The Red Cross and Dell have jointly launched a Digital Operations Center, the first social media-monitoring platform dedicated to humanitarian relief. The Digital Operations Center will equip the Red Cross to better share safety and preparedness tips during natural disasters.
The Red Cross hopes the new center will empower communities suffering during disasters to use social tools to seek help.
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"We think the Digital Operations Center could have a profound impact on how we both empower communities and respond to their needs in the wake of major disasters," Wendi Harmon, Red Cross director of social strategy, told Mashable.
The Digital Operations Center will help the Red Cross by providing additional information, aggregating public needs into trends and responding to individual's requests in real time.
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Along with the center's launch, the Red Cross will now accept digital volunteers to reply to social media calls for aid. Volunteers can reply to questions such as "Where's the nearest emergency shelter?" or "Where is the nearest food supply?" during emergency periods. The organization is also in the process of launching a certification program for online volunteers.
Though Harmon says the Red Cross is far from turning into an response agency that is able to reply to each individual call for help, the new digital program will enable the organization and its volunteers to give out "digital hugs."
"We're not at the point where we're telling the public you can tweet at the Red Cross and we'll send a sandwich truck out to feed you," Harmon says. "But if we see 20 tweets like that, we may."
The Digital Operations Center is modeled off of Dell's Social Media Listening Command Center, which the company uses to run their customer service. The center will monitor Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs, though it still doesn't include newer social networks such as Google+ and Pinterest.
At launch, the Digital Operations Center will track the term "Red Cross," which is mentioned online 4,000 times a day (that number skyrockets at times of natural disaster). For now, the center is just in English and only functions within the U.S.
To accompany the center's launch, the Red Cross has released the interactive graphic below, which shows the organization's long tradition of embracing new technologies. An interesting past partnership with Twitter gave all Red Cross volunteers blue verification checks during Hurricane Irene in August 2011. Harmon says this proved the legitimacy of Red Cross volunteers' advice during a time of crisis.
Do you think the Digital Operations Center is the right step for the humanitarian organization? Watch the video above, pursue the interactive graphic below, and let us know what you think of the Red Cross's uses of new technology.
This story originally published on Mashable here.