Technology Helps Haitians Just in Time

Technology could not have come at a better time to the poor nation. Haitian relief groups have raised more than $5 million via text messages, setting a record for donations that come in $5 and $10 increments mobile devices.

Hours after the earthquake hit the impoverished island, Haitian-born musician Wyclef Jean urged people to donate $5 to his charity via text.

AT&T and Verizon Wireless users have flooded the airwaves with similar micro-donations via text to help the American Red Cross’ international relief fund.

“It’s an easy way to help, because even though the earthquake was really far away, your cell phone is always in your pocket,” said AT&T spokeswoman Kate MacKinnon.

When a donor texts a specific message to a certain number - such as sending the word “Haiti” to 90999 to give to the Red Cross - the wireless provider adds the donation amount to the subscriber’s bill. People can use their phone bill as a receipt for a charitable deduction on their IRS tax returns.

Text donations were coming in at a rate of roughly $200,000 an hour late yesterday, the nonprofit group channeling the donations for wireless carriers. The outpouring easily surpassed earlier records for mobile giving.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Red Cross collected $400,000 from cell users. A year earlier, following the Asian tsunami that left 230,000 people dead, the organization received $200,000 through texts.

Boston Herald has contributed to the report.

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