Lessons Learned From Haiti Text Campaign

Posted by Katie Stanton
May 10, 2010
Text Message

About the Author: Katie Stanton works in the Office of Innovation at the U.S. Department of State.

Today, the State Department is hosting the Haiti Tech Meet-Up Conference to highlight the tech efforts used to assist individuals in the aftermath of the January 12 earthquake in Haiti. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, the State Department worked with a group of engineers from the tech community to launch a free SMS relief information service to help people in Haiti. The text message program allowed people with cell phones to text their location and their need to a free short code: "4636" (INFO). The first panel of the conference, SMS Help!, was dedicated to learning how the service worked to save lives in Haiti, and how we can improve the service to rebuild a better Haiti, as well as prepare for future crises.

Carline Cazeau, a Haitian-American and President of Altimax Solutions, LLC, moderated the panel featuring Rob Munro, Denise Rosalind Sewell, and Luke Beckman. The speakers demonstrated and discussed their innovations. In the aftermath of the earthquake, the speakers described how disaster relief platforms collaborated to geolocate mobile messages and provide survivors with critical information. By texting "4636," the data was quickly collected and accessed by several workers and volunteers, who translated the Kreyol and French messages into English. The messages were then distributed to emergency responders and aid organizations who located survivors and directed the food, water, and medicine to them.

There are countless success stories demonstrating how the service helped in the aftermath of the earthquake. Josh Nesbit, Director of Frontline SMS Medic, said that a health clinic used the service to request diesel fuel to keep their generator running.

It has now been four months since 35 seconds changed the course of a nation. We have now transitioned from immediate relief to long-term development. At the Haiti Donors Conference on March 31, Secretary Clinton announced the United States' pledge of over $1.5 billion to rebuild Haiti. As we move forward, it is important that we take what we learned from our Haiti experience so we can process information and provide help and assistance in future disasters.

Join the conversation on Twitter, #HaitiTech. We invite you to submit a question or comment on how technology can help rebuild Haiti.

For more information, email haititechRSVP@state.gov for Help in Haiti.See related entry: Text “4636” for Help in Haiti.



Katie D.
District Of Columbia, USA
May 10, 2010

Katie D. in Washington, D.C., writes:

Katie Stanton has been a real leader on innovation to help build Haiti back better and I feel so fortunate to have her as a colleague I can learn from.

United States
May 10, 2010

O.C. in Haiti writes:

Does anyone know what is happening in Haiti. It's like after the initial shock its become out of sight out of mind. Know one broadcasts news about it. How much money was Bill Clinton pledged? What are they spending the money on? Is there an overall plan? Has the rubble been cleared? what's taking so long if not?

New Mexico, USA
May 11, 2010

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ O.C.:

That's the sound of a lot of folks quietly going about their jobs to get it done.

Sometimes no news is good news eh?

pamela g.
West Virginia, USA
May 11, 2010

Pamela G. in West Virginia writes:

I think it is incredible how quickly this system was put into place. This is definitely something that needs to be continued to be refined so it will be available here in US or abroad in any disaster. Communication is the key to recovery efforts.

West Virginia, USA
May 11, 2010

Dr. G. in West Virginia writes:

fascinating article.


Latest Stories

November 10, 2010

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program

Writing for the U.S. Department of State DipNote blog, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Janice L. Jacobs highlights… more