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|earthquake relief efforts in saudi arabia|
|10/25/05 at 14:34:09|
|ICT Firms to the Rescue in Earthquake Relief Efforts|
Molouk Y. Ba-Isa, Arab News
RIYADH, 25 October 2005 — With information and communication technology (ICT) at the foundation of modern life, it is not surprising that after natural disasters, ICT companies often play essential roles in the recovery efforts in stricken areas. These efforts may take the form of donations in cash or kind, or they may include the provision of more direct services.
After the earthquake in Pakistan, once again ICT companies have stepped forward to offer aid. Motorola immediately announced initiatives to support disaster assistance and humanitarian relief efforts in the areas affected by the earthquake. The company is contributing $500,000 to the relief efforts, which includes financial support to UNICEF and emergency telecommunication equipment for the region.
Motorola is mobilizing each of its businesses to provide mission critical communication equipment including two-way radios for first responders, replacement telecommunications supplies for cellular providers and additional mobile phones.
Batelco, one of Bahrain’s two telecommunications companies, rushed to support the Bahrain Red Crescent Society’s activities by donating 11 tons of foodstuff to the victims of the Pakistan earthquake.
Intel Corporation’s philanthropic arm, the Intel Foundation, will donate $1 million for disaster and humanitarian relief efforts related to the South Asia earthquake. The foundation will also match dollar-for-dollar employee contributions in support of the relief effort through November. The donation will be provided through the International Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies and Mercy Corps International.
While donations are greatly appreciated, some companies are participating in an even more direct manner in the relief efforts. ICT firms including Inmarsat, Alcatel and Oracle are partners in Telecoms San Frontiers (TSF). In the affected area in Pakistan, TSF is making a difference.
Responding to the enormous demand for telecommunications from rescuers and the stricken population, TSF deployed from its France based-headquarters, a team of seven expatriates to work with six local volunteers in three areas: Muzaffarabad, Balakot and Manshera. In total, TSF has made available 15 satellite telephone lines as well as four data transmitters and computer equipment which so far have benefited tens of relief organizations and more than 1,000 affected families.
Microsoft Corporation is another ICT firm which has been involved in the earthquake relief efforts in a very direct way. Microsoft will assist by providing $125,000 or 7.5 million Pakistani rupees in cash, out of which six million Pakistani rupees will go to the President’s Fund and rest of the amount — 1.5 million Pakistani rupees — will be donated to a local NGO. Additionally, Microsoft is communicating with all its employees globally and mobilizing them to contribute to their choice of NGO registered with Microsoft.
Microsoft also contributed in a very personal way by responding to a Ministry of Culture and Information request to create the technical platform for the government’s Pakistan Relief Telethon which began on Saturday. The telethon has raised more than SR140 million in aid for earthquake survivors in Pakistan. The telethon was organized by Saudi Television in cooperation with the Al-Arabiya television channel.
Microsoft (MS) Arabia received the request from the ministry in Riyadh at 8:30 on Friday evening, a time when most companies in the Kingdom would be unreachable. The ministry asked MS Arabia to create an application that could sit on PCs so that volunteers could enter all contributor information during the telethon and store it in a database that would enable the telethon organizers to print reports. Additionally there was a requirement that the total value of contributions would be continually updated and displayed on a monitor so that viewers could be constantly apprised of the status of donations.
Within two hours, MS Arabia had volunteered to provide the entire required solution free of charge and had sent a consultancy team to the ministry’s offices to get the complete details of the needed application and computer hardware.
“It was about midnight when we started building the application with full commitment to using Microsoft’s best technology combined with the advanced skill sets of all the team members,” said Murat Yilmaz, MS Arabia services manager. “By Saturday morning the basic application had been developed and we were ready to move to the next phase. Microsoft often emphasizes that company resources are to be used to make an impact for people in need. We were aggressively setting out to prove this commitment.”
Yilmaz and Ayman Al-Takrori, MS Arabia’s Small and Mid Market Solutions and Partners Manager, had been appointed as coordinators for the effort to have the solution up and running in time for the telethon. While MS Arabia was providing the application and expertise, the company turned to a Microsoft partner, ASUS, to donate 14 laptops to be used during the telethon and BDL to provide the server to host the application. When it appeared that there might be a delay in getting the hardware to the television studio, the Microsoft team personally transported the equipment.
The clock was ticking. With the hardware at the studio, the MS Arabia team began building a local area network (LAN) in Saudi Television Channel 1’s Studio A.
“It really was a race against time. We had to be ready to go on air live at 6:15 p.m. when the telethon was scheduled to begin. With it being Ramadan there were no breaks for anything. Even at iftar, we just had some dates and water and continued working. The pressure was enormous,” explained Yilmaz.
The network and PCs were ready only a few minutes before the program was to start. Once the broadcast went live it became apparent that there were still a few problems to solve, but the team didn’t panic. They quickly stabilized the network and worked out the bugs one by one.
Even then their effort wasn’t over. The team stayed at the studio to handle any problems that might crop up during the telethon. Sure enough, there were some minor issues due to improper entry of information or the wrong keys on the PCs being pressed, but with the MS Arabia team available, every problem was quickly corrected.
“When the team left about 3:30 a.m., the counter on TV was showing more than SR121,000,000,” said Yilmaz. “We were all satisfied. Working for Microsoft is great. This company empowers employees and encourages them to make a difference by using Microsoft technology combined with our own skills and experiences as well as Microsoft’s great partners.”
In less than 20 hours, the MS Arabia team delivered a working solution for the earthquake telethon and they are to be commended. In addition to Yilmaz and Al-Takrori, other MS Arabia team members include Ahmad Al-Muhammad, Kadri Umay, Khaled Al-Hadlaq, Manar Al-Bawab, Saud Al-Mishari, Umit Tiric and Unaez Quraishi.
“While the entire team did a great effort, I would like to differentiate the work of Kadri, Khaled and Umit who did not sleep for two nights. It was these three who first built the solution and then supported it during the live broadcast,” said Yilmaz. “What they did was truly amazing.”
Speaking with the team members to get the details of this story, one point was abundantly clear. Despite the hardship of working to create the solution for the telethon on such a tight deadline during this holy month, the MS Arabia team was extremely proud to serve the Muslim community with their talents and Microsoft’s technology.
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|Re: earthquake relief efforts in saudi arabia|
|10/25/05 at 15:42:27|
Masha-Allah! This goes a great way to show that humanity is still alive in this world. These acts of kindness will Insha-Allah help these people reap great rewards in the hereafter.
May Allah (SWT) Bless them and their families, and provide barakat for them - Ameen
Indeed, this is a very difficult and trying time for our brothers and sisters in these earthquake-affected areas, and we should atleast pray for them whenever we make dua.
Jazak Allah for sharing this heartwarming piece of information with us, Safa.
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