The magnitude 7.8 earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria in early February killed tens of thousands of people and left a trail of destruction in its wake.
A massive cleanup operation is still underway in both countries. Meanwhile, one Turkish-based tech business has offered its support to help survivors through any means necessary.
Jotform, which automates the process of making web forms, first sprang into action when the aftershocks subsided. “We have three offices in Turkey: Ankara, Izmir, and Istanbul,” says Burak Cifikli, chief operating officer of Jotform. The closest office that Jotform had to the epicenter of the quake was in Ankara, some 430 miles away, but the scale of the disruption was such that even they were affected.
As were their staff. “Everyone has a friend or a relative in the area,” says Cifikli. “We even had some remote Jotformers in the area. It was one of the toughest weeks of my life.”
It was only natural, then, that Jotform would support those affected by the natural disaster. Cifikli says Jotform made a decision to help in the best way they knew how: building forms.
Charities and other organizations contacted Jotform asking for their support, and the company in turn provided them with free accounts. At the same time, Jotform began adapting its tools to the needs of those who asked for help. Jotform began analyzing how organizations were using the platform, then adapting the product.
What’s more, the company set up a “hack week” for staff, which started four days after the tremor. “We tried to implement new features and add-ons to our platform,” Cifikli says. By the end of that week, some features were released to the user base, and others have become minimum viable products.
Among the new features that came out the hack week was a tool deployed by a large real estate platform in Turkey, which collected information about who had been displaced by the earthquake, and their needs for new accommodation. “They wanted to collect location-based data but to see it on a map,” says Cifikli. Filtering features were added, so survivors of the earthquake could look at potential housing options after their homes had been destroyed.
In all, Jotform collected 2,500 requests for survivors for new temporary housing, and matched them up with a database of 4,500 properties made available for those who needed it by kind-thinking Turks.
Another organization—a major payments gateway within Turkey—also came calling at Jotform’s door. The company integrated Jotform’s tools to more easily accept donations to help those affected by the earthquake. Jotform also took part in the relocation effort, moving survivors from the disaster zone to safer areas within the country that had not been affected. One online agency buying bus tickets for those who needed evacuation from disaster areas used Jotform—with 15,000 requests being brokered through the easy-to-use forms. “It’s about simple solutions for simple use cases,” says Cifikli.
And 16,000 volunteers looking to help with the rescue and clean-up efforts entered their information into Jotform’s online forms to offer their services to the authorities.
The unexpected additional requirements on the system didn’t put much strain on Jotform’s servers: The company has 20 million users around the world, the majority of whom are in the U.S. “We were already used to those kinds of loads before,” says Cifikli.
Beyond the minimal strain on servers, Cifikli is confident Jotform has helped make a tangible impact on Turkey’s attempts to deal with the earthquake and its brutal aftermath. “Building cities will take time, and building infrastructure again will take time,” says Cifikli. But he believes that by helping provide some simple digital infrastructure, Turkey can get back on its feet quicker than in earlier earthquakes—despite the devastation wrought.