Code Monkeys without Borders

Disaster relief in Haiti has dominated the news a great deal over the last few weeks. Obviously, many organizations are in the country doing important work.

What I’m interested in blogging about, here, are areas where technology is being brought to bear on relief efforts. Very early on Google, for example, put a disaster relief page on the web, including their “Haiti person finder” application — a simple little app that allows people to provide information about missing persons (either to say “I’m looking for person X” or “I know information about person X”). Their maps of the earthquake zone with data from various sources — seismologists, aid organizations and others — are also tremendously helpful.

Another way that geeks are getting involved in relief has to do with the “Crisis Commons” — a loosely organized bunch of coders who are trying to build apps that can help out relief personnel. One app area that interests me is the attempt to build tools for aiding translation to and from Haitian kreyòl. I know from painful past experience that Google’s language tools don’t support kreyòl, so these translation tools can be very helpful.

These geek “camps” have been coming together in a variety of cities (including one starting up in Toronto this weekend.

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