Sandy dominates discussion at Tech Meetup
by Andrew Pavia
Dec 26, 2012 | 3395 views | 0 0 comments | 60 60 recommendations | email to a friend | print
 From left to right are Jukay Hsu, Jessica Lawrence, and Reshma Saujani of StartUp New York.
From left to right are Jukay Hsu, Jessica Lawrence, and Reshma Saujani of StartUp New York.
Hurricane Sandy dominated the conversation at the Queens Tech Meetup 5 last week, as attendees wondered how the tech community could help in ongoing disaster relief efforts.

At See.Me's exhibition space in Long Island City, Rachel Haot, the city's Chief Digital Officer, spoke about how the city responded to the storm, along with how it will improve the way it uses technology in the future.

“It became clear that social media played a really important role in keeping people informed and safe,” she said.

Haot said that the use of social media to disseminate information helped keep people calm, a fact that shocked her and the mayors office.

“We knew that information was crucial in the event of an emergency, and that's why we activated all of our channels,” Haot said.

To aid the city, Twitter donated “promoted” tweets, which meant that if a Twitter user in New York Dity searched for anything Sandy-related, the city's tweets would appear at the top of the page.

“This is something that goes an incredibly long way, and we see it as almost the future of the emergency broadcast system,” Haot said.

One member of the audience asked Haot about wireless connectivity problems with the city when Sandy hit.

“There are some of us who have concerns about the communications infrastructure being as essential as our water supply,” the audience member asked.

“The city is looking into making the wireless network stronger and the issue has come up multiple times,” Haot said.

Jessica Lawrence, managing director of NY Tech Meetup, used her apartment as “command central” in the wake of Sandy. She used her list of 29,000 members to ask for volunteers and to create NY Tech Responds, a website that posted Hurricane Sandy relief information.

Her initial email received 900 responses from people who were willing to give their time to help work on the website and use social media to spread the word on relief efforts.

“I knew that tech platforms were something that was key in helping recovery happen fast, and I figured there would be additional support that was needed,” Lawrence said.

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