On April 1st, in the midst of the SARS crisis, somebody made it worse by creating an online hoax. A teenager set up a dummy website that looked like the internet version of Ming Pao, a local Chinese daily, and published that Hong Kong had been declared “an infected area”. Thousands of people stripped shelves clean of rice, toilet paper and cooking oil. At the same time the HK stock exchange sunk 2%. The government needed a means to reach the people instantly. Currently, more than 80 percent of the population, or 5.8 million people in Hong Kong, own a mobile phone, one of the highest penetration rates in the world. SMS was used to inform the people that there are no plans to declare Hong Kong an infected city. No other communication medium could have done the same job.
Good case of how technology can be a villain and saviour around the same time.