Business

Asian Tech Companies Chip in Relief to Japan Quake Victims

Technology companies across Asia have found ways to help people in Japan left devastated by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake last Friday, the 7-meter tsunami it spawned, and displacement caused by troubles at a nuclear power plant there.

China's Alibaba.com, for example, has thrown in its e-commerce expertise to let hundreds of millions of users buy tents, sleeping bags, raincoats, flashlights and other gear for quake victims at cost. The company will cover the cost of shipping the goods to Japan.

Prices for the products, likely sourced from low-cost factories in China, range from US$10.52 for a tent, to $7.69 for a sleeping bag and $0.31 for a pair of work gloves. There is a minimum order for lower priced goods, such as the gloves: 30 pairs for $9.30.

Many such items are needed for massive number of people displaced by the temblor, estimated at around 500,000. A total of 3,771 people are confirmed dead after the disaster, with 7,843 still missing, according to the National Police Agency of Japan. The tsunami swept away entire towns, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless, while an emergency at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station caused officials to order people to evacuate a wide area around the site.

Electronics companies including Japanese giants such as Fujitsu, Mitsubishi Electric, NEC, Panasonic and Sony, all pledged cash donations, and some of them will distribute electronics that might be helpful.

Mitsubishi pledged ¥500 million yen (US$6.15 million), a program to match donations made by employees worldwide, and donations of company products and goods, though it did not say exactly what it would provide.

Sony and Panasonic both said they will donate ¥300 million yen (US$3.7 million) in cash as well as matching employee donation programs and electronics such as radios from both companies and flashlights, solar LED lanterns and batteries from Panasonic.

"The Tohoku region is historically important for Sony, with a high concentration of manufacturing sites, and many employees and their families have also been affected by these devastating events," Sony said.

Several companies pledged ¥100 million yen (US$1.2 million), including Advantest, Kyocera, Omron, NEC and South Korea's Samsung Electronics, which said it would also dispatch rescue staff equipped with kits including clothes, blankets and other items for the Red Cross.

Japanese e-commerce and portal website operator Rakuten reached out to users of its popular Web services to ask for donations. It said it has collected over ¥195 million yen (US$2.4 million) already.

Other popular portals and Web sites in Asia, including Chinese search engine Baidu, Yahoo Japan and Yahoo Taiwan, have set up links to donation websites so users can make contributions or find the latest news and information about the earthquake.

Efforts by these companies match contributions and services offered by a number of technology companies worldwide.

Google, for example, set up an entire crisis response page in several languages complete with updated information, emergency contact information, links to charities and a 'person finder' to help people locate lost loved ones.

Zynga, maker of social networking games such as the Facebook hit, FarmVille, has offered a chance for its 250 million users to contribute by dedicating proceeds from purchases of virtual items on several of its most popular games. All monies collected will go to Save the Children for the Japan Earthquake Tsunami Children Emergency Fund, the company said.

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