Blood donors at fingertips
12:00 AM, January 23, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:40 PM, January 23, 2018

Blood donors at fingertips

Facebook introduces new feature in Bangladesh to make it easier to find blood

Imagine you have an emergency patient, a loved one, needing blood. You write a Facebook post seeking blood or contact the blood banks. If everything works well, you may get blood in time. Otherwise, the patient's life might be in danger.

Facebook, one of the most popular social media platforms in Bangladesh, has come forward to help the blood recipients and donors to easily and effectively connect the two sides as it is set to launch a blood donation feature today.

In Bangladesh, one of the 71 countries facing shortage of blood supply, there are 1,400 Facebook groups and thousands of people try to find donors, but often in vain, said Hema Budaraju, product lead of Facebook.

Hema Budaraju
The communication gap between the blood donors and recipients remains a major problem though there are plenty of willing donors. At the same time, Bangladesh is a country where people widely use Facebook.

“People are coming together to help each other. This inspired us to figure out what we can do to make it easy for them to find blood donors. We thought about introducing some features that can help people find donors easily,” said Hema in an exclusive interview with The Daily Star at a city hotel yesterday.

The feature is expected to increase awareness of blood donation, connect people and help them in need, she said.

HOW IT WORKS?

From today, Facebook users in Bangladesh will be able to sign up to be blood donors by editing their profiles to let others know that they are willing to donate blood. They can visit facebook.com/donateblood to sign up.

“To help encourage participation, we'll also show a message in News Feed so you can sign up in a few seconds. You don't need to download anything extra.

“You can register with your blood group or say you don't know it. You can indicate if you have earlier donated blood or not... that's it,” Hema said.

According to her, Facebook takes privacy very seriously. It doesn't share the blood group or the fact that s/he is a blood donor unless s/he wants to share it with other Facebook users. 

Once a request is posted with the feature, Facebook would send notification to nearby blood donors.

Those searching for blood donors will have to use the feature to write a special Facebook post and provide the location, phone number and the blood group required.

“The donors who have signed up will then get a notification, saying 'Hi, somebody near you needs blood. Are you able to help?” Hema said.

It is solely the donor's choice if s/he wants to donate or not, she added.

Once a blood request is managed, the requester closes the request and Facebook doesn't show the phone number anymore, she said. 

“The role Facebook can play here is communication and providing the context. But there has to be some communication between the blood donor and the recipient. We expect that the two parties will coordinate.”

NEXT PHASE

Facebook wants to work with the blood banks, hospitals and other partners to ensure that the feature is used not only in emergencies, but also by the organisations concerned to collect and preserve blood.

If there is a blood donation camp, its organisers will be able to notify about the event through the feature. Facebook would then send the notifications to the nearby donors so that they can go and donate blood, Hema said.

In India, Facebook has dozens of partners who have conducted hundreds of camps using the feature since its launch in last October, Hema said.

“As people get notified about a camp, it becomes an opportunity for them to donate blood,” she said, stressing that people and partners have to come together to make this happen and Facebook only provides the technology.

Ritesh Mehta, head of programmes of Facebook South Asia, said they were extremely happy to launch the feature in Bangladesh. 

“People here are very quick to adapt to new technologies. There is a huge potential for technologies which are used for socio-economic causes,” he said of Bangladesh.

According to last year's data of Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, there were 29 million Facebook users in Bangladesh.

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