Red Cross tracks disaster relief with SharePoint

The Red Cross  has partnered with Microsoft Canada Corp.  and is planning to use its SharePoint collaboration platform to help victims of disasters in countries like Haiti and Pakistan.

The software will be used to improve communication on the ground and in the offices of the Red Cross. It will also keep consistent documentation of disasters and track supplies, which will in turn help people in need get supplies through disaster relief programs.

“In any disaster, quick response is crucial to stabilizing an environment. What Microsoft enabled us to do in Haiti was so successful; we’ve leveraged that same technology to help with disaster relief in Pakistan,” said Almin Surani, chief information officer of the Canadian Red Cross.

The Red Cross has a presence in 187 countries worldwide. With that come many employees and volunteers all over the world. SharePoint has made it easier for those employees to connect and share data, according to Surani. The software helps them decide where the need is greatest and what supplies are needed because workers in those countries can share whatever information they have on a disaster. For instance, in an earthquake, people may need shelter and medical equipment most; in this case people from the Red Cross know to send shelter items along with food and medical supplies.

Microsoft has donated software such as Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint before. But now it has been successfully used to track volunteers and during disasters like last year’s earthquake in Haiti. The Red Cross believes it has been successful and has helped them track the thousands of volunteers. Microsoft Canada says it can further be used to collaborate efforts between volunteers and track resources. However, representatives from the Red Cross say it is more about using the software to make information available to everyone in the Red Cross network.

“It’s not as much about resource tracking,” Surani said. “Now there are SharePoint portals for each disaster showing how many are affected by it and they are easily accessible.”

The Red Cross is now in talks with some of Microsoft Canada’s partners and hoping to get more donations. The Red Cross does not want to release any information these company partner’s names yet, as the deals have not been finalized. The Red Cross is also invited to conferences with other nongovernmental organizations

Microsoft donated about $5 million dollars in software grants to the Red Cross. This is the biggest software exchange that has ever occurred in Canada, according to Matt Wolodarsky, SharePoint Product Manager.
SharePoint is one of the fastest-growing servers in the world. There are 600,000 SharePoint developers worldwide, according to Microsoft.
The Red Cross is not the only non-profit organization partnered with Microsoft. In 2009, the company provided about $20 million in software and cash to Canadian organizations like Habitat for Humanity and Kids Help Phone.

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