Tech Vendors Get Creative With Tsunami-Victim Aid

The slow holiday week hasn't stopped more than a dozen technology companies from stepping forward to help.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

December 30, 2004

3 Min Read

Despite the traditionally slow week between Christmas and New Year's--a time when some technology companies shut down--at least a dozen tech companies have voiced plans to help victims of Sunday's devastating Tsunami in Southeast Asia.

The tsunami, which was triggered by a 9.0 earthquake off the West Coast of Indonesia, has so far claimed more than 117,000 lives. It has left more than a million people homeless and has resulted in polluted water, disrupted services, and numerous threats of disease.

Tech vendors have offered to help in a variety of ways, ranging from direct contributions to relief organizations to donations of products and services. It's a responsibility they share with for-profit companies worldwide, Yankee Group analyst Sheryl Kingstone says. "They have the pockets to be active and to get others to contribute," she says. Inc., known as much for its creative marketing as for its on-demand approach to software delivery, has proven to be equally creative in its relief effort: Whereas many companies are matching employee contributions to relief organizations, the customer-relationship-management vendor has taken that model one step further by pledging to match contributions made by its customers. The company raised $5,000 Wednesday before it sent out word of its effort. After making its pledge public on Thursday, it hopes to raise $200,000, including matching funds of up to $100,000, CEO Marc Benioff says.

The company's rival, Siebel Systems Inc., also has said it will make a contribution to the Red Cross, and it's encouraging employees to do so, too.

Australian telecommunications provider Telstra has stepped up with a multifaceted effort: It will rebate all fixed, mobile, and Internet communications costs incurred over the next month by nonprofit organizations trying to communicate with anyone in the affected regions; it's rebating all mobile-phone charges incurred between Dec. 26 and Dec. 30 by customers checking on the status of family members in the affected regions or alerting relatives in Australia of their whereabouts; and it's donating $100,000 to Australian aid agencies participating in the relief effort.

Thousands of lives were lost in India, and that country's fast-growing IT-outsourcing industry has also come forward. Infosys Group has donated $1 million to a relief fund. Tata Group, the parent company of outsourcing company Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., is sending a team to help with the relief effort. The team, which is part of the company’s Tata Relief Committee, will distribute relief materials and provide other forms of assistance.

Smaller vendors are doing what they can, too. After receiving an E-mail plea from CEO Lars Dalgaard, the 100 employees at SuccessFactors Inc., a maker of employee-performance-management software, had donated $10,000, and more is expected once the bulk of the staff returns from the holiday break. Closer to the scene of the disaster, Hong Kong-based ForgetMeNot Software Ltd. said it would donate SMS messaging services to anyone either in the affected region trying to alert loved ones or attempting to locate someone displaced or stranded in the tsunami's wake.

Other organizations that made sizable relief commitments include Auction Drop, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Cisco Systems, Computer Associates, and Symbol Technologies. (For more, see Tech Heavyweights Raise Millions For Tsunami Relief. )

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