A Personal Account of the Impact of Typhoon Yolanda

By Karrie Ilagan, Country General Manager, Microsoft Philippines

Growing up in the Philippines makes you acutely aware of earthquakes and the monsoon and typhoon seasons; of the rain, wind and sheer power of nature. I have weathered my share of disasters, however, nothing could prepare me for the impact that was Typhoon Yolanda.

When this disaster struck it was different, the impact was breathtaking. I, however, found myself in a unique situation. As the General Manager for Microsoft Philippines I have access to technology and skills which can be harnessed to help those in need. I can provide support to NGOs for relief and the government to support the critical work in the impacted areas. I also work with an amazing team of capable individuals who genuinely care about their community. They generously give their time and heart to those affected and to the conduits for relief assistance.

The breadth of ways technology can be used is staggering, but at first the choices are overwhelming. There is so much we could do; where do we start?

What I now appreciate is the power of partnerships. By working with our long term NGO partners such as NetHope and Gawad Kalinga, I grew to learn what was really needed on the ground and could then take that knowledge to my Microsoft colleagues around the world to access technology best practices. I learned what we could deploy quickly and what we can invest for the long term rebuilding efforts and future preparedness. It is amazing to see how the various communities we have nurtured for many years – the start-ups, developers and partner organizations – have joined with us to help unconditionally.

Many people don’t know that by providing Skype credits to families in need we were able to reunite lost loved ones. Or, how our pilot for market innovations with TV WhiteSpaces, which was deployed with a satellite-based telecommunications platform, provided high-speed voice and data connectivity with Ericsson Response and the World Food Programme, to support humanitarian responders.

But I do. I also know of the Microsoft team around the globe that came together, every morning at first, to assess the requests we were getting for help and how we could support them; the people who rallied the troops globally to source more than $500,000 in fundraising and matching gifts for my compatriots; and the people across my team who volunteered their time to pack relief kits.

I want to say my thanks to all those colleagues, partners and NGOs who have humanized our technology and helped countless families. To each of you, and on behalf of my countrymen – Maraming, Maraming Salamat!

To be Filipino is to accept adversity, embrace life and somehow find happiness. To be a Microsoft Filipino is to be all of those things and then add a sprinkle of technological know-how to hopefully help those most in need to get from adversity to happiness that little bit quicker. 

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