Facebook Launches Blood Donation Feature in Pakistan [Exclusive Interview]

Facebook has launched a special feature in Pakistan that can help in alleviating the serious issue of blood shortage across the country.

According to recent reports, Pakistan is among those countries that face an acute shortage of blood for patients suffering from severe blood-related ailments and other diseases.

Despite 70% of its population being under 29 years, only 10% of blood supplies come from voluntary and registered donors, whereas 90% of the blood comes from unsafe sources, mostly those referred by the families of the victims.

Facebook to the Rescue

Hema Budaraju SmillingThis results in high-stress situations when people try to find blood donors on their own. Many people even reach out to their networks on Facebook. In fact, there are thousands of posts each month in Pakistan, seeking blood donors on Facebook.

In an exclusive interview with ProPakistani, Hema Budaraju, who is the Product Lead for Health at Facebook, discusses how the launch of Facebook’s blood donation feature in Pakistan can help mitigate the issue of finding compatible blood donors.

Before we get to the interview, here’s how you can register yourself as a blood donor over at Facebook.

How to Register As A Blood Donor on Facebook

People using Facebook in Pakistan will be able to sign up as blood donors either on their profiles or by visiting facebook.com/donateblood.

Facebook says that all information on its platform will remain private and set to Only Me setting by default. However, people can choose to share their donor status publicly if they want to.

The Blood Donor feature will be available on Android, iOS, and Desktop.

Blood Banks & Hospitals Can Connect with Blood Donors via Facebook

Facebook has also made it easier for organizations, 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 or go to facebook.com/findblooddonors. 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 person who requested the donation 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 organizations are hosting a blood camp in Pakistan, they will be able to create an event on Facebook. When they do so, nearby blood donors will be automatically notified. Donors can review the event and indicate if they’re going or interested.

Interview with Facebook’s Hema Budaraju

Q.1 Why there was a need to develop a product for humanitarian service?

A: In Pakistan, there are far too less blood donors to provide everyone with reliable access to safe blood. When someone needs blood in an emergency, they often reach out to their community for help.

Facebook is one tool people use to find donors in crises like these, and there are thousands of posts per month seeking blood donations and over 100,000 Pakistanis in blood donation groups where people are looking for blood donors.

Q.2: Why Facebook decided to launch this product in Pakistan? Have you launched this elsewhere? If yes, how successful has it been?

A: We believe that we can help make it easier for people in need to find donors and also help to increase blood donations overall by raising awareness of the need for donations and giving people tools and information to help.

We recently launched a similar tool in India and Bangladesh, where nearly 7 million people have signed up to be blood donors on Facebook.

Q.3: Does Facebook believe that by using this facility users will engage in the blood donation service?

A: We hope that by increasing awareness and providing tools for people and organizations in need to connect with those who are willing to help, we can make it easier for people to donate blood.

Q.4: How does this service work for the users, and at the backend?

A: To help encourage participation, we’ll show a message in your News Feed, or people can edit their Profiles to sign up for it. All information will remain private and set to “only me” by default, but people can choose to share their donor status on their timelines. People can also visit facebook.com/donateblood) and sign up.

When individuals or organizations are in need of blood, they’ll be able to create a special type of post with all the information donors need to easily offer help. When a request is created, Facebook will automatically notify blood donors who may be nearby to help spread the word.

Donors can then review the request and, if they wish to respond, contact the person directly through a phone call. The person who needs blood won’t be able to see any information about the donor unless the donor explicitly provides it when he/she reaches out to the person in need of blood.

Q.5: Do you think this feature will support efforts in promoting blood donation in Pakistan?

A: We hope to make it easier for people in need to find donors and also help to increase blood donations overall by raising awareness of the need for donations and giving people tools and information to help. We cannot comment at this time on any specific impact; we will monitor how the blood donations feature is received in Pakistan and hope to have more to share at a later time.

Q.6: Do you have any local partners? If yes, what will be their role?

A: We have briefed the Safe Blood Transfusion Programme on the blood donations feature. We have also met with nonprofit organizations, like the Pakistan Red Crescent, and the admins of large blood donation groups within Pakistan to understand the Pakistani blood donations landscape and how our feature can help. We have received positive feedback, and plan to continue to work with partners once our feature launches.

Q.7: How do you intend to protect the privacy of the donor?

A: As a donor, the information that you provide (willingness to be a blood donor, blood group, previous blood donation status) will remain private and be set to “only me” by default. You may choose to share your blood donor status as a major life event to your timeline, in which case this will be shared based on your existing privacy settings. You can also choose to add your blood donor status to your profile.

When you are notified on Facebook of a request for a blood donor near you, that person will not receive any information about you or know that you have been notified. When you make the decision to contact the donor, it is at your discretion what information you provide.

In addition, we do not share donors’ personal information with third-parties such as blood banks or hospitals that will use this feature. When an organization sets up a blood camp event, for example, they do not know who has been notified of the event.

For seekers, you choose the information that you share within your request for blood donors. If you receive unwanted communication from a potential donor, you can report the person’s profile and/or block him/her.

Q 8: How does Facebook ensure no misuse of this service? Like collecting and selling data about donors in the market?

A: Helping to keep our community safe is a top priority. We’ve integrated a number of proactive checks into the product such as validating donor and the patient’s profiles based on the information available to us.

We also give our community the ability to report suspicious profiles or requests. And, we’re using trusted sources, such as reputable partners, to provide blood donation locations that can be selected from the drop-down menu when creating a request for a blood donor.

Q.9: Should we expect more Pakistan-specific Facebook products and applications in near future?

A: We are humbled by the way people in Pakistan use Facebook to connect and share updates with the world and about the issues that matter to them. Every day we see the power of connecting people in big and small ways.

We are committed to learning about how people everywhere use our product and making sure Facebook works for them.