Technology as a source of good

A quick blog post, only, to register my sadness at the news of 2 explosions close to the finishing line of the Boston Marathon, yesterday. I hope that you have not been personally touched by this tragedy.

Source: The Boston Marathon Facebook page

As you may be aware, I am a (slow but) keen runner and have deep admiration for those that are strong enough – physically and emotionally – to join races. I am neither but I have attended my fair share of races, cheering on from the lines as my husband or friends push themselves and keep going until they reach the finish line. My heart goes out especially to the family of that 8 years old boy, who had come to support his father and lost his life in this senseless event.

I read some time ago, I don’t know where, that when you feel overwhelmed with sad, tragic news, it helps to focus on those helping out. And sure enough, from the very first instant, there were many people helping others. Some ran towards the explosions, others rushed to the hospitals to give blood, many locals offered support to runners unable to make their way home…

Amid the chaos, it was also reassuring to see technology being used to help out. Surely, there were sadistic images being shared on social media, some confusing information about what was happening elsewhere in the city, and unhelpful rumours about who had done it or why. But technology was used in positive ways, as well. For instance:

  • As the chips in runners’ shoes continued to track presence, worried friends and family of marathon participants could use the race’s website to check the whereabouts (and, indirectly), the welfare of their loved ones;
  • Local residents and businesses used Twitter and other social media channels to offer support;
  • Google set up a People Finder page for the event. Those at, or in the vicinity of, the event could let others know that they were safe, and other people could enquiry about the whereabouts of their loved ones;
  • While the phone lines were down to prevent the remote detonation of bombs, or too congested because everybody was trying to make a call, people could still use Wi-Fi to update their social media presence and let others know that they were safe;
  • The police used the web and various social media channels to broadcast public safety messages – e.g., to keep clear of certain areas.

What other great examples of technology as a source of good did you come across?

6 thoughts on “Technology as a source of good

  1. This event also shocked me, and I like to join you in expressing the emotional support for those affected. At the moment I’m not ready for a race, but I did participate before, and plan to do in the future. And it’s great to see loved-ones and friends at the finish line, cheering you on. So, it struck quite close to home.
    I like how you focus on how technology was helpful. Of course there is always misguided commentary (both on social media as on tv networks), or spreading of misinformation, but technology proved very helpful. It’s good to show that, too. Also: I think the runners and spectators who rushed to the hospitals to donate blood for the victims are heroes. Good to mention them, too!


    1. I agree – it was very emotional to read news that runners went past the finish line and kept on running to hospitals to donate blood. The human race at its best.


      1. Another example of the human race (using tech) at its best: this google docs spreadsheet – “I have a place to offer”. A long list of lovely people.


  2. Hearing about google’s people finder was comforting. That there are folk out there whose first instinct in times of crisis is “how can I use my tech skills to help?”.

    Side note: I didn’t notice any misguided commentary or misinformation myself on this event, perhaps because I’m becoming more selective about who/where I get info from? e.g. only following 150 select folk on twitter now


    1. Some people posted really graphic and insensitive images of the event, while others posted hate comments about a certain ethnic / religious group associated with other terrorist attacks in recent times. I have to say that nobody in my time line did the latter, though there was a piece earlier today (in the Huffington Post? I am not sure…) about that.


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