New Zealand Quake Victims Aided by Web-savvy Students around the World

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Classroom committees organize and collate tweets, texts, calls, and social network posts from the disaster scene to get information to the right people

the volume of communications emerging from crises like this is enormous. No one government agency or NGO has the capacity to track it all, so there's always a danger that important messages get lost.

The February 22 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand has once again displayed the power and effectiveness of Web 2.0 media in responding to a crisis.

With hundreds presumably still trapped under the rubble, texting, social networking, and microblogging sites like Twitter are busy getting information from victims to rescuers and aid providers, and vice versa.

But how can thousands of messages be sorted as to urgency, and delivered to the right people at the right time?

A new project initiated by the World Mind Network's Disaster Relief Program employs the most New Media-savvy users- students- to collate and organize the flood of information, and get it to the proper endpoint instantly.

Says project manager John Toomey, "the volume of communications emerging from crises like this is enormous. No one government agency or NGO has the capacity to track it all, so there's always a danger that important messages get lost."

Typically, in a classroom of 30 students, five committees are formed: one each to monitor Twitter trackers, Google People Monitor, SMS (text) messages, Emails, and entries on Facebook and other social networking sites.

Because students are side by side in the same room, important information can be transferred to the right person via the right media immediately.

Students in Belgium, India, Japan, and the U.S. are participating. What they learn will be systematized and refined so as to create a template for future disasters.

The website is at newzealandearthquakerelief.net.

Schools and others who would like to join the project are invited to write to earthquakerelief(dot)newzealand(at)gmail(dot)com.

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John Toomey
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