Tech Companies Assist Locals, Aid Workers in Japan

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tech assist japan

Zach Honig

As the situation continues to deteriorate in Japan, U.S.-based tech companies have begun offering their services, free of charge, to assist families in contacting their loved ones, and foreign aid workers to do their jobs on the ground. Earlier this week, cell service providers AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon announced free calls to Japan, while software giants Microsoft and Google are offering temporary software licenses and an online "Person Finder," respectively. Today, XCom Global announced that it would be offering free international 3G Wi-Fi services to relief workers in Japan.

To help customers stay in contact with friends and family members in Japan, major telecommunications providers are offering free international minutes to subscribers in the United States. AT&T Wireless and T-Mobile customers can call and text Japan through March 31, while Sprint and Verizon Wireless customers can do the same through April 10. Ooma and Vonage are also offering free calling through March 25, and Skype is offering free Wi-Fi access in Japan through Skype Access.

Google is offering assistance in the form of an online "Person Finder," which is currently tracking nearly 250,000 records, according to the site's homepage. The site functions as a public message board, so all information submitted – including addresses – is public. Based on results from several name searches, the majority of entries appear to have been submitted by people searching for friends and family members, though some entries were added by individuals that have confirmed the status of missing persons.

Microsoft has pledged $250,000 in financial assistance, and is also offering temporary software licenses and 90-day access to Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Lync Online to relief workers in Japan. Customers impacted by the earthquake may also contact Microsoft for free incident support.

XCom Global, which provides unlimited 3G data devices for short-term rental in nearly 40 countries, is offering free wireless device and service rental to relief workers traveling to and already in Japan. The devices offer broadband access on Japan's NTTdocomo wireless network, so relief workers can access the Internet from anywhere in the country, even if they're not in range of a Wi-Fi network. Relief workers still in the U.S. can call 1-877-520-8242 to request a device, while those already in Japan can contact XCom Global's parent company, Inter Communications, in Tokyo at 03-5766-2722 to set up a product loan.

"So much is done via the Internet now," XCom Global CEO Seiji Nishimura said in a press release. "If we can be of assistance by connecting the relief workers to information and each other, we are more than happy to do so."

In addition to access to free calls to Japan, U.S.-based mobile phone subscribers can also use their mobile phones to donate to the relief effort. Donations will be sent to the selected relief organization, and will appear on your next billing statement.

• Text "REDCROSS" to "90999" to donate $10 on behalf of the American Red Cross.
• Text "JAPAN" or "QUAKE" to "80888" to donate $10 on behalf of The Salvation Army.
• Text "TSUNAMI" to "50555" to donate $10 on behalf of Convoy of Hope, Inc.
• Text "WAVE" to "50555" to donate $10 on behalf of the World Relief Corp. of National Association of Evangelicals.

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