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Tech Giants Push Relief Efforts for Japan Earthquake
Tech Giants Push Relief Efforts for Japan Earthquake

By Jennifer LeClaire
March 14, 2011 1:59PM

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Relief for Japan is being mustered by technology giants, with Microsoft committing $2 million and Apple allowing donations through its iTunes Store. Google launched a Person Finder service after the Japanese earthquake. And wireless carriers and VoIP providers are providing free calls and messaging services to Japan and for donations.
 


IBM, Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard and Intel haven't announced donations for Japan yet, but Microsoft and Apple are leading the way. Both are working to make it easy for their users to donate large and small amounts to help people suffering in the wake of the 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan.

Microsoft made an initial commitment of $2 million, which includes $250,000 in cash as well as in-kind contributions such as software. Microsoft is also providing customers and partners impacted by the earthquake with free incident support and urging employees to support relief organizations working in Japan. Microsoft has promised to match U.S.-based employee donations dollar for dollar up to $12,000.

"Most of the technology companies have large branches in Japan," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group. "In fact, much of their components still come out of Japan in terms of displays and memory. So there is a lot of intimacy between our tech companies."

Finding Lost People

Apple has added a page to its iTunes Store that lets donors give money to the Red Cross in increments beginning at $5 and up to $200.

"Your gift to the American Red Cross will support our relief efforts to help those affected by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami throughout the Pacific," the Red Cross said on the iTunes Store donation page. "Your support will enable the Res Cross to provide shelter, food, emotional support, and other assistance to victims of all disasters."

Beyond cash, Google is in the midst of the fray with its Person Finder service. Google launched the service about an hour after the earthquake hit Japan. The Person Finder is a tool that aims to help locate missing people in Japanese, Chinese and English. Google is also donating $250,000 to organizations in Japan that are working on relief and recovery efforts.

"In many cases it is family between the firms. So it wouldn't be surprising for firms to get on the forefront to protect their own in this regard," Enderle said. "They feel a natural empathy for Japan and recognize that Japan would probably do the same for them if something had happened here."

Free Phone Calls

Wireless carriers and VoIP providers are also giving. Vonage is waiving per-minute calling charges until March 18 for customers calling from Vonage home phones. And Sprint Nextel is waiving text-message fees for Sprint customers who send mobile donations to a number of short codes and organizations participating in the relief and recovery efforts.

Verizon is going a step further, making calls to Japan free for most wireless and residential customers through April 10. Verizon postpaid customers in the U.S. will also receive free text and multimedia messaging to Japan.

AT&T said it has implemented international calling and texting support for U.S. residential wireless and wireline consumers trying to connect with loved ones in Japan. Customers will not be charged for international long-distance usage from the U.S. and Puerto Rico to Japan or text messages to Japan that originate from a U.S. wireless number through March 31.
 

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