Technology for Good: MVPs Make the World Better
Monday, December 23, 2013
More and more, as technology binds the human experience and serves as a bridge to cross geographic and cultural boundaries, MVPs are using it as force for good in the world—in ways that are myriad and often inspirational.
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MVPs understand the power of technology. They share it in their blogs, in forums, at conferences and in user groups around the world, helping people do everything from manage servers to set up their new Surface. But as community leaders, the ways they contribute their expertise often goes beyond enhancing people’s experience with technology. For many MVPs, technology is their go-to-tool for making the world a better place.
We saw it after the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, when MVPs contributed to creating mirror sites using Cloud services to relieve pressure on the heavily loaded sites offered by government and rescue agencies designed to deliver vital information—such as shelter availability and radiation levels—which were overwhelmed by high demand from the millions of people affected by the disaster.
After the Christchurch earthquakes in New Zealand, SQL Server MVP Rob Hawthorne did everything from helping remove tons of silt by hand to working with the local government to utilize the full Microsoft Business Intelligence capability—SQL Server 2008R2, SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010—to help them manage budgets, project phases and the overall complexities of getting Christchurch up and running again.
Recently, Mary Jo Foley tweeted in support of SharePoint Server MVP Dux Raymond Sy’s initiative to pull together a band of SharePoint MVPs to contribute consulting services in exchange for donations to relief organizations supporting Typhoon Haiyan victims.
And for years we’ve watched the community dive into fierce Halo battles in support of Xbox MVP Zach Wigal’s annual Gamers for Giving fundraiser to help bring portable gaming carts to children in the hospital and send video gaming care packages to troops overseas,
 Xbox MVP Zach Wigal giving a TEDxEMU talk.
Now, a small group of developers, including ASP.NET/IIS MVP Richard Campbell and Visual C# MVP Bill Wagner, have launched the Humanitarian Toolbox, an organization designed to improve the capabilities of lead disaster response organizations through use of a “toolbox” of community built and maintained pre-packaged, rapidly deployable technology solutions. Their goal is to deliver the latest advances in technology to facilitate faster response, minimize recovery time, speed donation and distribution of vital resources, and provide access to information as communities recover and rebuild.
“From the very beginning, the key goals were to let folks use their skills to do some good, but also to adopt a win-win strategy: no picking one charity over another, minimize country-bias, anyone can contribute whatever they wish to contribute, no limits, no conditions,” explained Richard (who is profiled in an MVP Spotlight on this site).
“We’re at an interesting inflection point in technology,” he continued. “Mobile is everywhere. The Cloud provides persistence and equanimity in access. Once you’re connected to the Internet, you’re in. We wondered--what if we applied the latest of these technologies to disaster relief?”
For Tony Surma, chief technical officer of Microsoft Disaster Response, this approach makes sense and mirrors what his group is doing. “Disasters are about as democratic as you can get,” he observed, adding: “We need to be cognizant and respectful of the very different ways people work with technology and think about all the different people who will be impacted by disasters and use these resources.” (You can read more about Tony in the Community Champ section of this site.)
To do this, the founders of Humanitarian Toolbox connected with organizations such as Crisis Commons, Geeks Without Bounds and NetHope, which have experience building software to help people and deep connections into the disaster relief organizations that need software. Through them, they collected project ideas, requirements and plans for applications developers could build.
“The MVP Program is a key part of making Humanitarian Toolbox successful,” added Bill (you can see a video interview with him about this initiative on this site). “The passion MVPs bring to their communities invariably carries over to charitable efforts like this, and the MVP community has already embraced this cause. We’re looking forward to seeing them at upcoming hackathons and whenever and wherever they have a chance to write some code and build some apps. And anyone who want to get started can see applications today in GitHub and CodePlex.”
Find out more about the ongoing initiatives mentioned in this article: