Google today announced a new initiative aimed at helping those attempting to escape the conflict in Syria.
Called Crisis Info Hub and launching on the Greek island of Lesvos — more commonly know in the English speaking world as Lesbos, the birthplace of the ancient Greek poet Sappho — the mobile website provides critical information on where refugees can find lodging, medical assistance and transportation. An icon on the top right of the webpage allows individuals to translate the page into languages like Arabic.
Google has open-sourced the project so that almost anyone can contribute useful information to the website. Moreover, the company says it plans to expand the scope of the website to other locations that have become hotspots for refugees such as the island of Kos.
At first glance, an initiative like this may seem of limited utility to those fleeing Syria. After all, the website is only useful to those that have access to a working smartphone with a stable data connection. However, according to a Time article on the subject, with many of those fleeing Syria coming from cities and educated backgrounds, the vast majority of refugees have access to smartphones; in fact, smartphones are often the most important piece of equipment they have in their survival toolkit.
Moreover, one of the charities Google is working with on this project, NetHope, provides temporary wireless infrastructure and charging stations in and around refugee camps and along the common routes they’re taking to move between countries.
More than other tech companies, Google has probably done the most to aid the plight of those fleeing the Middle East and Africa during this most recent refugee crisis. In September, the company launched a charity drive that successfully raised $11-million USD for charities like Doctors Without Borders that are in the thick of the crisis.
The search giant says it will try to find other ways to leverage its talent and technology to help those in need. “In the coming weeks, we’ll continue to work closely with our partners on the ground to evaluate how else we can bring the best of Google’s resources to help out with this tragic situation.”