Because of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico has been mostly without power for about a week now. Many are unhappy with the U.S. government’s response in terms of helping out or sending aid. Some are calling it “lackluster”. I’m not really surprised given the lack of resources the government has right now. Which likely has to do with how they’re spending their money. Not necessarily because the resources aren’t there. I don’t want to get into a big rant about where the money is going necessarily, as that’s another post. Because of the lack of response, Facebook is taking matters into their own hands.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted on Wednesday that the company will send the Facebook connectivity team. This is the group that has been building Facebook’s internet beaming drones. They will deliver “emergency telecommunications assistance” in order to get the systems up and running. The issue is that without power, they can’t communicate with anyone. Which means, family and loved ones can’t communicate in order to find out if everyone is ok. Not being able to get a hold of a loved one can be stressful. Add a catastrophic emergency, such as this into the mix and you’re likely to start having anxiety attacks. And I don’t really blame you. Which is why it’s amazing to see Facebook taking this on itself.
In addition, they are donating $1.5 million to a few different charities. They are also giving away an undisclosed amount of Facebook ad credits to help promote “crucial information to people in the region on how to get assistance and stay safe”. This feels like a PR move, in my opinion. You’re probably wondering why sending their emergency telecom team doesn’t seem like a PR move? Well, the telecom team is doing something a bit more self-less. They’re going to Puerto Rico in order to get an entire system up and running. Facebook doesn’t really benefit from that, other than maybe an article or two written about them.
But the ads suggest that Facebook wants you to use their product. They have also been in the news lately because of the whole Russia/election scandal. So I feel like this might be a way to repent for what happened there. I’m not saying it is, but this shines a different light on Facebook themselves, and also advertising with Facebook. Facebook has created some products over the past few years to help in times of crisis. Like Safety Check, for example. Which helps users check in when they’re in a disaster zone. So I’m not saying they’re heartless. I just wonder what the motivation behind the advertisement piece.
If they’re able to get some communication systems up and running, that would be amazing. Both for the people of Puerto Rico and the emergency teams as they will have a better idea of what’s going on. Communication is key during an emergency. Any good emergency manager knows and will tell you that. Kudos to Facebook for trying to lend a hand where the U.S. government couldn’t. I wonder if this is the direction we will start to move in the future? With more support from tech giants and less from our own governments?