Softbank to offer free phones to earthquake orphans, free replacement for lost iPhones

Following the catastrophic earthquakes and tsunami in Japan, surviving victims from the affected region are going to face a tough time over the coming months, if not years. Many of those who are more fortunate have been actively contributing in one way or another, regardless of distance, to help put Japan on its road to recovery. Back in the country, one such generous person is non other than Softbank founder and CEO Masayoshi Son, who's recently visited Tamura, one of the cities most affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster. During that trip, Son announced that Softbank will cover a year's worth of living costs (commute and food) and provide job positions for the 1,200 people to be relocated to Takeo in Saga, the prefecture where Son originated.

Additionally, Son is using Softbank's "Let's Do It" campaign site -- a tracker for his "Let's Do It" tasks posted on Twitter, each accompanied by a completion status indicator -- to crowdsource requests for supporting earthquake victims. So far, these requests are mainly about ways to increase efficiency for donation efforts (like publishing a live list of item shortages for each shelter, and setting up new mobile networks at the shelters), but there were two that caught our attention. Last week, one of Son's followers suggested that Softbank should provide orphaned children free phone credit for a limited time, so that they could contact their friends and other family members. Son then retweeted this idea and announced that all earthquake orphans will receive free phones, along with call costs waived until they reach the age of 18. Another gadget-related initiative came in earlier today with Son promising free replacement for all lost or damaged iPhones due to the earthquake, with details to follow later.

Obviously, anyone providing aid to Japan in any way, shape, or form deserves just as much credit, but Softbank's extra mileage and cunning use of social networking is certainly praiseworthy in its own right. Here's hoping that Son's actions will inspire others for even greater causes.

[Thanks, Tres]

Update: It's worth pointing out that Son said he's also happy to help pay phone bills for earthquake orphans who are already on other networks, including DoCoMo. Good on ya, sir!