Breaking the Net

- Astha Chand
Breaking the Net

May 7, 2015-

The power of the internet is not unknown—it has the power to build; it has the power to destroy. With the internet becoming an imperative part of our day-to-day lives, it’s difficult to imagine our lives without it. Usually, whenever someone felt a minor tremor, the first thing they would do is check social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to see if someone else has written about it or proceed to write a post about it themselves. This time, however, we saw a different kind of social media interaction.

We saw an influx of photos, posts and statuses being uploaded every day. Some have been eye-opening and some have been heart-wrenching. No matter what the intentions were behind it, we can safely say that people from around the country and around the world came together to help each other out. Whether it was people who wanted to volunteer, people willing to send out supplies, those documenting the affects online or companies offering their services for free, the internet has played an instrumental part in communicating and coordinating between parties.

Despite technology, and the internet, still not being able to predict exactly when an earthquake will hit, it presents a glimpse of hope in times of need. Here are some of the ways in which the internet tried to help out.


Facebook Safety Check

Probably common knowledge by now, Facebook has rolled out a new feature that lets your Facebook friends know that you are safe in the case of a natural disaster. This is when, at times controversial, location detection system of the site comes to the foreground. If you have set up your location, hometown or you have posted recently from Kathmandu, Facebook will identify that and send you a notification and ask you to mark your safety status. Upon knowing that you are safe, a notification is then sent to all your friends informing them about your wellbeing. As we saw with the recent quake, all telecommunication was affected but the internet was still working. It has become an easy method to track the safety of your core group and the ones far from your current reach. A total of seven million people used this feature and marked themselves safe.

Google Person Finder

This web application allows individuals to post and search for the status of relatives or friends affected by the quake. It lets press, non-governmental agencies and others to contribute to the database and receive updates. Developed in response to the Haiti earthquake of 2010 to tackle the case of missing citizens, the project was launched in Nepal since the earthquake hit.  They are currently tracking around 7,700 records in Nepal.  

Skype Calls

Known as a connector between people, Skype has users all around the world. Usually, Skype to Skype is free but there is also an option to call mobile phones and landlines directly from your account; this however, tends to cost money. So, to help connect people with their loved ones, Skype allowed all calls to landlines and mobiles in and out of Nepal free of charge. This was aimed to provide people with an alternative to the heavily impacted telecommunication network.

Viber Out

Viber to Viber, like Skype, has always been free. But, like Skype, Viber’s ‘Viber Out’ option, where you can call a mobile and landline numbers, has always been charged. However, like Viber offered free calls in the Philippines to allow users affected by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, it allowed all their users in Nepal to make direct phone calls for free (this however, does not include those who want to make a phone call from abroad). And to ensure the features reached as many as possible, Ncell offered their users free access to Viber and Skype through their 3G service.  


GoFundMe has played an intricate part in raising funds at this time of need. So far, more than $3 million has been raised by more than 600  campaigns from more than 40,000 donors for Nepal relief efforts—and it keeps increasing. The highest so far has been raised by the popular YouTube vlogger Pratigya Tamang, also known as Promise Tamang. GoFundMe generally charges a fee from all those that set up a donation fund; however, they recently announced that they will be donating back its 5% fee from all donations made to campaigns within the ‘Nepal’ category to AmeriCares that will help deliver aid packages of medical relief supplies to all of those displaced by the earthquakes.

With the hopes of making coordination between those that want to help and those that need help, Hami is set out to be the bridging gap. Support and help can come in different ways, and Hami primarily brings individuals who have funds, aids or services to offer to the ones who are in need of those to help reach the actual victims. It primarily creates a platform where the people who want to help can connect with each other. Instead of relying on the core group of your Facebook friends, by posting on and checking this portal you can reach out to a wider audience and play your part in helping out during this time of need.

Nepal Earthquake Reports

With this app from Kathmandu Living Labs, you can report anything from earthquake damages to blocked roads to areas where shelter is available. If you want help, you can report it and if you see that someone is trapped, you can report that too. As well as that, for all those who want to go out and volunteer outside of the city, Kathmandu Living Labs has launched a website that lets you access offline maps of affected areas and how to get there. With the help of satellite images, you can see the affected areas or you can download a paper map that you can print and take with you. Log on to for more information.

The officials

Official government bodies were seen very active on their social media profiles ever since the quake hit. Constant posts by the Nepal Police, the Nepal Army, the Armed Police Force, the Office of the Prime Minister of Nepal Prime Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund and the National Emergency Operation Centre were used in diminishing rumours and keeping people updated about the situation.

Published: 08-05-2015 12:31

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