Digital donations for Japan disaster relief

By Adrian Addison

HONG KONG - Technology giants Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter are all offering digital ways to donate to Japan's recovery efforts following the massive earthquake and devastating tsunami.

Apple has set up an option on its iTunes software to allow registered users to donate from $5 to $200 to the American Red Cross simply by clicking a button for the chosen amount.

The Red Cross has also launched a campaign on Facebook through the social media giant's Causes function, initially aiming to raise at least $25,000 for relief efforts.

But it soon overtook this figure - raising over US$50,000 by 05:30 GMT from 1,300 donors, and raising its target to $75,000.

"Japan has given so much to the world over the years through their technology," commented Facebook user Amina Naqvi. "Now its pay back time. All good people of world come forward and help Japan."

A service accepting donations via text message was also launched by the Red Cross, after a similar fundraising campaign raised over $20 million last year for Haiti quake survivors.

Micro-blogging site Twitter was updating by the second, continually refreshing information and advice as well as directing people to resources on the ground and offering ways to donate to help survivors.

"At Twitter, we feel that it is part of our duty to do whatever we can, no matter how little, to support those during times of need like this," read the website's blog.

"With that, we are looking for ways to support in any way possible people who have suffered in this earthquake."

Hashtags, a label used by Twitter users to help organise messages - or tweets - had been created to find anything from evacuation information to medical updates.

Even gamers can do their bit.

Zynga, the world's largest social gaming company, hopes to raise $2 million for Save the Children's Japan Earthquake Tsunami Emergency Fund.

The company is asking users to donate money through the purchase of virtual goods in CityVille, FrontierVille, FarmVille and its other games.

All of the proceeds from the purchase of sweet potatoes in CityVille, radishes in FarmVille or kobe cows in FrontierVille will go towards Save the Children's efforts to provide relief in the Pacific.

Zynga has raised millions of dollars in recent years through similar campaigns, most notably for the relief efforts in Haiti.

And Google's Crisis Response page was also geared up to offer people a way to help survivors on the ground as well as offering resources to find information.

Google's person finder service has notched up over 150,000 records of people leaving messages seeking information on friends and family.

The site is updating, in English and Japanese, by the hundreds every few minutes.

A random search of the common Japanese name Kimiko gave a snapshot of the scale of the confusion on the ground. There were hundreds of links to people of that name, many of whom had already been found alive.

But some remained unaccounted for.

"I have reason to think this person is missing," a friend seeking Kimiko Sato wrote on the site.

And there was a stark message about Natalia Kimiko Casas Sanchez: "someone has received information that this person is dead."

Some useful links:

For more information on where to go on Twitter to donate or get information, in Japanese and in English.

For information on donating to the Red Cross on Facebook.

Google's Crisis Response page is here and its person finder tool is here here.

For further options on donating digitally, visit Mashable.

- AFP

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