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Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Some of us have been having an email exchange online about how we can help tsunami victims. Here is an email from Antoin that I found particularly interesting. It concurs with an IHT article I read the other day which said the biggest problem in many regions was not the volume of support but the coordination and the most limited resource was airspace, airstrips, and coordination.

Hi folks,

I've been staying with some Sri Lankan friends living in London. But they really don't know what to do. They are perplexed really.

There is a relief effort, and a lot of people are doing a lot of work, but you'd have to wonder whether this is thought out to any great extent. I can imagine what will happen. In a week or two, tents and medical equipment will show up in SL in large volumes, but by that stage they will be useless. At that stage, they will be beginning to look for things like building supplies. Medical supplies are being shipped from the UK, and this is certainly an important contribution, but perhaps the money and effort could be better focused. You could buy them cheaper in China or Singapore, and the flight time is much shorter.

According to the News Lanka newsletter, a paper for the Sinhalese community in the UK, the government is turning down aid teams from places like Israel, because they already have too many relief workers. Perhaps the Sri Lankan government mistakenly thought that these were 'amateur' relief workers who were being sent.

There is a lot of talk about not being able to afford response systems. In reality, there was no problem predicting the tsunamis by all accounts, at least as far as India and Sri Lanka were concerned. The problem was that the seismologists had no idea who they should call when they found out what was happening.

Now there are false alarms happening and it is difficult for ordinary people to get good information. TV footage in the UK showed people running, because they thought another tsunami was coming. But the information people were getting from the government was incorrect. This will eventually turn into the story about the boy who cried 'wolf' too many times.

There really has to be a better way of going about this.

I absolutely agree with what Jack has written about land title. There is no point in funding the rebuilding the homes of the people effected, if they do not have at least some sort of title on the land. Of course, this only represents a small proportion of the land masses we are talking about, but it would be a great place to start on sorting out land ownership in SE Asia.


Please check who is a blogger doing a great job too on the area of Chennai, India.

Lack of co-ordination, not money or resources, was always going to be one of the biggest threats to the survivors of the Tsunami. The question is how to convert the money that individuals and governments have pledged into life-saving supplies and long-term solutions on the ground, where they are needed...It concerns me that so many politicians are now getting involved in this effort - that would appear to be a recipe for adding more bureaucracy and red-tape to the situation, which could actually cost lives by delaying the deployment of life-saving resources.

It seems to me to be a real challenge to us as a 'planet'. We have the technology and we have the resources - but do we have the co-ordination skills to get them to the right place? As an individual, I know I feel pretty helpless. And the way previous disasters (on a much smaller scale than this one) have been dealt with gives me no comfort.

I'd love to hear any ideas about how we can practically help these people other than through donations to charities.

Read Hernando de Soto's THE MYSTERY OF CAPITAL to find out why waiting to
sort out land title before helping people is a very bad idea. On the other
hand, advocacy for owners of what de Soto terms "dead capital" in
conjunction with reconstruction would help sort out the "land title mess,"
and not victimize people just because they can't cope with their local

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Joi Ito picked up on my contribution on a mailing list about what is happening there.... Read More