As serious news from Kerala keeps coming in, an important lesson in disaster management has come to light: the power of social media and e-commerce in emergency operations. While the regular media have flaked because of their focus on other issues, even while Kerala is struggling with the worst flood crisis in a century – which has killed at least 400 people and expelled more than a million people – social media have raised awareness about the circumstances , and of what is urgently needed for relief.
India's technological giants played a key role in quickly joining NGOs and Kerala's Disaster Relief Fund (CMDRF) headquarters to make donations as simple as one click. PayTM has introduced an option on its homepage to transfer money directly to the CMDRF on August 15 and to collect more than Rs 30 crore from 12 lakh users on August 21st. The company said that it will equal every rupee for rupee, up to Rs 1 crore. When the situation in the Kodagu area of Karnata deteriorated, PayTM added an option to also contribute to the Karnataka CM Relief Fund Natural Calamity 2018 (Kodagu).
Amazon India partnered with NGOs Habitat for Humanity India, World Vision India, Oxfam India and Goonj, allowing users to order items such as soap, umbrellas, sanitary napkins, diapers, food supplies, etc. and send them directly to the registered NGOs could have sent address. "In addition, the Amazon Operations team is working to provide relief kits to the affected areas and deliver drinking water to our dedicated service partners, employees and direct communities," said Amazon India spokesperson.
In the same way Flipkart and BigBasket collaborated with Goonj and Oxfam India. Zomato joined forces with the Akshaya Patra Foundation to let users donate a set meal for three, six or ten people via the app. "The Kerala Relief Fund saw an overwhelming response and we were able to finance more than 2,000,000 meals," said a spokesperson for Zomato. They stopped contributing on 20 August. "We will try to turn it on again depending on the capacity that our partner can offer and the requirements on the ground."
"Zomato has helped us to collect Rs 60 lakh in four days, and along with other contributions this should be enough to have our nutrition program" s run for 15 days, a good schedule based on our previous experience, "Sundeep Talwar, chief marketing officer for Akshaya Patra Foundation, told Forbes India. "Instead, we want to sustain this effort in Phase 2 of the tool, in which we intend to help rebuild schools and clean up destroyed homes."
The key, let's say NGOs, will lie in providing long-term support because Kerala can take up to 10 years to fully recover. "E-commerce websites have been very useful, helping people who are far away from the disaster site to join," says Meenakshi Gupta, co-founder of Goonj. "The next important step will be to continue with this support, as rehabilitation work will have to continue for a long time, and the needs and urgent requirements will change with the situation on the ground, so we will have to generate the same in good quantities at different stages."
For example, Flipkart sends users to the Goonj website to earn money, Gupta says. Portals may also consider asking customers to contribute a small amount to each order in the checkout phase.