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Twitter Used for Ad-Hoc Disaster Relief in Indonesia

BY Nick Judd | Monday, November 22 2010

As interesting for its analysis as for the subject matter itself is UN Dispatch blogger Alana Sheikh's take on a Reuters wire story about how Twitter was used in disaster relief after a tsunami and volcanic eruptions struck Indonesia.

Here's one example from the Reuters wire story:

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.

There are already communications networks in place that allow disaster relief workers and volunteers to communicate with each other. What Twitter seems to have been useful for in this case was allowing people working in disaster relief to recruit people who weren't already dialed in to some other network, by presenting an immediate need in real-time.

Also worthy of note in Sheikh's piece is a crystallization of the Twitter-doubting that has been making its way around the web thanks to fresh thinking about its use during protests after elections in Iran, and also Malcolm Gladwell.

Sheikh writes:

... Twitter is actually a pretty bad tool in situations like this. It has no way to verify accurate information, the data stream is full of random clutter, and it can slow or crash because of rumors about Brangelina. But people use the technology they are comfortable with in times of crisis, and in the case of Indonesia, that was Twitter.

It's interesting to see how quickly questions about Twitter and its effectiveness have been asked and answered.

Via Peter Daou