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Reflections On How Technology & Hurricane Katrina Changed Our World

Seven years ago, our country watched in dismay as Hurricane Katrina overtook the beautifully flawed city of New Orleans.  The imagery of the breaking levy, the mass exodus of its citizens, and the devastated neighborhoods left many of us wondering what we could do to help.

Most people my age had never seen such absolute devastation in our country before.  And, I don’t think most of Americans were truly aware of the level of poverty that existed in Louisiana until we saw it on camera.   My immediate instinct was to do something to help.  I quickly became frustrated when I realized that the only thing to do was donate to a nonprofit,where I would be uncertain of the impact of my gift.  It was that sense of helplessness that triggered the early idea for GiveForward. 

The concept for GiveForward has since evolved into so much more.  In large part due to my partner, Ethan Austin’s, encouragement, GiveForward has become a tool for helping people provide emotional and financial support for those in need.  We have helped mobilize the social web for the benefit of people.  And, we feel fortunate to be a part of peoples’ recovery process whether it is from an illness, accident, or natural disaster.

The lessons learned from Katrina combined with ever-evolving technology have innately changed the way people respond to natural disasters.  As Hurricane Isaac looms, we are grateful that GiveForward can be one of the many ways in which people use technology and the web to connect, share, and rebuild.  Here are even more immediate examples of how the private and public sector are doing their part:

  • Emergency disaster officials are using social media to warn residents of approaching danger and how to prepare.  
  • Apps have sprung up to help people in Isaac’s path, including one by the Red Cross called a Hurricane App that will notify people of where you are, and if you need help or are safe.  
  • The White House has federal disaster response teams ready and waiting throughout the Gulf region.

With the explosion in the use of mobile devices and social media, it is so much easier for friends and family to organize support for a loved one, no matter how far apart we live.  It is my hope that should Isaac be as destructive as we fear, its victims will not face the same kind of alienation and isolation that victims of Katrina faced seven years ago.  

Whose world will you change?