Awful scenes from Haiti, its hard to imagine what people are going through, but this BBC article: Social networks and the web offer a lifeline in Haiti describes well how social media tools can really help co-ordinate response, and in some cases, provide up to the minute information in a way that simply hasn’t been possible in the past. Ushahidi, which provided an amazing service during the riots in Kenya, have sprung into action again.

The DEC – Disasters Emergency Committee has a web page and can provide banners for others to place on their sites – with direct links which make it easy to donate. They are also encouraging people to donate via SMS – with instructions that are simple enough to convey in a 140 character tweet: Text “GIVE” to 70077 to donate £5 to @decappeal for #Haiti. £5 goes to DEC. You pay £5+std. network SMS rate.

My colleagues at DFID have also been using all the social media channels where we have accounts to make information available : main page on the earthquake. I’ll blog more on the details when we have time to review all the things we have done and analyse how our information was received. Early insights though echo the BBC report – social media tools provide a really powerful way to get information out quickly, to people who are interested to hear it.

More examples of how online communities are reacting:

And the last message to leave you with, which I wish could be shared much more widely, as Colum writes with first hand knowledge: Killing relief with kindness – a blog post from one of the DFID bloggers.

Update: I’m not the only one thinking along these lines this evening: blog post from Ari Herzog – Haiti and social media: how they merge goes into more detail – and points out that some of the facebook groups are fake.

Update number 2 – Article in the New York Times: Ushahidi – Africa’s gift to silicon valley – how to track a crisis.

Also, how the online community again proved useful in responding to the earthquake in Chile – a personal blog post from someone with family links there: Why google is the last place to go in a crisis