Silicon Valley Moves Mountains to Help Nepal!

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To help Nepalese people connect on the ground and with friends and family around the world Skype and Viber are offering free calls into Nepal. Google Voice has lowered its rates for Nepal to 1 cent/minute. Facebook has turned on its Safety Check feature for the region so one click is all it takes to connect with loved ones. Google has launched person finder so searchers and those with information can find each other more easily.

Crowdraise has set up a donation page on its crowdsourcing site. Apple has enabled one click donations on iTunes and Facebook and is matching donations to the International Medical Corps up to $2 million US.

But when it comes to helping rescuers on the ground, digital map makers have had the biggest effect. In recent years at natural disaster scenes, teams of volunteer ‘crisis mappers’ have been activated to turn satellite images into usable maps.

Starting from existing maps, mappers update and fill in unmapped areas using the latest satellite images. This has dramatic effects on the ground by allowing rescue and relief workers to navigate disaster areas, assess damage and make decisions around what types of transportation and other resources are needed.

Success has been limited in past disasters by the availability of satellite images due to licensing concerns. However this time satellite companies went ready. DigitalGlobe released the first satellite image right after the earthquake in Nepal on 26 April  2015, followed by Planet Labs, Astrium and Google’s Skybox.

Volunteers are continuing to scan satellite images for damaged roads and buildings, as well as tents. If you’d like to help head over to Tomnod to search satellite photos or get involved with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team.