There was an inspirational speech given by Eli Beer on TED telling the story of the founding of United Hatzalah and its subsequent success from a first response and social perspective. Here is the video.
Hatzalah is a volunteer organization that provides first response ambulance style services.
Eli Beer describes his experience as a 17 year old EMT in an ambulance and their failure to save lives during medical emergencies, largely due to heavy urban traffic not allowing the ambulance vans to access the scenes in a timely fashion.
Eli realized that there are many capable people located close to emergency sites at any given time, but they simply do not have knowledge of the situation and they do not necessarily have equipment required.
So Eli began to build the idea. First step was to provide the information to a volunteer network via emergency radio scanners and a communication system for the response team (beepers, to mobile phones, to mobile apps (now using Israeli company NowForce)). As the team grew, he was able to provide faster transport via scooters ("ambucycles"). Next, it included custom built mobile equipment. Quite amazing.
Hatzalah now has an average response time of 3 minutes, while the ambulances are 15-20 minutes!
Over breakfast with my wife this past Friday, we were discussing this story with awe. Later on during our date, we began talking about how Facebook works, Twitter and other social networks. (My wife is one of the last in the western world without Facebook, Twitter, etc.). I was explaining the news feed, groups, following people, comments, likes - and importantly the influence the social networks have had on the media in the western world.
We discussed some of the negative results of social media on the media in the western world - mainly the consumer demand for immediate 24-hour news flow, lowering standards of the professional media (like low standards of information sources and corroboration) and the emergence of people that spew vitriol with large social audiences with no accountability or consequences. And we talked about the amazing results of social media on the media within emerging and frontier countries - that essentially can bring the power back to the people and undermine totalitarian dictatorships by bypassing the oppression to proliferate free speech and free "press".
I reminisced about the event that pushed me to use my Twitter account on a constant basis - The Gaza War in January 2009. The reason why was based on the ability to follow certain non-media people that had first hand and immediate information on the happenings on a constant basis. Following the Gaza War, we all watched how the grass roots of the young population within Muslim countries (initially Iran in 2009) used social media - mainly Facebook and Twitter - to break the regime's stronghold over information flow that resulted in some dictatorships falling. Interestingly, here in Israel, during the conflict in Gaza last year, we saw Israeli Defense Forces heavily use Twitter and Facebook in various capacities in very effective ways.
And then I realized that Hatzalah is a similar story.
Social media answers a need for precise and timely information. And the need is insatiable. The progress went from messenger pigeons to Paul Revere to radio to TV to cable TV to internet to mobile to social networks. Social networks provide the platform for exponential proliferation of communication flow on an immediate, global scale. In other words, people want information NOW. How do you do it? Anyone can be an authority. Anyone can be a source. If you want information on a certain topic, region, person, etc., Twitter and Facebook have it. And you can then see what all of the people with the same interest as you say on those topics. Exponential. Game changing.
Hatzalah answers a need for precise and timely emergency response. And the need is insatiable. When someone is choking or has a heart attack, they need emergency service NOW. A few minutes is the difference between life and death. How do you do it? Anyone can be a response to an emergency. Anyone can save a life. They just need information, transportation, some equipment and training. This creates a "social" network of people across different locations at different times of the day. Don't rely on the incumbent service. Bring the power of the masses to answer the need.
On a personal note, I was in venture capital during the emergence of social networks as an investment category (2005+). I was personally not a believer in the sector as an investment opportunity. Perhaps due to my lack of faith in humanity on a large scale. I was proven wrong...and I am not referring to missing out financially, but rather from the human perspective. the social networking and sharing economy start ups have shifted the way society can operate.
People are not perfect, but Facebook has proven that people will be honest about themselves - profiles, pictures information and content is largely true. Prosper.com proved most people are honest and have self respect - to pay back loans, even without assets connected to the loan. And AirBNB is proving that most people are hospitable and respectful - with minimal crime, vandalism, etc.
And this Hatzalah story made me rehash my faith in humanity - building out a volunteer, non-compulsory social sharing society.
Kol hakavod to Eli Beer and all social entrepreneurs that bring power and faith down to the people - to rely on human compassion, honesty and respect.