Skype calls to and from mobile and landline phones in Nepal are now free to make so earthquake victims and their families can reach one another, the Microsoft company announced Monday.
“Since no one knows the full extent of the devastation, we want to help provide people with alternative methods of communication to reach friends and family in the region during this difficult time,” Skype wrote in a blog post Monday.
Microsoft’s effort is the latest move from U.S. tech companies to help Nepalese affected by the 7.8 earthquake over the weekend as the death toll is climbing fast with more than 4,200 dead and millions injured as military troops search for survivors.
Soon after the quake, Facebook re-released its check-in function that lets users display a Safety Check badge on their profile after disasters. Google launched a more comprehensive tool called Person Finder, which connects the friends and loved ones of those who are missing to emergency responders on the ground in Nepal. Texts and calls in Nepal are also free on Sprint and T-Mobile. Apple has also partnered with the American Red Cross and is collecting donations through iTunes.
Tech companies and social media platforms have become important resources in natural disasters and crises. Facebook provided free internet access to Ebola aid workers in Western Africa last year, Google launched a crisis map in 2012 in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and a Silicon Valley startup pitched in the cleanup process after the nuclear energy plant meltdown in Fukushima, Japan in 2011.
Tech company executives have also extended personal, financial support for relief efforts in the wake of international crises. During the height of the Ebola outbreak, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen donated $100 million in October to help buy aid worker supplies, training, and launch a crowdfunding site.