AP APTOPIX Nepal Earthquake
Villagers in Kathmandu charging their cell phones in an open area. Photo courtesy of AP/Bernat Armangue

The ability to instantly tweet out an urgent message or directly contact someone from across the world might be trivial to some, but could mean the difference between life or death for others. As the earthquake crisis struck Nepal this week, a number of tech giants have taken the opportunity to provide digital tools to assist people.

The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Lamjung on 25 April has since claimed over 5000 lives and counting, with casualties also coming from neighboring regions of China, India and Bangladesh. Over 40 countries have already deployed assistance in the form of medical aid, personnel and donations. However, aid has also appeared through digital initiatives from global tech companies.

Google, which recently lost an employee to the earthquake, has established a service called Person Finder that lets you provide and query information about someone in a single database. Calls made to Nepal through Google Voice have also been reduced from 19 cents per minute to just one cent.

Similarly, Facebook has implemented its Safety Check feature that allows you to confirm your safety based on your location and access point. Once confirmed, the service emails your friends and family to notify them of your condition.

Apple has also enabled its one-click donation service through the iTunes Store, making it easy for those with an already-linked credit card. Microsoft, Viber and telecom companies like AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have pledged their support through waived fees for calls and messaging through their platforms.

Despite these measures, it’s important to note that many areas in Nepal will have limited internet at this time. However, companies have already been researching ways around this. Google has begun testing Project Loon, which is an initiative to provide wireless internet access to rural and remote areas by network of balloons in the sky.

Syahir Ashri