Twitter Saves Lives in Africa
A single Twitter message sent by actor Ashton Kutcher last year has resulted in nearly 90,000 mosquito nets being donated to people in Africa to protect against malaria.
Twitter is a social networking and microblogging service that allows users to "tweet" 140-character posts that are visible to people who subscribe to a user's Twitter account. Many celebrities can have tens or even hundreds of thousands of followers.
In April of 2009, Kutcher challenged news network CNN to a race. At the time, CNN's Twitter account had the most subscribers but Ashton was quickly gaining ground. Kutcher pledged to donate 10,000 mosquito nets to Malaria No More, a non-profit organization that aims to end malaria deaths by 2015, if he reached one million followers before CNN.
Malaria No More has now announced that Kutcher's single challenge sparked a worldwide reaction that resulted in 89,724 malaria nets being deliverd to the people of Senegal – nearly nine times more than Kutcher originally pledged.
Malaria No More also took advantage of the power of Twitter to raise awareness during last year's World Malaria Day. On April 25th, the phrase "Every 30 seconds a child dies from Malaria. Nets save lives. Support World Malaria Day = www.MalariaNoMore.org" was the single most re-tweeted message on Twitter.
With help from other celebrities on Twitter, like CNN's Anderson Cooper, musician Sean "Diddy" Combs, Oprah Winfrey, Ryan Seacrest, as well as thousands of other Twitter users, the effort to donate nets far exceeded expectations. Many Twitter users donated small amounts of money in order to match Kutcher's pledge, eventually resulting in over $500,000 being raised for the cause.
As a result of his tweet-heard-round-the-world, Kutcher received the Favorite Web Celeb award at the 2010 People's Choice Awards last month. "The true reward of the race to a million followers on Twitter are the 90,000 people in Senegal who will sleep underneath bed nets because of the money we all raised through the race," Kutcher said after accepting the award.
Kutcher's Twitter race is just one example of how social media can bring people together and organize them to positive effect regardless of where they live. The recent devastating earthquakes in Haiti also resulted in many fund-raising efforts through social media, many of which were quite successful.