Google’s Crisis Info Hub provides refugees with much needed data and information

24 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Google Gives $11 Million to Help Refugees.

Google has announced the launch of a “Crisis Info Hub” to help refugees seeking asylum around the world by providing critical information for their journeys. Huge numbers of migrants and refugees coming to the continent are equipped with smartphones, and use them to find information, communicate, and navigate their way to their destination. When used, it’ll provide information on nearby lodging, transportation, medical facilities, and more in what appears to be a compact way that doesn’t consume a lot of the device’s battery life. So far, the website only has information on the Greek island of Lesbos, the main point of entry to Europe for refugees travelling on boats across the Mediterranean.

Ever since the European refugee crisis began making headlights at the beginning of September, Google was among the first companies to show its interest in the matter. Their initiative immediately gathered $5.5 million from individual donations and the sum was almost doubled by the end of the period with a whopping $11 million donations. The website offers information in English and Arabic on registration centres and legislation, accommodation, transportation, medical care, and banking services.

It provides vital information via smartphones, and is presented in a “lightweight, battery-saving way.” This includes information on ports, transport links, medical info, and places to sleep, and is available in English, Arabic, and other languages. Already Google has helped raise $14 million towards refugee relief, which has been divided equally among Doctors Without Borders, the International Rescue Committee, Save The Children, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The CEO has declared that the philanthropic company is looking to invest money in websites and online apps that are useful to all users, but particularly to those in dire straits. Hundreds of thousands of migrants are pouring into the continent, creating a logistical nightmare and rapidly escalating humanitarian crisis is Southern Europe.

Sometimes, the money are also physically donated, but this usually takes place through cash transfers because Google.org’s policy does not allow the poor to receive money and take decisions on how they should be spent. For the moment, the online platform has only been updated with information on Lesbos, Greece, whereas other regions will be added in the following period. Before you rush into being judgmental and say that Google used the recent philanthropic as a means of strengthening its online presence, as well, there are still things you need to know. She’s also become a volunteer relief worker since the crisis escalated, when she and a number of tech-activist friends got together to see what they could do to help. (She’s also spoken about her volunteer work with New Scientist.) Their solution?

The search giant has foreseen refugees’ need to freely access the Internet in order to enter the Crisis Info Hub; therefore, Google has partnered with NetHope to offer free Internet to refugees in European countries. The website is a database offering migrants information on geographical regions, public transportation networks and other services they may benefit of. Battery-powered Wi-Fi hotspots that can be worn in a backpack, along with charging banks cobbled together out of parts bought from high-street stores to let users charge up their devices. (Alongside the volunteer efforts of Coyer and others, established charities like Greenpeace are also working on the ground with more professional, long-term solutions.) Coyer told Business Insider that aid workers coordinate via Google Docs and Facebook groups to ensure that the outpouring of public support doesn’t leave them with an excess of certain items, and not enough of others.

The hub does not burden the use of smartphones, it can be easily accessed on portable devices and it can even save battery life, developers have explained. The platform’s layout takes very few time to load on the smartphone and it does not consume the battery life of the smartphone, either, Google has informed. There is, nevertheless, one single thing that the new website can’t do and that is, guarantee access to the Internet – the first condition that must be fulfilled for refugees to get access to the website.

Aid workers quickly realised they weren’t particularly safe, so were able to put out a call and have someone drop off fluorescent jackets from a nearby IKEA. Jacquelline Fuller, director of Google.org., has explained that such philanthropic acts are incredibly rare, the most common form of donation being the cash transfer. When they log on to the free Wi-Fi networks provided by aid workers, they are initially redirected to the page, which lists the correct costs of taxis, toilet locations, places to buy food, and other useful information.

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