Tech Steps Up to Help Haitians

Money and supplies from Silicon Valley

By Scott Budman
|  Saturday, Jan 23, 2010  |  Updated 5:56 AM PDT
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Tech Steps Up to Help Haitians

Looking for loved ones missing in Haiti

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If you play FarmVille, don't let your parents or friends tell you you're wasting your time.  At least, not now that more than $1 million has been raised by players of the virtual-farming game, a popular Facebook app, to go towards Haitian earthquake relief.

Zynga, the company that makes FarmVille, along with Mafia Wars and FishVille, says its users have raised a total of $1.5 million to go to help in Haiti.  It's one of several tech companies stepping up to the plate to help where it's needed most.

To its credit, Zynga's not jumping on a hip trend. It's been raising money for children in Haiti for months. But help is welcome even from those new to the Haiti cause.

Among the others: Google, chipping in with a quick $1 million and biotech giant Abbott Labs, with $1 million of its own. Silicon Valley banking behemoth Wells Fargo says it's sent $100,000 to the Red Cross to help.

Even solar companies are getting into the act, sending supplies to help with clean power generation in a region whose already weak infrastructure has been crippled.

Don't forget the phone carriers helping out by waiving messaging fees to those willing to send money to the Red Cross via text (at last check, the industry had helped charities raise somewhere near $25 million this way).

Add it up, and you have an impressive display of help coming directly from the tech industry.  Not since the tsunami of 2004 can I remember the industry banding together so quickly.

More than money, though, technology helped to spread the news.  The Web, particularly social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, got the word and pictures out almost as soon as the quake hit.  Then, websites led all of us to ways to donate, and people who have never so much as sent a single text message found out how easy it was so send a donation to the Red Cross from their phones.

It was cool to see technology used, not just to bring old friends and business contacts together, but also to bring countries together, to help those who need it desperately.

Watch Friday's telethon, or find out more ways to help on our Haiti relief page.

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