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Can an ‘error’ save a child?

250,000 children are reported missing every year in Europe - one every two minutes. To help these kids and their families, Missing Children Europe and the creative agency Famous launched NotFound; a project allowing website owners to automatically insert a poster of a missing child on every ‘not found’ page on their site. They use Amazon Cloud Computing services, Amazon Web Services (AWS), to make it possible.

As of today, more than 3,000 European websites from seven European countries, including the UK, have signed up, and over 13 million missing children posters have gone live – more than 40,000 every day. Discussions are underway to implement NotFound in the US and Canada.

Where did this innovative idea come from? “I was sitting at home, where many of the best ideas are born,” explains Laurent Dochy, digital creative director at Famous. “My girlfriend was watching a police TV show about missing people. At the same time I was browsing online and a 404 error page came up. I looked at the TV screen, then back at the error page… and I realised that missing people and not found pages could be combined. I wasn’t looking for the idea, it just found me.”

Solidarity beyond borders

The NotFound project launched in Belgium in September 2012, and the buzz immediately surpassed Belgian borders. “We received thousands of emails and tweets from all over the world from people asking when the project would be available in their countries.” Going international was no easy task, as there is no unified database for handling missing children cases.

The technology also proved challenging: “If posters didn’t appear quickly on the error page, users would click ‘back’ and miss the information” explains Laurent. It was necessary to feature local cases in each one of the countries where error pages were to be displayed, which made the need for a robust technological solution even more critical. This is where AWS came into play - NotFound uses Amazon’s Cloud Computing solutions to run all its data storage and handle traffic: “In AWS we found the solid hosting partner with global infrastructure that we needed to expand the project,” Laurent explains. AWS is providing this service free of charge.

Page not found, neither is this child

What difference is the NotFound project making? First of all, the campaign is raising awareness about an organisation that can bring hope and support to missing children and their families: “Thanks to the NotFound project, people affected by a tragedy of this type realise there is someone out there who can help,” says Delphine Moralis, Secretary General of Missing Children Europe. Secondly it provides exposure for local missing cases to internet users from all over the world, who might have useful information.

For Delphine, the success of the NotFound initiative underlines that “there is great deal of good in people – if you provide the right tools, they will help.”

“Children go missing every day and there are ways to bring them back home,” explains Delphine. “By working together, we can make it happen.”

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In Amazon Web Services we found the solid hosting partner with global infrastructure that we needed to expand the project
Laurent Dochy