SAN FRANCISCO – A month ago, President Obama challenged tech leaders to leverage their popular platforms to help stem the growing migrant crisis in Europe. It didn’t take long for Silicon Valley to respond.
Google matched donations to relief organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and Save the Children, eventually totaling $11 million. Facebook is providing Internet access to refugee camps run by the United Nations. Kickstarter is donating its fees for any campaigns helping the crisis.
Airbnb has started to offer travel credits to aid workers with Mercy Corps and the International Rescue Committee serving in countries such as Greece, Serbia and Macedonia, front-line areas for refugees leaving a range of war-torn countries in the Middle East and Africa. Around 1.5 million refugees are expected to eventually wind up in Germany. Obama has said he will raise the number of refugees the U.S. will accept to 100,000 in the next few years.
This should be a golden age of giving, considering that thanks to technology — from smartphones to social networks — making a donation has changed from a once-laborious process to a screen tap. For example, Instacart announced that its grocery shoppers would have the option to donate food through the United Nations Refugee Agency, with a $20 contribution providing a four-family food pack including tuna, beef and bread and $110 allowing 22 families to start their own garden. And the United Nations World Food Program even has its own app that provides food to refugee children. ShareTheMeal allows for one-tap donations, and 50 cents feeds one child for a day.
Technology itself has also helped shine a light on the crisis through virtual reality. Clouds Over Sidra is a short United Nations-sponsored film shot in VR that brings viewers into a Jordanian refugee camp, creating an indelible visit that once would have been simply described in words and still photos.
While all totaled these tech-fueled contributions are still dwarfed by official government aide — to date, the U.S. has steered some $4.5 billion toward the crisis — they represent a socially conscious side of a booming economy whose news often seems to focus on minted millionaires and billion-dollar valuations.
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