Open Garden And textPlus Join Typhoon Haiyan Relief Efforts

Many members of the tech community have lent their skills to help Super Typhoon Haiyan rescue efforts in the Philippines. These include Viber, which rolled out a new feature called Viber Out, and people working with the Geeklist Corps of Developers. Now peer-to-peer mobile broadband network Open Garden and messaging app textPlus are also offering services to help Filipinos recover from the devastating storm, which killed up to 10,000 people.

Open Garden responded to a “call to arms” for hackers from the Office of the President of the Philippines by offering its flagship app to help survivors and rescue workers regain connectivity on their mobile phones. The Open Garden app, which can be sent from one Android phone to another using Bluetooth, makes connections more reliable for mobile users who still have access to the Internet and allows phones without a connection to access the Internet through devices that do.

Stanislav Shalunov, the CTO and co-founder of Open Garden, tells me that the startup got involved in the rescue effort through ICT, which has field offices in the Philippines to provide first-hand relief, and is also working with the government of the Philippines. One of the most important uses for the Open Garden app is improving Internet connectivity for rescue workers. In one field office that has a 300kb/s satellite connection, Open Garden helps conserve its battery by letting everyone check their email at the same time.

Meanwhile, textPlus, the free text messaging app, is donating free voice calls to the Philippines. textPlus users can call numbers in the Philippines for free through the textPlus app, which is available on iOS and Android. textPlus uses Wi-Fi, so users in areas where mobile networks can still use the app. For more information, see textPlus’ Web site.

Image credit: UNICEF Philippines