What was the inspiration behind the blood donation feature?
Blood shortage is a serious problem and we at Facebook care about it and want to do our part. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), 71 countries in the world have a shortage of safe blood and Bangladesh sits on the top of the list. What usually happens is that, when people need blood, they have to find blood donors on their own, and in their pursuit they tend to resort to every means available to them. What we also notice is that they are using Facebook as a platform to source donors. People are responding too. We noticed that people want to help each other out and use Facebook for a good cause. That inspired us to think about what can we do better, and what we can do to bring a feature that makes it easy for people in Bangladesh to find blood donors.
Our research shows that thousands of people are looking for blood donors on Facebook every week. In fact, people in Bangladesh have joined around 1,400 blood donation groups on Facebook. This is proof that it is truly a serious problem and people are willing to use technology and creative means to find donors. At Facebook, we can make the process easy, and can create tools and values on the platform that makes it easier for people who need blood.
We have worked with organisations here including Bangladesh Red Crescent and BRAC, and people who are running various blood groups to get feedback, as well as potential donors in order to find out ways in which the process can be made simpler. The feature is available both in English and in Bangla. We’re proud to say that we’ve worked alongside individuals and organisations in Bangladesh, to create a product that is for Bangladesh.
How does the feature work?
There is now a blood donation feature available in Bangladesh on Facebook on your newsfeed where you’ll find options to become a blood donor or visit facebook.com/donateblood
. In a few seconds, you can register as a donor. The only information we ask for is whether you know your blood group and whether you want to put it in, and that’s pretty much it.
Once you’ve signed up, you’ll be notified when there’s a need nearby. We take user privacy very seriously, and so we don’t share your blood group information on your blood donation status with other people. But if you want, you can encourage other people by sharing that you’ve signed up as a donor on Facebook.
We found that one of the best things we can do while starting off is to create awareness. Signing up is a strong signal of awareness of the problem and willingness to help. We launched this in India in October last year and in four months, we’ve seen that more than six million people have signed up as donors in the country. We’re optimistic that Bangladesh can beat that number.
In the next few weeks, we’ll make it easier for people and organisations, such as blood banks and hospitals, to connect with blood donors on Facebook.
When people are seeking donations, they will be able to create special posts to spread the word. Facebook will automatically notify blood donors who may be nearby to help. Donors can then review the request and, if they wish to respond, contact the requester directly through a phone call. The requester won’t be able to see any information about the donor, unless the donor explicitly provides it when he or she replies.
When organisations are hosting a blood camp events in Bangladesh, they will be able to create an event on Facebook and nearby blood donors can be notified. Donors can review the event and indicate if they’re going or interested.
Our goal is to ensure the availability of safe blood for all. Facebook is only a part of the ecosystem, and we’re relying on the people of Bangladesh and organisations to use the feature to make a strong example for the world to see that technology can be used to solve a crucial problem such as blood shortage, turning a problem into a case study.
Why blood donation in particular?
There’s the need of course, but we also find it very inspiring when we see people using our platform creatively, and to make the process easier for the thousands of people across India and Bangladesh who actively use Facebook to source blood.
Our region, namely countries like India, Bangladesh and Myanmar are disaster-prone areas where the need for safe blood shoots up during a disaster, and we wish to address it and help make it easier. We also believe in the power of technology to create impact in our lives. There are many other sectors where Facebook can play a role – the blood donation feature is a start and we wish to work on other possibilities in the future. At the end of the day, we want our platform to be used for good causes.
How can you ensure that the blood is of acceptable quality?
There are things Facebook can do that are our strengths, which is information, context and helping people connect to donors but in the end, we have to rely on the medical system of the country. What we can do is ask the donors and people using the feature to make sure that the facilities they visit are safe and have qualified personnel.
What does Facebook have to gain from this?
One of Facebook’s core missions is to create safe and supportive communities globally. We are trying to ensure that our platform is being used for good causes and helping to mobilise people to help each other out.
What other exciting initiatives do you have in the pipeline?
South Asia is developing rapidly, especially Bangladesh which is an important country for us for various reasons. It is a nation that is actively working to digitalise itself. The government is focusing a considerable effort to achieve it and it is paying off. People outside the major cities are using the platform. We’ve been working alongside the government for quite a few initiatives, one of which is creating new entrepreneurs. We’ve launched a programme called Boost Your Business under which we’ve committed to train 10,000 youth in digital marketing by June of this year. We’ve already trained about 6,000 of them and we believe that we can meet the target well before the deadline. We’ve designed and launched a similar programme titled She Means Business which is targeted at female entrepreneurs at the Digital World expo which was held recently.
All of you know about “f-commerce” because you were the ones who taught us the concept. Bangladesh was the one who coined the term because people here were using Facebook as a platform to buy and sell products and services. That inspired us to do everything in our might to help these local entrepreneurs, not just the bigger ones but also the smaller ones with exemplary products, to offer their services in the global market. Economic activities will surely be at the centre of focus for us.
Another area that we’re working in is helping software developers to gain access to tools and systems and global best practices.
There are other features that are happening organically and that’s the beauty of the platform – we don’t dictate how a community uses it.