Facebook, Tesla and other tech giants are giving aid to Puerto Rico in the form of VR, ‘internet balloons’ and batteries
Example: Mark Zuckerberg announced an augmented-reality mapping tool to help the Red Cross.
After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico last month, the island is still struggling to recover. And while President Donald Trump has tweeted that the U.S. government has done an amazing job there, the country has struggled to get basic services like cell coverage, power and internet back up.
Silicon Valley tech giants have promised to help the relief effort in some increasingly creative ways.
So for those who haven’t had a minute to sort out what the tech industry is promising Puerto Rico, here is our ongoing list. We’ll update as we hear about more initiatives:
Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that he could provide support by helping to rebuild the island’s power grid using solar power. Puerto Rico is taking Musk’s idea seriously.
The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too. Such a decision would be in the hands of the PR govt, PUC, any commercial stakeholders and, most importantly, the people of PR.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 5, 2017
Musk’s company has installed solar power grids on other small islands like Ta’u in American Samoa.
Solar power aside, Tesla has also been sending hundreds of its Powerwall home batteries to the country in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
Last month, Facebook pledged $ 1.5 million to multiple charities to help Puerto Rico’s recovery. It also flew in employees from its connectivity team to work with a tech-focused nonprofit called NetHope to help get the territory back online. Facebook’s connectivity team is the group that is building Facebook’s internet-beaming drones.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also debuted a new virtual reality feature on Facebook Live on Monday, and used the technology to take viewers on a tour of a few of Puerto Rico’s flooded streets.
Zuckerberg used the VR experience as an opportunity to announce that Facebook is working with the Red Cross to build “population maps” that would help relief organizations know where help is needed. Zuckerberg said the mapping technology would use machine learning and augmented reality to show population densities in order to help direct where supplies and other relief efforts might be needed.
On Saturday, the Federal Communications Commission gave Alphabet an experimental license to use its balloon-powered internet service, called Project Loon, to restore service in Puerto Rico.
However, the license is just the first step in Alphabet potentially providing internet service to the territory. Alphabet is still evaluating if Project Loon will be able to help Puerto Rico, and it hasn’t released a schedule for providing service.
Airbnb has been providing housing and shelters to those displaced by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. The room-sharing service has options for Puerto Rican and Caribbean residents to offer space to those in need of housing.