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Industry Responds to Haiti Relief Efforts

Thu, 01/14/2010 - 7:14am
Andrew Berg

The wireless industry has recognized its role in the massive worldwide response to help the Haitian people in the aftermath of the devastating magnitude 7.0 earthquake that struck the Caribbean nation on Tuesday.

Nearly every major carrier in the United States, as well as many around the world, are supporting some form of text-to-donate initiative. Verizon Wireless is encouraging customers to contribute to the American Red Cross, via mobile phone, to the Haiti earthquake relief effort. According to a press release, Verizon says customers can make a $10 donation to the American Red Cross by texting the word "HAITI" to 90999.

By this morning, Verizon Wireless reported that its customers alone had pledged more than $1 million to the effort. Spokesman Jeffrey Nelson said that yesterday was the single largest day in the history of mobile giving, adding that all signs point to an even larger amount today.

AT&T Wireless is promoting the same initiative, which was commissioned by the U.S. State Department and put in place by a company called mGive, a mobile company that powers a number of different social giving programs. mGive's chairman, James Eberhard, was awakened early Wednesday morning by the State Department, calling for the company to set up the campaign, according to an mGive spokesman.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking on CNN's "American Morning" today, said the program had already raised more than $3 million. She called the next 24 hours "critical to save those lives that can be saved" and said the United States was "moving as quickly as possible."

Haitian native and Fugees frontman WyClef Jean also has started his own mobile giving operation.  Jean has set up a page on his Yele Haiti Foundation Web site, which the musician created to fund scholarships for Haitian students. People can give to the foundation to help victims of the quake by texting "Yele" to 501501.

Meanwhile, emergency communications teams funded by the United Nations Foundation and Vodafone Foundation are arriving in Haiti. UNF Chairman Ted Turner also committed $1 million to the relief effort and is appealing for additional funds to support the UN's emergency humanitarian assistance fund.

In a statement, Turner said that his group and the Vodafone Foundation will send two emergency response teams to rebuild communications infrastructure damaged by the quake. The importance of restoring communications on the island nation could be vital to finding any survivors.

In the interim, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is deploying 40 satellite terminals to re-establish basic communication links and a further 60 units with broadband capabilities are being dispatched along with experts to operate them.

According to a press release, ITU will also set up a Qualcomm Deployable Base Station (QDBS), a complete cellular system designed to enable wireless communications to help response and recovery teams. According to the release, ITU has allocated a budget of more than $1 million to strengthen the disaster response effort in Haiti.

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