Japan’s telecommunications juggernaut SoftBank, the third largest mobile carrier of the country, had to register quite a lot of damage after the big earthquake that hit Japan on March 11. 3,800 of SoftBank’s base stations were knocked out, meaning no customer in the affected areas could make or receive calls via cell phones (the situation was similar with other carriers).
But it turned out that this damage wasn’t the main concern of SoftBank’s president and founder Masayoshi Son (pictured above). After visiting Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato in his prefecture on March 22 and seeing the real damage done, Son promised his company will offer free cell phones to all children who became orphans due to the earthquake.
Son said that as SoftBank’s leader, it makes him feel uncomfortable to hear that disaster victims and their friends and relatives have trouble in connecting and obtaining information. And while he was at it, he also promised that the orphans won’t be charged any communication fees until they reach the age of 18.
Son (who is well-known in Japan as a big fan of Twitter) later tweeted out the details of SoftBank’s initiative to his close to 1 million followers, at the same time asking for more ideas how his company could help the disaster victims.
And it worked: after follower KitWin proposed to replace iPhones (SoftBank is the sole iPhone provider in Japan) damaged due to the quake for free, Son replied just hours later that his company will not only replace damaged devices, but also give out new iPhones for those lost for whatever reason in the course of the disaster.
I wouldn’t be too surprised to see other phone companies in Japan following up with similar initiatives.