Big tech companies should be among the first respondents to help save lives touched by disaster. Tune in to any news or media channel and you’ll be inundated by news of human suffering. There’s no shortage of people in need of help from both chronic and emergency situations including natural and unnatural disasters. It’s time for Big Tech to step up on the humanitarian aspects of their responsibilities since they possess massive potential to do real good through social-media services. Tech Companies have long profited from trending products and software and by making millionaires from user experiences. Up until now only a few, like Facebook Check-In feature in 2010, have done so purely for the benefit of its users. From wearable gear to self-tracking devices, the technology already exists. It just needs to be repurposed to add value during difficult times. The next disaster is just around the corner.
Here’s what’s at stake for ordinary people: So far, the Tubbs and Nuns fires have displaced hundreds of people. After multiple hurricanes devastated Puerto Rico’s citizens, few of the victims were able to communicate with family on the mainland or get clean water and food. The recent mass shooting in Las Vegas had people from all over the country looking for loved ones who were unreachable after the massacre made headlines. Plus, for a slightly more mundane social problem than the past few weeks of hurricanes, shootings and earthquakes, chronic homelessness and drug use bring their own arsenals of concern.
It’s time for technology-based businesses to concern themselves with how ordinary people—tech users, who purchase their products—fare in life when catastrophe strikes. The best part is that these transitions could be relatively easy for these companies who already collect tons of data on us. Here are the key problems in need of #tech solutions:
- Homelessness/displacement exacerbated by disaster
- Clean water and food shortages
- Shelter: places to sleep and safely store possessions and valuables
- Services and facilities for bathing and laundry
- Safety alerts and information about the location and health status of loved ones
Big tech has the capacity to solve these problems quickly. What the world needs is some tweaking of these great tech products to make sure users and their communities benefit from their brand loyalty. As an added bonus for these tech companies, emergency features can make their products go-to resources integral to people’s lives. That’s a lot of stockholder returns over time, making these ideas worth the time and investment for social-media companies. It’s time for real, practical and fairly simple ways for the big companies and some smaller ones with big hearts and human-capital bandwidth to step up and help society deal with the fall out from inevitable calamity. The capacity for people to help each other without opening their wallets is, thus far, untapped.
- Airbnb is already set up to help subscribers find and use homes and other tourist services on demand. There’s room to link disaster victims with resources such as showers, laundry services and temporary camping spots or supplies. These features could be activated at all times or regionally triggered in response to specific emergency situations. As of Oct. 16th Airbnb sent out a notification that they’d allow hosts to invite guest for free in response to fires in Northern California. Kudos to Airbnb.
- Twitter may have the capacity to identify users’ geographical location to determine if a person is a danger zone. They can provide data based on user activity to help respondents locate populated or isolated areas in need of special attention. Water and food deliveries could be targeted to those areas.
- Fitbit knows how fast users are moving, and most likely, their location at any time the device is worn. These fitness bits have the capacity to report emergency situations to designated family members or authorities quickly. The potential for Fitbit to detect vital signs of its users and emit a signal that can be picked up by rescue workers during an emergency is great. Just as these awesome gadgets allow for networking for health reasons, why shouldn’t they alert designated people to things like whereabouts and health? Users would be more likely to keep devices charged and on hand if they knew it could help during an emergency.
- Google has the ability to track all kinds of activity. I can’t help wondering whether Google can program their search engines to see when area is under duress from seismic activity or extreme heat and, thereby, provide an early warning to residents and save lives.
We can have a better place to live because of technology. No one is better at finding solutions to marketing, network growth and pleasing the stockholders than today’s biggest tech companies. This concept is about employing those same tech resources to helping millions of users with simple modifications that could ensure survivors of disasters never feel abandoned by society. What’s next? I foresee a future where tech companies partner with non-profits and government organizations to provide fast, direct responses to critical questions of survival in the shortest amount of time. Since we’re not yet living on the moon, we can at least try to make the earth a more hospitable place for humankind.