Social Need-ia! Internet's finest hour in India

04th December 2015
Social Need-ia!  Internet's finest hour in India
Cab to canoe! Taxi aggregator Ola Cabs deployed boats where cars could not go

Key Net entities --and social media --  filled vital gaps in the government's outreach to the Chennai and East coast  rain-affected
By  Vishnu Anand
Bangalore December 4 2015:
For the Indian government,  social media and Internet  have been like the  urumi or flexible  sword of kalaripayattu or Kerala  martial arts fame:  a double edged weapon:   to be  exploited by  the likes of Prime Minister  Modi   for  cutting a direct path to the electorate, even  while exercising  extreme caution  to ensure that it doesn't wound itself in the process.  This ambivalence  will likely  vanish after the exemplary manner in which Cyberia stepped in to fill the breach in  official outreaches to the lakhs of hapless citizens at the mercy of the flood waters in Chennai and places south last week.
With other means of communication rendered unreliable or non existent,  social media  users elsewhere in the country harnessed FaceBook, Twitter, WhatsApp and other  tools  to create a vital lifeline to the stranded citizens.  Tweets for help were sorted and resent by thousands of volunteers to any one nearby who could  reach  the affected.   Google's crisis response page, South India Flooding  provided a useful rallying point,   with a dynamic, crowd sourced  map of   flooded streets and roads still open.  Also useful was a listing complete with mobile phone numbers and  twitter handles, of " People and Places offering shelter"   sourced from
FaceBook  activated  its Safety Check tool , Chennai Flooding: " Quickly find and connect with friends in the area. Mark them safe if you know they're OK."
Another clearinghouse  was TogetherChennai,     whose stark graphic  was peppered with icons  which said Needs boat , Needs food,  Needs rope,  Needs medical help,  or just  SOS, which they tried to match with another map of people ready and able to help.
In Bangalore, the metro nearest to Chennai, an organisation, BangaloreFor Chennai, invited the public to fund mobile  powerbanks -- packed thousands of them and  took them by road to deliver in the flooded city 
Practo, the health portal   compiled a verified list of doctors  and hospitals in each affected area, with gateways through its FaceBook and Twitter pages.
Mobile  Taxi aggregators Ola and Uber   made all rides in Chennai free and also moved relief supplies.  Ola  mobilised a fleet of boats  where taxis could not go.
See our Collage of images illustrating  these  social media and Net outreaches
Food app Zomato  launched a ‘Meal for Flood relief’ initiative promising to provide one meal free for every one ordered.  Some 55,000  meals were booked by people in other parts of India, and over a lakh of meals were delivered.
Mobile payments gateway Paytm  provided  free recharges of Rs 30 for Chennai residents  and almost all  telecom players  announced schemes where they provided free talktime for local and STD calls.
The message was clear: Indians as individuals and corporates  are pitching in at Tamil Nadu's hour of need and putting to use the  Internet-driven tools and technologies that  have empowered them in recent years.