Japan's Internet proves quake-proof - Macleans.ca

Japan’s Internet proves quake-proof

A crowd-sourced radiation tracking project is just one way the Internet is helping the relief effort

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As silver-linings go, it may not be much; but it is remarkable to learn that Japan’s Internet barely skipped a beat after last week’s devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami and aftershocks.

Physical damage did occur to network infrastructure, but within hours the self-correcting architecture of Japan’s Internet routed around it and information flowed freely. Keep in mind that this damage coincided with a massive surge in Internet use, as users around the world suddenly began demanding live video and other data from Japan.

The catastrophe provides a valuable real-world example of how important it is for nations to invest in strong, well-planned digital networks with multiple redundancies. Japan’s Internet has long been the envy of the world.

But so what?  Given the human cost, the ongoing suffering, and the very real threat of nuclear disaster, who cares about a resilient Internet? Well, consider this:

  • After the quake, as roads closed and mobile phone networks jammed up, the Internet kept the nation connected. It’s how relatives checked in on each other, and it’s helping now with relief efforts.
  • It’s also helping to assess the damage in innovative ways, like this crowd-sourced radiation tracking project.  It will take some time for authorities to know just how real the threat of radiation poisoning is in every area of Japan, so until then, citizens are taking the matter into their own hands. Folks with Geiger counters are uploading to this Google Map.