Technology: A Powerful Force for Good


Technology aided the investigation and helped first responders tend to the victims of the Boston attacks.

The past week has been a trying and challenging one for all Americans. During the events of Boston Marathon Attacks, my eyes were glued to the live broadcasts available online. Even though I was across the country, the updates, broadcasts and information connected me with the event as though it was down the street. “Tragedy” is the first word that came to mind, followed by emotions such as fear, anger and sadness.

Yet, the human spirit is a potent thing. On the second day, after the initial shock wore off a little bit, I started to see something absolutely amazing. In all the emotions that were swirling around the tragedy, people from all over the country began to reach out to support Boston and those affected by the explosions. We weren’t a country of people divided by ethnicity, religion, language, or wealth… we were a family that began the long healing process. Through these events, people were empowered to offer help and support through a variety of technologies. Consider the following acts of goodwill that were possible due to the inspired efforts of professionals within the information technology field.

  • Big Data Cracks the Case
    It was utter chaos immediately following the events of the Boston Marathon Explosions.  On one hand, there was little clarity as to what was actually going on; no one knew if it was a terrorist attack or simply an accident. On the other hand, there was too much information. From random pictures, taken by professionals or camera phones, to surveillance video recordings on ATMs and atop buildings; this volume of data seemed insurmountable. Once the situation was under control, the FBI and Boston PD put out a request for any and all information (including pictures and videos) from anyone that was at the event. What happened next was remarkable.Not only did the authorities get the information they requested from the public, they received enough information that they were able to pinpoint the two men responsible for the attack and track most of their activities during the day. While there were instances of various media sources jumping to unfounded conclusions, the authorities charged with investigating the case managed the information exceptionally well and quickly isolated and located the target suspects. I’m sure there are stories to come about how the data was managed and parsed to get a fix on the two suspects.
  • Online Apps Facilitate Information and Care
    Considering the nature of the public event taking place at the time of the blasts, one of the most frightening questions running through many people’s minds were, “Are my loved ones okay?” With the madness and confusion happening in Boston, it was very difficult for people to get in touch with their family and friends. To alleviate some of these concerns, Google came to the rescue. Not only did they create a public “Person Finder” application to help find loved ones, they also opened up a public spreadsheet that aided dislocated Bostonians and travelers. This spreadsheet allowed families to open up their homes to victims and helped these displaced individuals find local support and a place to stay.
  • Good Deeds Didn’t Go Unnoticed
    While much of the news coverage focused on the terrorists and the vile act, thanks to social media these stories weren’t the only ones breaking through. From the overwhelming outpouring of support from people around the world, to the updates of individuals directly affected, it was remarkable to see “people helping people” in their time of need. Citizens were opening up their houses for complete strangers, businesses were providing food, shelter, and a safe environment for those in the area, and the Red Cross came out to publicly thank everyone for the massive amount of blood donations that were so critical to the victims that were injured in the blasts. It’s these small (and sometimes large) acts of kindness that restore our faith in each other and makes us stronger as we return to normal life again.

The true heroes of this event were the brave first responders and community members that stepped up to minimize the effect of the attack; technology was just a tool. However, when coupled with a noble cause, technology can greatly affect things for the better.

Our prayers and thoughts continue to be with the families of the victims and those impacted by the recent violence in Boston. Boston is a resilient town and we have no doubt this city will emerge stronger and closer from these events.

–Nick Butcher, OrangePoint

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