Self-Help in 140 Characters or Less


A Reuters report recounts how Twitter has facilitated disaster relief in Indonesia. Here's an excerpt:

The Southeast Asian country of 17,000 islands, where transport can be difficult at the best of times, was hit by a tsunami, earthquakes, floods and volcanic eruptions within the space of a few weeks last month, and the death toll keeps rising.

Organizing effective aid management has proved challenging for authorities in remote regions or where infrastructure has been destroyed by giant waves or scorching ash clouds.

But when a community-based group near the erupting Mount Merapi volcano, which has killed over 300 people, sent a message, or tweet, on Twitter that food was piling up in the next town and there were no vehicles to pick it up, over a dozen cars lined up to deliver it within 10 minutes.

"It was so fast I almost didn't believe it," said Akhmad Nasir of Jalin Merapi, an information network built by local communities living on the slopes of Mount Merapi on Java island.

Started as a radio community in 2006 to monitor Mount Merapi's activity, Jalin Merapi has helped shelters that are unable to receive government aid by deploying about 700 volunteers who report by tweeting specific aid needs….Nasir said the most unforgettable moment was when the community announced they needed help to provide meals for 30,000 people, and the meal was ready in four hours.

See also: my interview with Jeannette Sutton, a sociologist who studies how people use DIY media during disasters.