Update: Donations Reach $5.2 million to Haiti relief through text messages
Update: donations top $5.2 million as of 6:30 p.m. Thursday
Thousands of cell phone users in the U.S. have sent more than $5.2 million in donations via text message to the Red Cross and other relief organizations, according to wireless carriers.
The donations represented record giving over mobile devices and erase doubt over the interest among users in transmitting funds over their cell phone.
The State Department, Red Cross, and mobile philanthropy mGive, set up a number and donation system through short messages late Tuesday. By texting "Haiti" to 90999, cell phone users could donate $10 to the Red Cross. The donation is automatically billed to a user's service account and sent to the Red Cross,which has stressed that sending cash is the most effective of getting the right water, food, medical and shelter supplies needed.
All major wireless carriers participated in the effort and other nations had similar programs. In Canada, cellphone users can send donations of $5 by texting the word "Haiti" to 45678 through a system set up by the Mobile Giving Foundation, a group that enables charities to collect money by text messages.
Aid was also brought in the form of telecommunications services on the ground in Haiti through the non-governmental organization, Telecom Without Borders. The group, profiled here, deployed two emergency response teams to Port-au-Prince. The deployment of communications has been slow and difficult, according to reports.
One team arrived Wednesday night and another will arrive today. They will build emergency telecom centers for response workers, as well as calling centers to provide free two-minute calls anywhere in the world to people displaced by the earthquake. In such disasters, even local emergency crews lack the ability to communicate. Telecom Without Borders links up to a satellite connection to create a hotspot for local workers. DC-based Iridium Satellite has been providing communications connections for relief workers on the ground in the island nation. Telecom Without Borders also allows people on the ground to call loved ones outside Haiti. Many people in the Washington area have been waiting for news about their family members, according to today's Post story.
January 14, 2010; 8:58 AM ET
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