The Great East Japan earthquake that happened on 11 March 2011 hit an unprecedented 9.0 on the Richter scale and damaged vital lines of communication between disaster regions, throwing the whole nation into turmoil. “We were shocked and saddened by the images and reports coming from Japan. It was a human tragedy on a massive scale,” said Mr Akhtar Badshah, Senior Director, Global Community Affairs, Microsoft.
A mere day after the disaster struck, Microsoft wanted to reopen these lines of communication to help deliver support to both survivors and volunteers alike. Its long-standing relationships with Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs) helped pave the way to re-establish lines of contact for over 150,000 victims of the quake and relief personnel working to help in the disaster. The Microsoft Disaster Response team formed a response plan that was implemented in two phases: 1) focusing on providing logistical help to volunteer centers, and 2) providing logistical support to evacuation centers.
Microsoft Japan called out to the industry to participate in this relief effort and 27 partners joined the initiative. This marked the launch of the “Information and Communications Technology Caravan” or ICT Caravan. The ICT Caravan ensured that PCs arrived ready-made. This meant that the hardware, software and network requirements were already installed in Tokyo before they reached Tohoku. Approximately 3,000 PCs were delivered to volunteers and the evacuees themselves.
Two key Microsoft technologies were utilized to support the disaster relief effort; the first being Office 365 SharePoint®. This cloud-based collaboration software gave volunteers in different and remote locations an easy and reliable way to deposit, share and communicate information. The other technology utilized was Microsoft Lync™. This allowed volunteers to liaise in real-time – making the speed and extent of help more immediate, through instant messaging, voice communications and even audio, video and web conferencing.
Volunteers were very impressed with the support provided by both Microsoft and Microsoft partners. A volunteer from Tono City shared his personal sentiments, that “these personal computers were actually saving lives by helping volunteers communicate and identify evacuation centers that urgently needed food and water.” At the end of the relief exercise, the collaborative effort between the industry and NPOs helped survivors get back on their feet and reconnect with the world through the use of technology.
The ICT Caravan’s actions eventually evolved into a larger movement of industry collaboration, which was sponsored by the Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industry Association (JEITA).
“…these personal computers were actually saving lives by helping volunteers communicate and identify evacuation centers that urgently needed food and water. ”
– volunteer from Tono City
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