One intrepid Android fan is extolling the virtues of the open smartphone platform that helped him to route SOS messages in the recent Haiti disaster
. "Well, when you are in such a situation, you don't really think about going to Facebook, but it happens that I have a Facebook widget on my Android home screen that regularly displays status updates from my friends. All of a sudden, an SOS message appeared on my home screen as a status update of a friend on my network. Not all smartphones allow you to customize your home screen, let alone letting you put widgets on it. So, I texted Steven about it. As Steven had already been working with the US State Department on Internet development activities in Haiti, he quickly called a senior staff member at the State Department and asked how to get help to the people requesting it from Haiti. State Department personnel requested a short description and a physical street address or GPS coordinates. Via email and text messaging, I was able to relay this information from Port-au-Prince to Steven in Oregon, who relayed it to the State Department in Washington DC, and it was quickly forwarded to the US military at the Port-au-Prince airport and dispatched to the search-and-rescue (SAR) teams being assembled. So the data went from my Android phone to Oregon to Washington DC and then back to the US military command center at the Port-au-Prince airport. I was at first a little skeptical about their reaction: there was so much destruction; they probably already had their hands full. Unexpectedly, they replied back saying: 'We found them, and they are alive! Keep it coming.'"