President Obama Calls On Tech Companies To Aid In The Syrian Refugee Crisis

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President Obama Calls On Tech Companies To Aid In The Syrian Refugee Crisis

Obama has asked the American people to do what they can to aid the Syrian refugee crisis. He’s now asking Silicon Valley to do the same.

The U.S. has provided $4.5 billion in aid to the crisis so far to help the nearly 12 million Syrian refugees who have fled their homeland since an outbreak of a civil war in 2011. The White House has tapped tech companies such as Kickstarter, Twitter, Airbnb and Instacart to use their platforms to help raise much-needed funds for those displaced.

Starting today these companies are heeding President Obama’s call and jumping in to show their support.

“From non-governmental organizations to small businesses to congregations in communities across the country, Americans are using what they have to contribute to this effort. Just like we banded together in 1885, we can join together to provide shelter, food, and medical assistance to these people in need. It’s the American thing to do,” reads an official statement from the White House asking the tech community to pitch in.

Instacart will do its part by adding a way for shoppers to donate money to buy food for refugee families as they complete their checkout. “Instacart users will now have the option to donate food rations to Syrian refugees through the U.N. Refugee Agency, and we hope that even more companies will join in this effort,” Instacart founder Apoorva Mehta said in a statement.

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 7.39.53 PM

Kickstarter is also adding a way to donate to the cause, despite a decision early on to not to open up the platform for non-profit campaigns. However, internal leadership decided the refugee crisis was a special case and is heeding the call of the President with its first-ever charitable campaign this morning.

“This is a special case we don’t see making something regular,” Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler told TechCrunch. “But it was something we felt important that came at the White House’s invitation.”

Americans from all different parts of the country have seen the suffering that is going on and asked themselves how best we can help – and I think it’s just up to each company themselves to come up with an idea how best to respond.
— Jason Goldman, White House chief digital officer
Airbnb is helping out with free housing for aid workers in the areas most affected in the region and Twitter will use an early release of its donation product to allow non-government organizations a way to raise money on the social media platform.

The U.S. president announced his plan to take in up to 85,000 refugees last week – a move that upset many Republican party leaders. Those involved brushed off questions about political agendas. “This is one of those things where we can make a difference. There are a lot of people out there to help,” Strickler said.

Syrian refugee children displaced from their home. They are part of nearly 12 million refugees who have fled the region since 2011.

Syrian refugee children displaced from their home. They are part of nearly 12 million refugees who have fled the region since 2011.

The White House hopes other tech companies will follow suit. “I think the conversation that’s probably happening around lunch tables at tech companies is ‘Oh that’s a really cool thing that Instacart did. What’s something similar that we can do here?” White House chief digital officer Jason Goldman told us over the phone.

Funds donated through individual tech companies will go to various agencies from a provided USAID list – including the U.N. Refugee Agency, which partnered with Kickstarter. The fundraising campaign platform added that it will also be donating the usual 5 percent fee it takes to run campaigns and that online payment processing company Stripe, Kickstarter’s payment partner, will be waiving its fee for the cause.

“Americans from all different parts of the country have seen the suffering that is going on and asked themselves how best we can help – and I think it’s just up to each company themselves to come up with an idea how best to respond,” Goldman added.

Those interested in learning more about how their company can get involved can go to AidRefugees.gov for more information.

Featured Image: SAUL LOEB/Getty Images