'Geeks' meet at USC and other spots to collaborate on ways to help Haitians
For four days Gordon Thomas watched the horror of Haiti's earthquake unfold and wished that there was a way for him to help.
But the 30-year-old San Diego man is a software engineer, not a medical doctor or a search-and-rescue expert who can drop everything and rush off to deliver emergency aid to the Caribbean island nation.
So on Saturday he decided to use the equivalent of a digital pick and shovel to help Haitians with the long-term job of digging out their quake-crushed country.
Thomas and about 45 other self-described "techies and geo-geeks" and other volunteers met at USC to collaborate on ways to use computers to design improved maps of battered Port-au-Prince neighborhoods, concoct better family-locater services for quake victims and speed more accurate and timely relief information from more closely coordinated data feeds.
Computer programmers organized companion "Crisis Camp Haiti" workshops Saturday in Northern California's Silicon Valley; Boulder, Colo.; Washington; and London.
"Being in San Diego, I didn't think I could do much more than donate some money to help Haitians," Thomas explained as he worked on a mapping project. "We're trying to use technology that will identify the needs of non-government organizations on the scene, using simple cellphone-like communication that anyone can use."
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