Using the Power of Google to Help the Victims in Japan

By Sandra Clitter  

I’m sure that many of us are feeling overwhelmed by the devastating news coming out of Japan – overwhelmed, disbelieving, helpless…the list goes on and on. I keep wondering ‘what else can go wrong’, and then something does – from potential nuclear meltdowns to freezing weather. While I can certainly donate money to the Red Cross (and honestly, I don’t know that I have the skills to do much more than that), Google is actually DOING something…and doing it in a big way.

There is an entirely separate area of Google that many of us do NOT know about called ‘’. Typically, when we think of ‘Google’, we think of the search engine, and the accompanying elements that Google offers to us, the user. All of those are offered at However, it’s more than worth the time to take a visit over to another ‘Google’, this one being (note the ‘.org’ instead of ‘.com’ at the end). is ‘Technology-driven philanthropy’. How marvelous. A quick visit to the site shows all kinds of philanthropic missions, but today, we’ll focus on the Japanese crisis.

Last year, when the earthquake devastated Haiti, Google utilized its considerable resources to create detailed maps of the devastation which aid workers could use in locating survivors. Google mapped where electricity was and was not working, helping to bring in temporary electricity, where necessary. If memory serves me correctly, within hours, Google mobilized its corporate resources and reach to create tools which became invaluable to the rescue workers’ efforts.

Google did the same thing last week when the devastating earthquake and tsunami first hit Japan. Almost instantly, Google created a ‘find people’ resource, among other things. Helping to match frantic families back with missing loved ones is just an incredible contribution. I am lucky that I do not know anyone missing in Japan, but I do know of someone whose uncle is missing, and I hope that the Google effort reunites them quickly.

Maybe you can contribute talent, rather than dollars. In order to accomplish this Herculean task, Google is enlisting ANYONE who can read Japanese to help enter the data that they are receiving. Often, they are taking a digital image (photograph) of a hand-written list, and then entering it into the online database. If you can read Japanese, you can help! Just go to Google Volunteers (with Japanese skills) and see if you can assist. At the time of this writing, it appears that almost 60% of the data that Google has still needs to be reviewed by human eyes. And remember, more information keeps coming in, so that percentage could actually go UP before it goes down! Unfortunately, this page is in Japanese, and I can’t read it. I am, however, doing the best that I can to point you in the correct direction.

Another Google area supporting the Japanese crisis is a Picasa photo album of people/lists in the shelters: Japanese Shelter Lists

For those of us who are limited to English, here is another page on Google with information on the crisis: Google Crisis Response

I am astounded by the amount of information gathered/presented on this page. Scroll down below the appeals for donations. Look at all the links. There’s all kinds of information for those of us who are safe and want to help, and for those people struggling with the day-to-day issues caused by the devastation.

Google is also trying to give people an idea of where the rolling blackouts are going to strike, so that the people who are trying to resume their lives, can plan appropriately. They are doing that by updating Google Maps with information (again, this one is in Japanese): Google Maps showing rolling blackout locations in Japan

My thoughts and prayers go out to all of the residents of Japan, and those with loved ones in Japan. May life return to something approximating ‘normal’, sooner rather than later. How inadequate those words sound.

Thank you to Google – for doing well by doing good. I’d just written about that approach to life a couple of weeks ago, and here is great display of those words in action.

One Comment

  1. Becky Michael
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 8:26 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks, Sandy, for being so caring and for taking the time to bring this to our attention. I’ll send this to people I know so that they know. Becky

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