From my perspective, the largest single benefit that the internet has brought (to the people who have access to it) is the facility to communicate across the boundaries of distance, borders, religion and politics - truly shrinking the world as we find out for ourselves that people are basically the same everywhere and develop a sense of empathy with our distant cousins.
When the devastating power of natural disasters is sweeping across nations as it has in Japan these last few days, as well as in Haiti and New Zealand and many other places before, we can react in real time to at least display our support and perhaps in some small ways provide comfort to those suffering.
Plainly the logistical problems facing Japan now are enormous - massive damage to road and rail links, loss of harbour facilities, etc, are massively hampering rescue efforts and the fear of further significant aftershocks, maybe even another tsunami will be traumatising those that have yet to be reached.
Like many countries, the United Kingdom also has concerns for their own missing nationals who were working or visiting the affected areas, bringing many families around the world closer to the realities facing Japan. Truly no nation should ever have to feel isolated at such times - search and rescue teams have been arriving to bring some immediate practical benefits.
And through all this natural tragedy we are still well aware of avoidable death and destruction in Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq - the list goes on.
Doubtless the attention that is deservedly being given to Japan has to some extent limited the prominence of the suffering being inflicted in Libya as the military battle to regain control of dissident regions. Sadly it appears to take much longer for a decision by the UN to take any action there to limit the ruthless actions that Gadafi has initiated......
We should never underestimate the potential of the internet to bring the combined power of millions of like minded people to reach out and press all the political entities to take decisive actions on such issues sooner - web based collective actions by groups such as Care2.com are becoming well known and many keep members updated and motivated.
One place to look for a list of groups can be found at:- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_human_rights_organisations
We can all make our voices heard now, yours is as important as any....