Citizen groups working to respond to China disaster
| 05.30.2008 | 10:03:56 | Views: 4550 | ID:
May 30 '08: Chinese government officials are utilizing grassroots citizen groups to help with disaster recovery efforts in Sichuan province, the Washington Post reported. The groups are using Internet technologies such as chat groups and online social networking to organize themselves.
Officially, all large aid groups working in the country must be registered with Beijing. "Now," the WaPo reported, "however, aided by the proliferation of online bulletin boards, blogs and on-the-ground coordination centers, unregistered grass-roots organizations are essentially functioning as legitimate earthquake-relief NGOs, operating for the first time without having to look over their shoulders and helping to manage crisis whose death toll could surpass 80,000."The paper continued to report that at the Chengdu Urban Rivers Association, a partnership of citizens have "fielded hundreds of calls and emails, using staffers who were already in the field just before the quake as well as other contacts and volunteers. Tian Jun, the executive director of the association told WaPo, "We operate like a traffic-control center. ... We get information from the front, either from our own staff or from others, and post it online. Volunteers then buy or bring in supplies, and we direct the supplies to where they're needed." Coordinating the incoming supplies of volunteers and those who have cars, Tian said she was able to then make calls to "contacts in quake-affected towns to see what they need." Xiao Qiang, the director of the China Internet Project told the WaPo, "Many self-organized social networks are not formal organizations, but altogether their numbers, resources and role in society is much larger than what the government has officially allowed in the past." Social networking to respond to emergencies has been emerging as a powerful tool for communities. Organizations like Neighborhood America which provides the sponsorship for the National Blueprint for Secure Communities have said that building relationships among stakeholders in a community through software as a service can help to strengthen public/private partnerships and initiatives like the Super-Urban Area Security Initiative. And during the Virginia Tech shootings last year, video postings on Facebook and Myspace were used by students to let their friends and family know they were alright when cellphone lines were jammed. National Blueprint Tags: Response & Containment, Citizen & Community.
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