FrontlineSMS:Medic Founder Creates "Makeshift 911" in Haiti

By January 29, 2010

Looking back I shouldn't be surprised. I was reading Kim-Mai Cutler's VentureBeat article on how Twitter is aiding medical efforts in Haiti when I got to the point of the story where they named the guy who put the whole thing together: Josh Nesbit, founder of FrontlineSMS:Medic. With a just a Twitter message, Nesbit ended up creating a "makeshift version of 911" in the earthquake-ravage nation. Josh spoke at Atelier last year. What he had done up to that point was very impressive; what he has done since then exhausts superlatives. Nesbit spearheaded relief efforts with a simple Twitter message. Here's Cutler's description of how the efforts

Hours after the earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, 23-year-old Josh Nesbit, who heads a non-profit delivering health care in Sub-Saharan Africa through mobile phones, thought that an SMS gateway would be critical in Haiti.

He sent a tweet out asking for help. A Cameroonian managing a startup incubator in Africa, Jean Francis Ahanda, responded mentioning that a contact, Jean-Marc Castera, was headed to the command center of the Caribbean’s largest wireless carrier Digicel that day.

Within three days, they had co-opted a shortcode, 4636, that had been used for weather information in Haiti. They rushed to get several other partners like Ushahidi, which provides an open-source platform for tracking crisis communications, and Google on board. A non-profit that specializes in using technology for disaster relief, Instedd, built an emergency information system using the shortcode. On a very late Saturday night, a cobbled-together team of a half-dozen organizations or so launched ‘4636′ as an emergency number.
The one thing I remember Nesbit saying during his FrontlineSMS:Medic presentation here was something to the effect of "Each morning I sit in my bed in Palo Alto and deal try to fix medical problems in Malawi." It looks like pretty soon he'll be saying the same thing about fixing the whole world.

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