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3.28.2011

The Tohoku-Taiheiyo Earthquake and Social Networking

When the 1995 earthquake devastated the area I call home today, digital cameras were the heros that delivered footage of the devastation to central government. And it was the only way news could travel that fast as many of the communications networks were knocked out by the devastation. 




The digital cameras were very crude back then using analogue lines for transmission (remember that weird sound the modems used to make?) but our self defense force planes took aerial photos and transmitted them. 




That was the catalyst that led to rapid proliferation of digital photography back then. I know because I was in the camera industry selling the early digital cameras at Olympus.


The massive quake and tsunami on 3-11 (11 March) once again knocked out the usual comms netwoks of telephony and land line based technology. But Twitter, FaceBook, and other mobile computing-based real time uploading of information gave the nation and its authorities quick feed of information on who was doing what.


I spent almost all night and the wee hours of the morning on 11 and 12 March tweeting about public evacuation points, how Suntory released their vending machines so that drinks could be dispensed without money, how Bic Camera (a major chain) was offering people free mobile phone charging services at their stores, and more importantly, pleas for help using geo tags and hash tags on Twitter. I just hope that access to technology did not make the difference for some people between life and death.


There were journalists and TV and radio stations calling for tweets about food distribution points, shelters, and rescue pleas.


While the red cross struggled to get a donation account up for three days, CyberAgent's ameba (JP version of twitter and Blogger combined) set up a donation account as well as Groupon.


If there is anyone in Japan who still does not believe in the power of SNS and twitter type services, the quake here sure was a loud wake up call.


And I am reminded that it is not just military budgets and demands that drive technological innovation, but disasters, too, force the powers that be to embrace new technology.


I feel that the way SNS and twitter type services were used this time will further push the penetration of smart phones usage in Japan, an already high-value mobile devices market. This will change consumer behavior yet again. 


Just some thoughts as I thank you all again for caring and thinking of us in Japan