Social media and web apps have the potential to make a huge impact. In the hours following the massive quakes, we followed the Checklist Application to track hundreds of friends and family in the affected areas while trying our best to be of service by connecting peoples’ needs with immediate relief via groups, posts and messages. Facebook undoubtedly proved to be an engaging and transformative online vehicle.

Realizing the potential for civilian participation in disaster relief, we reached out to Chris Thompson at Humanity Road, a disaster relief operation based out of Virginia. Thompson connected us with Kathmandu Living Labs (KLL), an open-source mapping non-profit that produced a quakemap.org site allowing people in the field to report in real time exactly what was needed and where.

We reached out to an old friend and computer scientist Brad Dettmer, who posted a call to all friends/programmers to help create a web app which led us to team up with Gauthier Segay and Tejaswini Ganapathi in the Bay Area to #Hack4Nepal. From our base in Silicon Valley, we mined GitHub to minimize duplicate work, got in touch with the folks at KLL in Kathmandu, touched base with the Stanford Geo Spatial Center for location databases and corresponded with various individual and group efforts connecting needs with relief.

The outcome of our coordinated efforts was the development of a Facebook app to map needs. Utilizing Facebook’s massive user population, this application will allow civilians with real time local knowledge to more effectively assist in future disasters, working along side the major efforts by humanitarian and government agencies.

Map image: Courtesy of Kathmandu Living Labs