Don’t blame me, I voted for @corybooker. #graffiti (at Banh Mi Saigon Bakery)
Another interesting innovation was the Sandy Coworking crowdmap. A #NYResponds initiative, the map lists spaces where people can work, recharge and reconnect. At the heart of #NYResponds is a message to encourage the tech community to get out and take direct action in the recovery process by providing tech skills and resources.
Hours before Hamas strongman Ahmed Jabari was assassinated, he received the draft of a permanent truce agreement with Israel, which included mechanisms for maintaining the cease-fire in the case of a flare-up between Israel and the factions in the Gaza Strip. This, according to Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, who helped mediate between Israel and Hamas in the deal to release Gilad Shalit and has since then maintained a relationship with Hamas leaders.
This experience, more than any other in our history, has convinced me of the need for this type of platform. We need coordination between government, nonprofit and grassroots efforts. We need fewer forms, smarter tools, and cleaner data. We need simple, accessible information BEFORE a disaster, letting ordinary people know how to get involved in a safe, efficient manner.
SandyBaggers offers an exemplar of how, in Lincoln’s words, “the better angels of our nature,” rush to confront disaster in the digital age. So, too, do efforts like Sandy Coworking and NeedMapper. Even FEMA has recognized the importance of digital technology in the wake of a tragedy like Superstorm Sandy; the organization’s applications for Android, iOS, and Blackberrry provide checklists, weather updates, and important relief information. This, of course, raises a question that looms over any major disaster relief effort: Where do we go from here? What lessons — and innovations — can we carry with us?
The New York Tech Meetup signed up over 800 potential volunteers to help build tools on the fly. Perhaps the most successful has been the Sandy Coworking Crowdmap, which helped businesses displaced by the storm find places to set up shop free. The map worked, and a big reason was that the local tech industry excels at spreading information internally. Efforts to reach the larger city have not caught on as easily (in part because many people’s phones did not work in the immediate aftermath of the storm).
The problem is, much of Lower Manhattan, where many are located, is still without power and Internet. But entrepreneurs, engineers and developers aren’t letting that stop them. They are camping out in one another’s apartments and offices in an attempt to still get a day’s work done. Of course, any place with a humming Wi-Fi connection, whether a coffee shop or an Apple Store, seems to be drawing displaced workers eager to get back into the swing of things. But camaraderie spurred by the storm seemed to knit the New York start-up scene together a bit tighter.