Technology can go beyond simply empowering individuals politically and intellectually, but it can also impact the ability of individuals to bypass traditional government bureaucracies. Years ago, if a natural disaster like a hurricane happened, the only recourse was the government. The government would have to get its act together to save people. But, what if the government completely botches the effort? What if a hurricane — lets call it Katrina — destroys an entire area and all the governments involved were too incompetent to properly handle the job? Well, a couple of years ago, you would’ve been screwed. You would have had to wait for the government to get its act together … and we all know how slow governments are at doing anything right
I’m sure that Hurricane Katrina, given the government’s abysmal failure in dealing with its aftermath, would have been much worse had it not been for the ability of the internet to leverage incredible amounts of support for the private-sector disaster relief effort and for bringing about government criticism which finally pushed the governments to do something. And, as Google’s official blog points out, technology such as Google Earth was employed by multiple agencies not only to better understand the broader picture of what the hurricane did, but also to help find stranded people.