It's a total collapse of everything: both physical and social institutions. Pray for Haiti.

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