Typhoon Morakot caused serious mudslides and floods in southern Taiwan. Those scary and heart-breaking scenes have been broadcast to the world through the news. Whole mountain villages were destroyed and people lost their beloved homes and families. Bridges collapsed and traffic to the city was cut off. The situation demanded rescue services, food, supplies and medical treatment.
People in Taiwan are now trying their best to bring relief to those victims by donating goods and money and volunteering in affected areas. What helps organize people, information and resources? Social media, not the government.
Microblog service Plurk played a new role during this Typhoon’s attack. People published instant messages to gather goods and volunteers via Plurk. There were tons of related messages but they were spread individually without integration. Therefore, a specific account was established to collect and republish information. Moreover, several developers created Web sites voluntarily for the public to report the latest news. For example, Google maps shows the latest situation visually. typhoon.oooo.tw looks simple, but it presents each area’s immediate need for food and volunteers. disastertw.com also serves a similar purpose. The largest BBS forum in Taiwan, PTT, also created a discussion board for fundraising and recruiting volunteers.
This is the first time people gathered together through social media after a natural disaster in Taiwan. We can see how those online messages motivated people to stand up and devote themselves to rescuing others. However, access to the Internet in southern Taiwan isn’t as common as in the north. Those online mobilizations rely on people who live in the north to update and maintain them. People in the south are still used to reporting news by calling the government. How we can integrate this information from different channels effectively is still a challenge. Besides, our government is not organized and acts slowly to help victims. Even though there is so much online information, no officials receive it and react immediately. People self-organize to help victims and show their love to our hometown. Our authorities definitely need to learn how to utilize social media to receive the information and help victims within the shortest time.
I would like to dedicate this article to my hometown of Taiwan. Please pray for those people who are still suffering in southern Taiwan. Hope that those who await people will be rescued soon. All the sorrow will be gone and the homes will be rebuilt again one day with the strength and love of Taiwan’s people.