Bright ideas for an even better Bay Area

Local nonprofit heroes are making a difference in our community, and we want to do more to support them. As part of that mission, we recently launched a Bay Area Impact Challenge with a question: working together, what can we do to make the Bay Area an even better place to live?

Provide training and job opportunities for people with disabilities. Match surplus medical supplies with community clinics. Bring mobile showers and toilets to the homeless. These are just a few of the nearly 1,000 thoughtful and creative proposals we received.

A panel of community advisors—Honorable Aida Alvarez, Secretary Norman Mineta, Chief Teresa Deloach Reed, Reverend Cecil Williams and Barry Zito—joined Googlers to narrow down the pool to the 10 top finalists. Each project was selected for its community impact, ingenuity, scalability and feasibility.

Now we need your help deciding which projects to support. Which one do you think will make the biggest impact in our community? Vote now for the four ideas that inspire you.

Your votes will decide which projects get up and running in a big way—with $500,000 going to each of the top four projects, and $250,000 to the next six. An additional 15 nonprofits that entered the Challenge have already received $100,000 each in support of their work.

Cast your vote by 11:59 p.m. PST on June 2, and join us in celebrating the community spirit that makes the Bay Area a great place to call home.

The Endangered Languages Project: Supporting language preservation through technology and collaboration

The Miami-Illinois language was considered by some to be extinct. Once spoken by Native American communities throughout what’s now the American Midwest, its last fluent speakers died in the 1960s. Decades later, Daryl Baldwin, a citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, began teaching himself the language from historical manuscripts and now works with the Miami University in Ohio to continue the work of revitalizing the language, publishing stories, audio files and other educational materials. Miami children are once again learning the language and—even more inspiring—teaching it to each other.

Daryl’s work is just one example of the efforts being made to preserve and strengthen languages that are on the brink of disappearing. Today we’re introducing something we hope will help: the Endangered Languages Project, a website for people to find and share the most up-to-date and comprehensive information about endangered languages. Documenting the 3,000+ languages that are on the verge of extinction (about half of all languages in the world) is an important step in preserving cultural diversity, honoring the knowledge of our elders and empowering our youth. Technology can strengthen these efforts by helping people create high-quality recordings of their elders (often the last speakers of a language), connecting diaspora communities through social media and facilitating language learning.

The Endangered Languages Project, backed by a new coalition, the Alliance for Linguistic Diversity, gives those interested in preserving languages a place to store and access research, share advice and build collaborations. People can share their knowledge and research directly through the site and help keep the content up-to-date. A diverse group of collaborators have already begun to contribute content ranging from 18th-century manuscripts to modern teaching tools like video and audio language samples and knowledge-sharing articles. Members of the Advisory Committee have also provided guidance, helping shape the site and ensure that it addresses the interests and needs of language communities.

Google has played a role in the development and launch of this project, but the long-term goal is for true experts in the field of language preservation to take the lead. As such, in a few months we’ll officially be handing over the reins to the First Peoples' Cultural Council (FPCC) and The Institute for Language Information and Technology (The LINGUIST List) at Eastern Michigan University. FPCC will take on the role of Advisory Committee Chair, leading outreach and strategy for the project. The LINGUIST List will become the Technical Lead. Both organizations will work in coordination with the Advisory Committee.

As part of this project, research about the world’s most threatened languages is being shared by the Catalogue of Endangered Languages (ELCat), led by teams at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa and Eastern Michigan University, with funding provided by the National Science Foundation. Work on ELCat has only just begun, and we’re sharing it through our site so that feedback from language communities and scholars can be incorporated to update our knowledge about the world’s most at-risk languages.

Building upon other efforts to preserve and promote culture online, has seeded this project’s development. We invite interested organizations to join the effort. By bridging independent efforts from around the world we hope to make an important advancement in confronting language endangerment. This project’s future will be decided by those inspired to join this collaborative effort for language preservation. We hope you’ll join us.

Giving back in 2011

As the holiday season approaches we thought it was a good moment to update you on some grants we're making to support education, technology and the fight against modern day slavery.

STEM and girls’ education
Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) open up great opportunities for young people so we've decided to fund 16 great programs in this area. These include Boston-based Citizen Schools and Generating Genius in the U.K., both of which work to help to expand the horizons of underprivileged youngsters. In total, our grants will provide enhanced STEM education for more than 3 million students.

In addition, we're supporting girls’ education in the developing world. By giving a girl an education, you not only improve her opportunities, but those of her whole family. The African Leadership Academy provides merit scholarships to promising young women across the continent, and the Afghan Institute of Learning offers literacy classes to women and girls in rural Afghanistan. Groups like these will use our funds to educate more than 10,000 girls in developing countries.

Empowerment through technology
We've all been wowed by the entrepreneurial spirit behind the 15 awards in this category, all of whom are using the web, open source programming and other technology platforms to connect communities and improve access to information. Vittana, for instance, helps lenders offer loans to students in the developing world who have have a 99 percent repayment rate—potentially doubling or tripling a recipient's earning power. Code for America enables the web industry to share its skills with the public sector by developing projects that improve transparency and encourage civic engagement on a mass scale. And Switchboard is working with local mobile providers to help African health care workers create networks and communicate for free.

Fighting slavery and human trafficking
Modern day slavery is a multi-billion dollar industry that ruins the lives of around 27 million people. So we're funding a number of groups that are working to tackle the problem. For instance, in India, International Justice Mission (IJM), along with The BBC World Service Trust, Action Aid and Aide et Action, are forming a new coalition. It will work on the ground with governments to stop slave labor by identifying the ring masters, documenting abuse, freeing individuals and providing them with therapy as well as job training. Our support will also help expand the reach of tools like the powerful Slavery Footprint calculator and Polaris Project’s National Trafficking Hotline.

To learn more about these organizations and how you can get involved, visit our Google Gives Back 2011 site and take a look at this video:

These grants, which total $40 million, are only part of our annual philanthropic efforts. Over the course of the year, Google provided more than $115 million in funding to various nonprofit organizations and academic institutions around the world; our in-kind support (programs like Google Grants and Google Apps for Education that offer free products and services to eligible organizations) came to more than $1 billion, and our annual company-wide GoogleServe event and related programs enabled individual Googlers to donate more than 40,000 hours of their own volunteer time.

As 2011 draws to a close, I’m inspired by this year’s grantees and look forward to seeing their world-changing work in 2012.

Show your love for charities on Google+ this holiday season

We’ve been thrilled to see the ways nonprofit organizations use Google+ to raise awareness about their work, as well as the ways people connect with causes on Google+. In the past couple days, several entertainers have helped start a movement for this holiday season, drawing attention to their favorite charities on Google+ using the phrase #CauseILoveEm and creatively showing their followers what they love about these nonprofit organizations.
  • Co-founder +Hugh Jackman and +Laughing Man Coffee & Tea asked people to share photos of themselves with Laughing Man's fair trade products (the profits of which go to charity) and to sound off on living their motto, "All Be Happy," using #CauseILoveEm to be included in a thank you photo album.

  • +Find Your Light Foundation and +Josh Groban announced the Fulfill-a-Wish campaign, spotlighting the needs of nonprofit arts organizations from across North America in videos and posts, and asking for your help fulfilling these holiday wishes.
We hope you’ll join these folks and lots of others in the Google+ community who have already started sharing their favorite nonprofits this holiday season. Say which nonprofit you like and what you like about them in a public post using the phrase #CauseILoveEm and mentioning the nonprofit’s Google+ page by typing “+” and the nonprofit’s name. Be creative and post videos, images and stories that will convince others to love them too. Through the end of December on our +Google for Nonprofits page, we’ll re-share great examples of the ways people are recognizing their favorite nonprofits and highlight some nonprofits with which you might want to connect.

If the nonprofit you care about most isn’t yet on Google+, be sure to let them know about our Google+ for Nonprofit community page that they can use to get started and learn more. Thanks in advance for caring about these organizations and doing something small to help them grow and achieve their goals during the holiday season.

Using technology in crisis preparedness

(Cross-posted from the Blog)

In many ways, the arrival of Hurricane Irene last week drove home the importance of National Preparedness Month, an effort from the FEMA Ready campaign to encourage Americans to take steps to prepare for emergencies throughout the year. With people relying on the Internet worldwide, it’s not surprising that Google search data and a recently released American Red Cross survey show that people turn to online resources and tools for information and communication during major crises. First responders, who provide services in the aftermath of disasters, are also finding Internet and cloud-based tools and information useful—for improving their understanding of a situation, collaborating with each other and communicating with the public.

Today, in preparation for September’s National Preparedness Month, our Crisis Response team is introducing a new Google Crisis Preparedness website with information and educational tools on using technology to prepare for crises. On the site, you can see how individuals and organizations have used technology during crises in the past, including how two girls located their grandfather after the Japan earthquake and tsunami in March of this year and how Americorps tracked volunteers during the tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri in May of this year. There’s a section for responders with information on using Google tools in crises, such as collaborating efficiently using Google Docs, Spreadsheets and Sites, visualizing the disaster-related information with Google My Maps and Google Earth, and more.

Also, you can access a new public preparedness web resource launching today: Get Tech Ready, developed as a collaboration between FEMA, the American Red Cross, the Ad Council and Google Crisis Response. There, you’ll find tips on using technology to prepare for, adapt to and recover from disasters, for example:
  • Learn how to send updates via text and internet from your mobile phone in case voice communications are not available
  • Store your important documents in the cloud so they can be accessed from anywhere or in a secure and remote area such as a flash or jump drive that you can keep readily available
  • Create an Emergency Information Document using this Emergency Plan Google Docs Template, or by downloading it to record and share your emergency plans and access them from anywhere
We encourage you to take a moment now to see how simple, easy-to-use and readily-available technology tools can help you prepare for a crisis. You’ll be more comfortable using these tools in the event of a disaster if you’ve already tried them out—and even integrated them into your daily life.

Examining the impact of clean energy innovation

At Google, we’re committed to using technology to solve one of the greatest challenges we face as a country: building a clean energy future. That’s why we’ve worked hard to be carbon neutral as a company, launched our renewable energy cheaper than coal initiative and have invested in several clean energy companies and projects around the world.

But what if we knew the value of innovation in clean energy technologies? How much could new technologies contribute to our economic growth, enhance our energy security or reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions? Robust data can help us understand these important questions, and the role innovation in clean energy could play in addressing our future economic, security and climate challenges.

Through, our energy team set out to answer some of these questions. Using McKinsey’s Low Carbon Economics Tool (LCET), we assessed the long-term economic impacts for the U.S. assuming breakthroughs were made in several different clean energy technologies, like wind, geothermal and electric vehicles. McKinsey’s LCET is a neutral, analytic set of interlinked models that estimates the potential economic and technology implications of various policy and technology assumptions.

The analysis is based on a model and includes assumptions and conclusions that developed, so it isn’t a prediction of the future. We’ve decided to make the analysis and associated data available everywhere because we believe it could provide a new perspective on the economic value of public and private investment in energy innovation. Here are just some of the most compelling findings:
  • Energy innovation pays off big: We compared “business as usual” (BAU) to scenarios with breakthroughs in clean energy technologies. On top of those, we layered a series of possible clean energy policies (more details in the report). We found that by 2030, when compared to BAU, breakthroughs could help the U.S.:
    • Grow GDP by over $155 billion/year ($244 billion in our Clean Policy scenario)
    • Create over 1.1 million new full-time jobs/year (1.9 million with Clean Policy)
    • Reduce household energy costs by over $942/year ($995 with Clean Policy)
    • Reduce U.S. oil consumption by over 1.1 billion barrels/year
    • Reduce U.S. total carbon emissions by 13% in 2030 (21% with Clean Policy)
  • Speed matters and delay is costly: Our model found a mere five year delay (2010-2015) in accelerating technology innovation led to $2.3-3.2 trillion in unrealized GDP, an aggregate 1.2-1.4 million net unrealized jobs and 8-28 more gigatons of potential GHG emissions by 2050.
  • Policy and innovation can enhance each other: Combining clean energy policies with technological breakthroughs increased the economic, security and pollution benefits for either innovation or policy alone. Take GHG emissions: the model showed that combining policy and innovation led to 59% GHG reductions by 2050 (vs. 2005 levels), while maintaining economic growth.
This analysis assumed that breakthroughs in clean energy happened and that policies were put in place, and then tried to understand the impact. The data here allows us to imagine a world in which the U.S. captures the potential benefits of some clean energy technologies: economic growth, job generation and a reduction in harmful emissions. We haven’t developed the roadmap, and getting there will take the right mix of policies, sustained investment in technological innovation by public and private institutions and mobilization of the private sector’s entrepreneurial energies. We hope this analysis encourages further discussion and debate on these important issues.

Webbing the gap between science and the public

We recently held an Innovation Workshop for the 2011 Google Science Communication Fellows, a group of early to mid-career PhD scientists chosen for their leadership in climate change research and communication. The Fellows spent three days together alongside Googlers and external experts at the Googleplex in Mountain View, Calif. exploring the potential of information technology and social media to spur public engagement.

All 21 of the 2011 Fellows are experienced science communicators, trained in using traditional media to bridge the gap between complex science and the general public. This workshop was an opportunity for them to explore new media communications optimized for the age of the web; or, as as I like to say, learning how to “web” the gap between the science community and the larger world in the digital age.
We organized the workshop around three themes:
  1. Understanding the public. This session introduced trending tools— like search, Google Trends and Correlate—that can be used to gather data from search queries and online discussions. If you’re curious, watch Google user experience researcher, Dan Russel, give the Fellows a 101 on how people search, and what they’re looking for.
  2. Documenting your science story. Here, the Fellows played around with Google Earth, Fusion Tables and YouTube to learn how to create interactive and engaging stories with science data, which could then be shared with a broad audience. For more on this, visit the Science Communications Fellows talks page on YouTube.
  3. Joining the conversation. In this session, Googler Chris Messina, a developer advocate, took the Fellows on a journey into the social web, illustrating by examples the power of the crowd in shaping ideas and building understanding across diverse social networks. You can view Chris’s outstanding talk here.
Several external experts participated in the workshop as well, including Andy Revkin, Dot Earth blogger and senior fellow of environmental understanding at Pace University. Andy gave a thought-provoking keynote the first evening, which also included a self-composed ditty about the fossil age (look out Schoolhouse Rock!).

Armed with new knowledge on “webbing the gap,” the Fellows are now developing project proposals to put what they learned into practice. Proposal selections will be made later this summer. You can learn more about tools for science communication in the digital age and the innovation workshop at our site here. Stay tuned for future opportunities for participating in this program.

Thousands of “hackers for good” build applications for humanity

(Cross-posted on the Blog)

Earlier this month, thousands of “hackers for good” gathered in more than 19 different global locations—from Berlin to Nairobi, and Sydney to Sao Paulo—to participate in Random Hacks of Kindness #3. These teams are now off and running, working with NGO and government advisors to finish their applications for humanity.

In partnership with Microsoft, Yahoo!, NASA and the World Bank, we founded RHoK in 2009 to build and support a community creating open source technology for crisis response. At RHoK #3, we expanded the mandate to include climate change, and we also recently announced that we’re broadening the scope in the future to tackle any development challenges.

Of the more than 75 solutions submitted for judging at this year’s global events, many are already on their way to making a difference around the world. The UN, in partnership with the Colombia government, is considering adopting the shelter management system developed at RHoK Bogota to aid the 3 million victims of winter flooding in South America. Of the nine hacks submitted for judging at RHoK Sao Paulo, two are already in use and two others may be further developed and incorporated into the restructuring of the National Weather Service. The winning application at RHoK Philadelphia, developed in response to a problem proposed by the World Bank Water group, is set for further development at the WaterHackathon, RHoK's first community-sponsored event, later this year.

At the RHoK Silicon Valley event at Google’s Mountain View campus, we selected three winners:
  • SMS Person Finder enables anyone with a phone to interact with Person Finder, a software application that Google built to help people connect with their loved ones following a disaster. The Google Crisis Response team is working with this group to integrate their application into future Google Person Finder deployments
  • Hey Cycle makes it easier for people to reuse and recycle items by setting up email alerts when free items that they’re looking for are entered on
  • FoodMovr connects people with excess food to others who need it through a simple live application
We’re proud to be one of the founding partners and ongoing sponsors of Random Hacks of Kindness and look forward to seeing these application make a difference. Stay tuned for future RHoK events, and follow the progress of the community at

Using search patterns to track dengue fever

(Cross-posted on the Blog)

What does baseball have in common with gazebos? We’re not sure, except that people search on Google for both terms in similar patterns. Last week we introduced Google Correlate, an experimental tool enabling researchers to model real-world behavior using search trends. We’ve heard from many researchers who want to mine this data for new discoveries about economics and public health—much like we designed Google Flu Trends to give an early warning about flu outbreaks. We hope they’re able to make useful discoveries with Google Correlate.

While building Google Correlate, we used it to create an early warning system for another important disease. Google Dengue Trends in Bolivia, Brazil, India, Indonesia and Singapore provides an additional surveillance tool for a disease that affects about 100 million people each year. Dengue is a virus spread through mosquito bites that creates symptoms including high fever, severe headache and pain, rash and mild bleeding. There is no vaccine or treatment, so public health efforts are largely focused on helping people take steps to prevent being infected with the disease.

Singapore has an impressively timely surveillance system for dengue, but in many countries it can take weeks or months for dengue case data to be collected, analyzed and made available. During the dengue outbreak at last year’s Commonwealth Games, we discussed the need for timely dengue information. With help from Professor John Brownstein and Emily Chan from HealthMap, a program at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, we were able to create our system. Using the dengue case count data provided by Ministries of Health and the World Health Organization, we’re able to build a model that offers near real-time estimates of dengue activity based on the popularity of certain search terms. Google Dengue Trends is automatically updated every day, thereby providing an early indicator of dengue activity.

The methodology for this system is the same as that for Google Flu Trends and is outlined in a newly published article in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

We hope the early warning provided by Google Dengue Trends helps health officials and the public prepare for potential dengue outbreaks. For those who live in places where dengue is present, remember to follow the advice of health officials to prevent infection by wearing mosquito repellent and emptying any containers that lure mosquito larvae by gathering standing water.

Hacking for humanity in Silicon Valley and around the globe

(Cross-posted on the Code Blog and Blog)

Two years ago representatives from Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Hewlett-Packard, NASA and the World Bank came together to form the Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) program. The idea was simple: technology can and should be used for good. RHoK brings together subject matter experts, volunteer software developers and designers to create open source and technology agnostic software solutions that address challenges facing humanity. On June 4-5, 2011 we’ll hold the third Random Hacks of Kindness global event at five U.S. locations and 13 international sites, giving local developer communities the opportunity to collaborate on problems in person.

The RHoK community has already developed some applications focused on crisis response such as I’mOK, a mobile messaging application for disaster response that was used on the ground in Haiti and Chile; and CHASM, a visual tool to map landslide risk currently being piloted by the World Bank in landslide affected areas in the Caribbean. Person Finder, a tool created by Google’s crisis response team to help people find friends and loved ones after a natural disaster, was also refined at RHoK events and effectively deployed in Haiti, Chile and Japan.

We’re inviting all developers, designers and anyone else who wants to help “hack for humanity,” to attend one of the local events on June 4-5. There, you’ll meet other open source developers, work with experts in disaster and climate issues and contribute code to exciting projects that make a difference. If you’re in Northern California, come join us at the Silicon Valley RHoK event at Google headquarters.

And if you’re part of an organization that works in the fields of crisis response or climate change, you can submit a problem definition online, so that developers and volunteers can work on developing technology to address the challenge.

Visit for more information and to sign up for your local event, and get set to put your hacking skills to good use.