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Preview: The Official blog

The Official blog

News and notes from Google's philanthropic arm.

Updated: 2017-09-27T14:50:58.237-07:00


Goodbye, blog


This will be our last post on the blog. In order to make it easier for people to get the latest news from Google in one place, we're moving to the Official Google Blog. is going strong—each year, we donate $100 million in grants to organizations that are working on global health, education, women's advancement, the environment and more. We hope you'll stay tuned to the latest from via the Official Google Blog, or on our Google+ page or Twitter account.


Crisis Tools for Typhoon Yolanda


Cross-posted from the Google Asia Pacific BlogWe’ve launched several tools, available on our Typhoon Yolanda crisis page, to help gather and relay information in connection with the incredible devastation that’s occurred in the Philippines.These resources include Google Person Finder, a web application that allows individuals to post and search for the status of family or friends affected by the disaster. If you’re worried about someone, then click on “I’m Looking for Someone” and type in their name. If you want to let people know you’re safe or have heard from someone in the area, then click on “I have information about someone” and put in their names and details. As the number of names and records build, the tool will hopefully make it easier for those who are safe to pass on their news to anyone worried about them.We’ve also made Person Finder available on mobile phones. You can request status via SMS by sending an SMS to 2662999 (Globe subscribers), 4664999 (SMART subscribers), 22020999 (Sun subscribers), or +16508003977 with the message “Search” and then the persons name. For example, if you are searching for Joshua Reyes, send the message “Search Joshua Reyes”. frameborder="0" height="300" src="" style="border: 2px dashed rgb(119, 119, 204); margin: 20px 0px;" width="400">Typhoon Yolanda Relief Map, below, which provides updates on shelters and other information from the disaster zone: height="400" src="" style="border: 1px solid rgb(204, 204, 204); margin: 20px 0px;" width="400">These tools are open to anyone to embed on their Web sites - here are instructions for embedding person finder, and you can click the “Share” button at the top of the crisis map to embed or share by email or social media.The more people who contribute to them, the more useful they’ll be.Update November 12: we're also providing $500,000, split between two organizations working on the ground,CARE and the Philippine Red Cross, to aid with relief efforts. If you would like to make a donation, we've provided links to these and other organizations on our crisis landing page.Posted by Aileen Apolo, Outreach Program Manager, Google Southeast Asia [...]

Trial in Cape Town shows that TV White Spaces can deliver broadband access without interference


(Cross-posted from Google Africa blog)TV White Spaces—the unused spectrum between TV channels—have the potential to bring wireless broadband access to underserved and rural areas. These low frequency signals can travel long distances and fill a need in places where telecommunications infrastructure is lacking.Google, joined by a group of partners (CSIR Meraka Institute, TENET, e-Schools Network, WAPA, and Carlson Wireless), wanted to help make this potential a reality. In March 2013, the grouplaunched a six-month trial using TV White Spaces (TVWS) to bring broadband Internet access to 10 schools in Cape Town, South Africa. The goal of the trial was to show that TVWS could be used to deliver broadband Internet without interfering with TV broadcast.After six months, the trial has been a success. The participating schools, which previously had slow or unreliable Internet connections, experienced high-speed broadband access for the first time. Teachers were able to use videos in their lesson plans, make Skype calls to other schools, update school websites, and send regular email updates to parents. Students could use educational videos for research. Because the service was better and faster, teachers and learners used the web to enrich the classroom experience.Student uses high-speed Internet at one of the trial schools.At the same time, multiple sources confirmed that there was no interference with TV broadcast. Trial partner CSIR Meraka Institute performed frequent scientific studies to measure any potential interference over the six-month period. We also provided tools for people to report any interference experience while watching TV. Both the Meraka Institute’s findings, as well as crowdsourced reporting, show that the TVWS service did not interfere with local broadcast. We’ve published thefinal results for a deeper dive on the outcomes of the trial.ICASA, South Africa’s communication regulator, plans to use the trial outcomes as inputs into the TVWS regulatory process. This is a big step to bringing this technology to more of South Africa. We also hope the results extend far beyond this trial and can be useful in encouraging others to consider TVWS to help bring the power of the Internet to more people in more parts of the world.Posted by Fortune Sibanda, Policy Manager, Google South Africa [...]

Flu Trends updates model to help estimate flu levels in the US


When people get sick, they turn to the Web for information. Back in 2008, a team at Google dug into this behavior and found that certain search terms were good indicators of flu levels. We later launched Google Flu Trends to estimate flu activity in near real-time using aggregated Google search data, in regions around the world.At the end of every flu season, we evaluate the performance of our model. Are our estimates accurate? What worked well, or not so well? Do we need to make any updates? After the 2009 H1N1 season, for example, we updated the model to make sure we were providing accurate estimates. Since 2009, the model had performed well at the national and regional levels in the US and no update was needed.Flu Trends can help estimate the start, peak, and duration of each flu season--all important information for public health agencies. During the 2012-2013 season in the US, the model performed well in estimating the start and duration of the season. However, the model overestimated the severity of the flu. In January 2013, after spotting the difference between our estimates and the percentage of healthcare visits for influenza-like illnesses (ILI) reported by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), we started to investigate the high estimates. We found that heightened media coverage on the severity of the flu season resulted in an extended period in which users were searching for terms we’ve identified as correlated with flu levels. In early 2013, we saw more flu-related searches in the US than ever before.We evaluated several options to improve the model. Ultimately, we determined that an update using the peak from the 2012-2013 season provided a close approximation of flu activity for recent seasons. We will be applying this update to the US flu level estimates for the 2013-2014 flu season, starting from August 1st. A casual observer will see that the new model forecasts a lower flu level than last year’s model did at a similar time in the season. We believe the new model more closely approximates CDC data. You can check out the new model’s estimates against previous years’ flu levels in this graph:United States: Influenza-like illness (ILI) data provided publicly by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. For those of you who want more data and details, we presented this paper recently at the ISNTD Bites conference.  This is an iterative process. We will keep exploring how we can build resilience to accommodate the effect of news media. In the meantime, stay healthy!Posted by Christian Stefansen, Software Engineer [...]

Public Alerts and Crisis Map for Natural Disasters Now Available in Colombia


A catastrophe or natural disaster can occur when least expected. That's why the Google Crisis Response Team created Public Alerts and Crisis Map to help people better prepare for these unfortunate situations. Today, we’re launching Google Public Alerts and Crisis Map in Colombia to provide people with access to useful information before, during, and after a natural disaster such as a tropical storm, hurricane, flood or landslide.Starting today, relevant information about extreme weather changes which threaten the safety of Colombians will appear on Google Public Alerts as well as emergency related information for impacted areas on Crisis Map. This information will also be displayed in Google Search, Google Maps, Google Maps Mobile and Google Now. Our goal at Google Crisis Response is to provide citizens with the critical information needed in an emergency. We’re able to provide Public Alerts and Crisis Map in Colombia thanks to the support of the Colombian Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM) and the National Unit for Disaster Risk Management (UNGRD). Colombia is the first country in Latin America to implement the system. Public Alerts is currently available in five other countries: Australia, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, and the United States.Google Public Alerts and Crisis Map Google Public Alerts helps you find important weather information without even looking for it by bringing together critical alert information for weather, landslides and floods, and providing instructions for severe weather conditions and non-weather alerts such as missing persons, wildfires and earthquakes. This information is displayed on Google Maps, Google Search and Google Now when you activate it on your Android device. Example of the Google Public Alerts global page Google Public Alerts now provides accurate and relevant emergency alerts when and where you need them in Colombia. For example, if a red alert is issued for flooding in your area, you’ll see the alert when doing a relevant search on Google or Google Maps, either on desktop or mobile, and will have access to timely information:Example of a Google Search result showing a red alert You can see alert details through the ‘More information’ link.  Colombia’s Crisis Map, shown below, provides various layers of information such as public alerts, shelters and crisis response centers in the impacted area. This is a valuable resource for people who live in or near the impacted area, and for crisis response teams who need access to reliable information. Google Crisis Map for Colombia The goal of Google Public Alerts and Crisis Map is to make it easier to find specific information during emergencies when people are already using Google products. Thanks to the commitment of the Colombian Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM) and the National Unit for Disaster Risk Management (UNGRD), Public Alerts and Crisis Map is now available in Colombia.By Laura Camacho, Google Colombia Country Manager [...]

Get the latest on the Australian fires with the Google Crisis Response map


As summer approaches, reliable and easily accessible information about where fires are burning and how to stay safe is important. That’s why we’ve launched a Google Crisis Map to show fire information across five Australian states and territories.The Google Crisis Map shows information about current fires including their location and size the level of alert, whether the fire is under control and which local emergency response agency is responding to the crisis. Working with fire authorities across Australia, the Crisis Map is continually updated and can be accessed from any device connected to the web at Example of a fire warning and fire incidents on the Google Crisis MapIn addition to the Crisis Map, Google Public Alerts is now also available for NSW. Google Public Alerts show you relevant fire information when looking up related terms on Google Maps or Google Search. And if you use Google Now on your Android or iOS device, it will alert you if the NSW RFS has published an extreme bushfire or fire alert nearby. Example of a Google Now card showing a fire warningExample of a fire warning on Google Search resultsExample of a fire alert details page on mobileWe’re able to provide this Crisis Map and the Public Alerts thanks to the NSW Rural Fire Service, the Queensland Rural Fire, the ACT Emergency Services Agency, The Country Fire Service of South Australia, and the Tasmania Fire Service. The partnership and commitment of these agencies in opening this data to the public helps Google and others make critical and life-saving information more widely available.The Google Crisis Map is now available for NSW, SA, QLD, TAS and the ACT and we’re working with authorities to make the service available in all states and territories. We also look forward to expanding Google Public Alerts and working with more local warning providers soon. We encourage potential partners to read our FAQ and to consider putting data in an open format, such as the Common Alerting Protocol. Media are welcome to embed the crisis map on their own sites, by following the steps outlined here. Posted by Meryl Stone, Partnerships Manager for Google Crisis Response [...]

Supporting new solutions for broadband Internet access in rural markets


Sometimes, the best way to take a new idea from the research phase to the real world is to take that idea into the has provided a $2 million grant to the De Novo Group to advance wireless technologies that could help bring broadband Internet access to emerging markets around the world.De Novo Group is leading a project—called “Celerate”—to develop and deploy new wireless network designs in rural communities. Celerate’s goal is to create both a prototype design and an open source networking solution that could be replicated in emerging markets. These new technologies will be freely available for anyone to use or commercialize, creating a more affordable option for broadband access that is cheaper to deploy, operate and manage.Celerate’s wireless network designs are based on the principles of Software-Defined Networking (SDN), which are used today in large data centers and enterprise networks. Celerate will extend this technology to rural wireless networks, with an eye toward research as well as providing real network services to users.De Novo Group is working with researchers from Stanford University and UC Berkeley, and is now working to find a community for the first deployments (ideally, located in Northern California, close to the project team). Universal access is a big challenge. Today, just one in three people worldwide are connected to the Internet. This is another step forward in developing new technologies to connect more people in more parts of the world.Posted by Jennifer Haroon, Access Principal [...]

Responding to Cyclone Phailin in India


Last week, India’s east coast was struck by Cyclone Phailin, a severe tropical cyclone that displaced hundreds of thousands of people in the affected region. Google Crisis Response published a landing page in Hindi and English with resources and information to help those affected by the cyclone. The page included a crisis map with information on the storm’s path and impact, storm shelters, hospitals, and more. We also gathered contact numbers for important resources such as local emergency operation centers and railway helplines.Crisis Map of Cyclone PhailinWe made  Person Finder available in Hindi, Bengali, and English to help locate missing loved ones—a service that proved helpful during the Uttarakhand Floods in June 2013. We make the tool available to check and post on the status of relatives or friends as long as it’s needed and valuable during a crisis. Fortunately, the rapid evacuation of so many in the affected regions have meant that most people have been accounted for and Person Finder is no longer active for this disaster.Responding to a storm of this scale is daunting and requires the work of many, but we can all do something to help. We hope these tools provided value to those affected by Cyclone Phailin and are grateful to the partners on the ground who helped us bring information to affected regions. We will continue to work with local governments in the area to determine ways for us to contribute.Posted by Jayanth Mysore, Senior Product Manager on behalf of Google APAC and the Google Crisis Response team [...]

Joining forces to advocate for a more affordable Internet


Cross-posted from the Public Policy blogImagine a world where you spent 30% of your monthly income on basic Internet service. Could you pay? What might you have to give up? For billions of people, these costs--and questions--are an unaffordable reality that stop them from accessing the Web. Today, Google is joining more than 30 members to launch the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), a new coalition that cuts across boundaries of geography, sector, or size. Our goal? To help bring down Internet costs through policy change. New technologies play a crucial role in bringing the Internet to more people worldwide--we’ve developed and invested in many of these big ideas over the years. We broke new ground with balloon-powered Internet access, are bringing broadband to Africa with TV White Spaces, and are funding organizations like the Internet Society to develop Internet Exchange Points in emerging markets. These technologies can have major impact, but no single solution can connect the 5 billion people living without Internet access today. Policy change can help new innovation take hold and flourish; outdated policies can stifle progress. In Kenya and other markets that have adopted national broadband plans, policy change has delivered results, fast. A4AI will focus on those policy changes that can bolster new access technologies and initiatives and make the Internet more affordable to people worldwide. Initiated by the World Wide Web Foundation, A4AI includes members from the technology, government, and nonprofit worlds, from developed and developing countries. Google--along with other Global Sponsors--joined the alliance in its early days to help establish the vision that exists today, as well as rally more members that share our mission for affordable Internet access. A4AI has a specific goal in mind: to reach the UN Broadband Commission target of entry-level broadband access priced at less than 5% of monthly income worldwide. (According to the ITU, households in the developing world pay roughly 30% of monthly income for a fixed connection, so there’s a lot of work to do.) We’re working with A4AI on several initial projects, including:Publishing a set of policy and regulatory best practicesWorking directly with governments, with plans to engage with 10+ countries by the end of 2015Releasing the first edition of an annual affordability reportUltimately, A4AI is about making the world a more connected place. Over 90% of people in the 49 least developed countries are still not online. A4AI wants to help people in these countries to get access, to find a door to new information, opportunities, and ideas. Dr. Bitange Ndemo, the honorary chairperson of A4AI, has called for the need to remove “analog policies that are holding back the digital revolution” in emerging markets. We couldn’t agree more. Posted by Jennifer Haroon, Access Principal [...]

Responding to the Colorado Floods


Last week, Colorado was hit with severe storms and flooding, washing out roads and bridges and leaving thousands displaced. Many people, including local Googlers, have been evacuated from their homes or are still without essential services. The recovery period is likely to be lengthy as major roads are repaired and communities clean up.
In response to the disaster, Google Crisis Response worked closely with the local team to launch a Crisis Map showing aerial photos, shelters, road closures and more. Public Alerts notified people of flash flood warnings. The team worked closely with the Colorado Office of Emergency Management, as well as the Boulder Office of Emergency Management and other county response agencies to get updates to those affected. 
Google has also donated $50,000 to the Red Cross to support relief and rebuilding efforts. We hope these resources help Coloradans recover from this disaster.

Posted by Scott Green, Boulder Site Director(image)

Google Person Finder launched in response to Floods in Acapulco, México


Cross-posted from the Google Latin America BlogAfter one of the worst floods in Acapulco, Guerrero, caused by recent tropical storms “Ingrid” and “Manuel” , the Google Crisis Response team has launched Person Finder to help the Mexican port respond to this disastrous situation. Person Finder is a web application that allows individuals to post and search for the status of relatives or friends affected by a disaster. This tool allows every user to share useful and important data (name, gender, age, location, photos and more) that helps locate and know about isolated or lost persons. The site activated for Floods in Acapulco is accessible in English and Spanish all over the globe. Additionally, it allows you to receive notifications for the people you're searching for and to set an expiration date for the record you are uploading. It’s worth noting that Google is not responsible for updating the data and does not make any guarantees about its accuracy. Google Person Finder depends on individual users to update and remove records when no longer relevant. As an open source software platform, response teams and developers may use it in their own sites to contribute to the impact and response in emergency actions. Posted By Jack Fermon, Product Specialist [...]

Expanding Public Alerts in Japan with Severe Weather Warnings


Earlier this year we launched Google Public Alerts for the first time in Japan, covering earthquakes and tsunamis. Today, we’re expanding the service to include weather-related alerts for typhoons, blizzards, landslides and more.  These new warnings will appear - as earthquake and tsunami alerts do now - on Google Search, Google Maps and Google Now, as well as the Google Public Alerts site, where you will also find minor weather alerts, such as advisories for high surf and dense fog.If you happen to be in Tokyo at a time when a typhoon alert is issued, for example, Google Now will show you a card containing information about the typhoon alert, as well as any available evacuation instructions:Example of a typhoon warning card on Google NowYou will also see alerts for severe weather events, like tornadoes and torrential rains, when you search for relevant information on Google Search and Google Maps on your desktop, tablet or smartphone:Example of a Google Search result on a tablet showing a tornado warningExample of a torrential rain warning on Google Maps The Japan Meteorological Agency and Rescue Now’s commitment to providing this crisis data in a usable format to the public made these new alerts possible. We hope they will help people in Japan prepare for natural disasters and stay safe when they strike.To learn more about Public Alerts, visit our Public Alerts homepage. Posted by: Marilia Melo, Partner Technology Manager [...]

Help inspire the next generation of technology creators: Apply for a 2014 RISE Award


Cross-posted from the Official Google BlogInspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers is crucially important—breakthroughs don't happen without people to make them. We want students to not just be consumers of technology, but also creators of it; to enrich not only their own lives, but those of their communities. That's the motivation behind the Google RISE (Roots in Science and Engineering) Awards.Given once a year, Google RISE Awards are designed to promote and support education initiatives to increase engagement in science and technology, especially computer science. Google grants awards of $15,000 - $50,000 USD to non-for-profit organizations around the world working to expand access to these fields for K-12/Pre-University students, specifically girls and underrepresented groups.In 2013, 30 organizations received RISE grants—with projects ranging from robotics contests in Germany to programming challenge days for girls in New Zealand. In June, we brought all of our partners together for a Global Summit. It was an inspiring meeting, and since the Summit several organizations have begun to work together to expand their reach. For example, our RISE partners in Nigeria, WAAW Foundation and W-TEC, have teamed up to organize a one-week residential Advanced STEM Camp. The program launched this week and will provide 27 public school girls exposure to robotics. Over in Argentina, an organization already connecting Belgium to Argentina is is now collaborating with another on programming workshops for students and teachers. And organizations in Liberia and India are sharing resources to overcome common challenges in access to technology for girls. The hard work of RISE organizations has also drawn support from leading figures such as President Obama, Ireland’s Taoiseach Enda Kenny and HRH Prince Andrew. We’re looking for more organizations to partner with in 2014. Submit your application by September 30, 2013. You can submit your application in English, French, Japanese, Russian or Spanish; all eligible countries are listed on our website. Show us what you can do to get students excited about STEM and CS!Posted by Marielena Ivory, K12/Pre-University Education Outreach [...]

Public Alerts for Natural Disasters Now Available in Taiwan


As Taiwan heads into another Typhoon season, the need for reliable and easily accessible information about where the next storm will hit and how to stay safe has never been more important.  That’s why we’re launching Google Public Alerts and a dedicated Google Crisis Map for Taiwan.Starting today, relevant severe weather alerts for typhoons and flood related events in Taiwan will appear on the Google Public Alerts page as well as on Google Search, Google Maps and Google Now. Google Public Alerts is a platform designed to provide accurate and relevant emergency alerts when and where you need them.If a typhoon alert is issued in Kaohsiung county, for example, the alert information will appear on your desktop and mobile screens when you search for relevant information on Google Search and Google Maps:Example of a Google Search result showing a flood warningExample of a typhoon warning on Google Maps for mobileIf you happen to be in Taiwan at a time when a typhoon warning is issued near you, Google Now on your Android or iOS device will show you a card containing information about the alert, as well as any available evacuation instructions:Example of a typhoon warning card on Google NowIn addition to these Google Public Alerts tools, we’re also launching today a dedicated Google Crisis Map for Taiwan which will provide detailed information in times of crisis, including the ability to apply various layers of information to the map, such as shelter locations, storm radar, evacuation routes and more. height="400" src="" style="border: 1px solid #ccc;" width="400"> Our goal at Google Crisis Response is to provide citizens with the critical information needed in an emergency.  We’re able to provide this crisis map and Public Alerts in Taiwan thanks to the Central Weather Bureau, Water Resource Agency, Soil and Water Conservation Bureau, Directorate General of Highways and the National Science and Technology Center for Disaster Reduction - their partnership and commitment to opening this data to the public enables Google and others to make critical and life-saving information more widely available.We look forward to expanding Google Public Alerts to more countries and working with more warning providers soon. We encourage potential partners to read our FAQ and to consider putting data in an open format, such as the Common Alerting Protocol. Posted by Eric Chu, Engineering Director, [...]

Television White Spaces database receives FCC certification


We know spectrum is an essential resource to power the future of the Internet. Using untapped spectrum can help improve broadband access in many parts of the world—as it’s doing in our trial in South Africa—and spark new innovation in wireless technology.In March, we shared an update on our efforts to become a certified database administrator for a band of spectrum called the TV white spaces. Today, our database received final certification from the FCC.This is an exciting step forward. With FCC certification, we can do more to help make spectrum available. We are ready to work with leaders in the wireless industry—those developing certified devices that can talk to a database—to help them gain access to TV White spaces spectrum to help bring new technologies and services to market. Our database has already helped to show that there is available spectrum out there--if you know where to look. For example, we used the database to help visualize available spectrum in Cape Town, South Africa and Dakar, Senegal. And, with spectrum sharing enabled by a database, multiple users can share spectrum, accessing what they they need when they need it, and allowing others to use it when they don’t. With more unused spectrum being put to good use, we hope to see more wireless innovation and wireless broadband access for users.Posted by Alan Norman, Principal, Access [...]

Crisis Map launched for Alberta Floods


As flooding continues to affect Alberta, the Google Crisis Response team has launched a new crisis map with emergency-related information.To view the crisis map, visit: embeddable map shows evacuation zones, emergency shelter locations, public alerts, traffic conditions, and more. With help from the City of Calgary, Province of Alberta, CBC News and several local communities, the map uses open data to provide important information for people in affected areas. height="400" src="" style="border: 1px solid #ccc;" width="400"> We created the Google Crisis Map to help people find and use critical emergency information when they need it most. See below for more information on embedding this map for your use, and keep an eye on the crisis map as we continue to add new information.Our thoughts remain with everyone in Alberta affected by these floods, and with the many officials and first responders throughout the province whose resilience has united us all and will guide the recovery effort. Posted by Leslie Church, Google CanadaHow to embed the crisis map on your website:Use this default code: width="400" height="400" src="" style="border: 1px solid #ccc">Or follow these simple steps:Select the layers you want ON, and zoom to the area you want to appear on your site.Hit the Share button at the top of the map.Copy the code in the field below “Paste HTML to embed in website”.Drop it into the HTML for your website.You can set the height and width of the map directly in the iframe code.Note: The embed code will automatically display a map of the layers you have selected. [...]

Hacking for Change at Google


Cross-posted from the Google Developers BlogOn June 1st and 2nd, thousands of developers from across the U.S. came together at nearly 100 different locations to participate in the first ever National Day of Civic Hacking. Using public data recently released by the government on topics like crime, health and the environment, developers built new applications that help address social challenges.At the Googleplex in Mountain View, we hosted nearly 100 developers, statisticians, data scientists, and designers, who stayed long into the night hacking together prototypes that show how data on health and the environment can be used to enrich lives. Fusion Tables and Google App Engine were used to prototype, and groups relied on BigQuery as a workhorse to crunch the biggest datasets. Participants used Google+ Hangouts to connect with hackathons in other states and collaborated with Google Apps and platforms.Here are a few highlights from the hackathon that stood out as useful, visually stunning, and informative ways to use public data:Eat Healthy for Less, the winner of our Mountain View hackathon, is a mobile web application that uses the Consumer Pricing Index to suggest healthy recipes that can be made on a budget.Data+, a reimagining of how we access data, can make exploring public datasets more intuitive and easily understandable for is a web experience and Android app that shows you toxic sites and landfills nearby that you might not know about so that you can take civic action against toxic waste.Many of the ideas have great potential, and we are encouraging participants to continue their work. We hope that the National Day of Civic Hacking will be a catalyst for innovation in this space, and encourage you to keep track of our tools for civic developers at and thanks to everyone who participated!Posted by Patrick Copeland, Engineering Director, [...]

More than 15 African countries gather to explore the potential of TV White Spaces


To help bring more of Africa online, we often work with others: offering programs to get universities connected, supporting nonprofit innovators to increase engineering know-how, and partnering to test the use of TV White Spaces for broadband access in underserved areas. TV White Spaces--unused channels in the broadcast TV spectrum--have the potential to help cover the last mile of Internet access. The last mile, or final connection to the user, is one of the biggest challenges to improving connectivity in Sub-Saharan Africa and other emerging markets. TV White Spaces are important because they offer available and underutilized spectrum (especially in less developed areas), allow signals to travel over long distances, and can enable a lower-cost alternative for broadband. Many are catching on to the promise of TV White Spaces, developing technologies and advancing regulation to use this spectrum. Last week, 25 countries, 17 in Africa, joined the TV White Spaces & Dynamic Spectrum Africa Forum in Dakar, Senegal to discuss what’s next. The event, supported by Google, Microsoft, the Association for Progressive Communications, Afrinic, Senegal’s Minister of Communication, Telecommunications and Digital Economy and ISOC Senegal, focused on a few key themes that highlight the potential of the technology.TV White Spaces are available. Using our spectrum database, we shared a visual of available white space in Senegal. There is more than 90 MHz available in Dakar alone, and more across the country--spectrum that could be used for broadband. Compared to the San Francisco Bay area, the number of available channels is remarkable.Trials show that TV White Spaces work in practice. Trials in Kenya, Malawi, Singapore, and the UK have demonstrated that white spaces can deliver broadband without interfering with licensed users of spectrum. With the CSIR Meraka Institute, TENET, e-Schools Network, the Wireless Access Providers’ Association, Comsol Wireless Solutions, Carlson Wireless, and Neul, Google has supported one such trial to provide broadband to 10 schools in Cape Town. CSIR shared initial results from the trial, which demonstrate that TV White Spaces radios can operate without interfering with TV broadcast.Regulation can pave a path in African markets. ICASA, the South African regulator, plans to use trial outcomes to evaluate possible rules for use of the TV White Spaces. Other regulators showing interest in TV White Spaces for broadband included Senegal, as well as Malawi, where less than 9% of the population receives broadcast TV and many channels are left available. Developing new technologies for TV White Spaces.  Radio manufacturers shared how TV White Spaces radios can talk to a database, which tells the radio which channels are available in a given geography. Adaptrum and Carlson presented the results of deployments of these radios, in Kenya and South Africa respectively. From trials to databases to radios, these efforts show that players are stepping up to use TV White Spaces to help enable Internet access in West Africa and beyond. That’s good news for a future where more people have access to the Web.Posted by Alan Norman, Access Principal [...]

Responding to the Oklahoma tornado


On Monday, the Oklahoma City region was struck by a devastating 2-mile wide tornado. Entire neighborhoods and schools have been destroyed, people have lost their lives and thousands remain displaced. Our hearts go out to all those who were affected by this terrible tragedy.In response, Google’s Crisis Response team launched a crisis map for the event, which includes Red Cross shelters, traffic alerts, storm reports and other information. Googlers from our Mayes County Data Center, which is located approximately 2.5 hours from Moore, Oklahoma, are also volunteering in the community. We are currently working with Verizon Wireless and Acer to set up Chromebook stations with free Internet. Residents can go to St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church and the Moore Community Center, which are acting as Red Cross shelters. Chromebooks are also set up at Walmart store #277, 501 19th St. Moore, Oklahoma. We hope people find this useful. To aid in both immediate and long-term recovery efforts in the region, we’re also making a $250,000 donation to relief work in the area. We’ll also continue to work with the many nonprofits and responders who are providing lifesaving resources on the ground. Posted by: Mike Wooten, operations manager of Mayes County Data Center [...]

Public Alerts for Google Now, Google Search and Google Maps available in Canada


(Cross-posted on the Google Canada blog: English, French) With floods and spring showers in the forecast, Canadians can now receive warnings of drastic weather changes directly to their mobile device or desktop.Today we’re launching official severe weather notifications for Canada in English and French on Google Public Alerts. Relevant severe weather alerts will now appear on the Google Public Alerts page, in Google Search and Google Maps on both desktop and mobile, and in Google Now.Providing people with warnings and information before severe weather hits is critical to helping ensure safety. Google Public Alerts is a platform designed to provide accurate and relevant emergency alerts when and where you need them. An alert will appear on your desktop or mobile screens when you search for relevant keywords such as flood or with location-based queries like Toronto. On Android devices running Google Now, alerts will appear automatically on Cards.We couldn’t have launched Public Alerts in Canada without Public Safety Canada and Environment Canada. Their meteorological data will ensure our users are notified of severe weather when relevant. We also appreciate their commitment to open data standards such as the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP).Here are example alerts in Canada surfaced on Search from a mobile device and Google Maps Mobile        For more information, or to see all active public alerts, visit our homepage at If you are a data provider, we also provide instructions here that will help you get your emergency data ready for Google Public Alerts.We’re always working to improve Public Alerts, so please send us your feedback using the link at the far right of our Google Public Alerts homepage.Posted by Steve Hakusa, Public Alerts Engineer [...]

TV White Spaces trial launches in South Africa


White spaces are unused channels in the broadcast TV spectrum. They offer the potential to improve Internet connectivity where they are most needed - in the developing world. Today we’re announcing the launch of a trial with ten schools in the Cape Town area, which will receive wireless broadband over a white space network.White space has the advantage that low frequency signals can travel longer distances. The technology is well suited to provide low cost connectivity to rural communities with poor telecommunications infrastructure, and for expanding coverage of wireless broadband in densely populated urban areas.Google supported its first white space trial in the US in 2010, and recently launched its spectrum database for 45 day public comment period with the FCC. In October 2011, we hosted a workshop in Johannesburg, along with partners, at which the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) lent support for an industry-led white spaces trial in South Africa. We then worked together with the CSIR Meraka Institute, Tertiary Education and Research Network of South Africa, e-Schools Network, the Wireless Access Providers’ Association, Comsol Wireless Solutions, Carlson Wireless, and Neul to take up the challenge.The service will be broadcast from three base stations located at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences in Tygerberg, Cape Town. Ten schools in the Cape Town area will receive wireless broadband to test the technology. During the trial, we will attempt to show that broadband can be offered over white spaces without interfering with licensed spectrum holders. To prevent interference with other channels, the network uses Google’s spectrum database to determine white space availability. To confirm results, the CSIR Meraka Institute will take spectrum measurements and frequently report back to ICASA and the local broadcasters.White Space technology is gaining momentum around the world. In the US, it is already available for licensed exempt uses. In the UK, regulator Ofcom is working on a model regulatory framework based on a licence-exempt or ‘managed access’ use of television white spaces spectrum. We hope the results of the trial will drive similar regulatory developments in South Africa and other African countries. To read more about the trial background, visit TENET’s website. Posted by Fortune Mgwili-Sibanda, Public Policy Manager, Google South Africa [...]

Public Alerts for Google Search, Google Now and Google Maps available in Japan


With nearly 5,000 earthquakes a year, it’s important for people in Japan to have crisis preparedness and response information available at their fingertips. And from our own research, we know that when a disaster strikes, people turn to the Internet for more information about what is happening.With this in mind, we’re launching Google Public Alerts today in Japan—the first international expansion of a service we debuted last year in the United States. Google Public Alerts is a platform designed to provide accurate and relevant emergency alerts when and where you’re searching for them online.Relevant earthquake and tsunami warnings for Japan will now appear on Google Search, Google Maps and Google Now when you search online during a time of crisis. If a major earthquake alert is issued in Kanagawa Prefecture, for example, the alert information will appear on your desktop and mobile screens when you search for relevant information on Google Search and Google Maps. Example of a Google Search result on a tablet showing a tsunami warningExample of a tsunami warning on Google MapsIf you click “詳細” (“More info”) right under the alert, you’ll see more details about the announcement, including the full description from the Japan Meteorological Agency, a link to their site, and other useful information like observed arrival times and wave heights for tsunamis. Example of how a tsunami alert would work in FukushimaAnd when you open Google Now on your Android device, recommended actions and information will be tailored to where you are. For example, if you happen to be in Tokyo at a time when a tsunami alert is issued, Google Now will show you a card containing information about the tsunami alert, as well as any available evacuation instructions: Example of a tsunami warning card on Google NowWe’re able to provide Public Alerts in Japan thanks to the Japan Meteorological Agency, whose publication of data enables Google and others to make critical and life-saving information more widely available.We hope our technology, including Public Alerts, will help people better prepare for future crises and create more far-reaching support for crisis recovery. This is why in Japan, Google has newly partnered with 14 Japanese prefectures and cities, including seven from the Tōhoku region, to make their government data available online and more easily accessible to users, both during a time of crisis and after. The devastating Tōhoku Earthquake struck Japan only two years ago, and the region is still slowly recovering from the tragedy.We look forward to expanding Google Public Alerts to more countries and working with more warning providers soon. We also encourage potential partners to read our FAQ and to consider putting data in an open format, such as the Common Alerting Protocol. To learn more about Public Alerts, visit our Public Alerts homepage.Posted by Yu Chen, Partner Technology Manager(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog) [...]

Identifying available spectrum


Today, there are billions of phones, tablets, laptops and other mobile devices connecting to the Web wirelessly. Meanwhile, people living in parts of the world without wired infrastructure rely on wireless broadband for their last mile connection. As more people go online and the number of wireless devices grows, so does the need for spectrum.

There is available spectrum out there -- but it can be hard to find if you don't know where to look. One way we're trying to help researchers and other stakeholders identify available spectrum is through dynamic spectrum sharing. Spectrum sharing allows devices to use spectrum when it is not in use by someone else simply by checking a data base. We're in the process (with several others) of becoming a certified database administrator for a band of spectrum called the TV white spaces.

Today, we’ve reached a milestone in the certification process: our database is beginning a public trial with the FCC. Our trial site allows industry stakeholders (broadcasters, cable, wireless microphone users, licensed spectrum holders) to test and provide feedback on the database. The trial site also allows anyone to find out how much TV white spaces spectrum is available at any location, such as your home or office.

Google Earth visualization of available TV whitespace spectrum.

The completion of the trial will bring us all one step closer to freeing up more spectrum, which in turn will help the industry bring new wireless technologies to market and enable people to get wireless Internet access when and where they need it.


Improving Internet access in emerging markets


People are constantly finding new ways to use the Internet to address our biggest challenges: global education, health care, clean water, effective government. But we’ve only scratched the surface on the potential of the Web. Today, 5 billion people still don’t have access to the Internet and the opportunity it provides.Google is doing work to get more people connected, especially in places where Internet access lags the most. In Sub-Saharan Africa, we’ve created programs such as Google Apps Supporting Programs for Education, offered technical assistance such as caches for Internet providers, and generated ideas to build Internet capacity. To help bring the next billion people online, is announcing today our support of two organizations that share our mission to connect the world: the Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC) and the Internet Society (ISOC). We are providing $3.1M to the NSRC to grow their work to bring local network engineering expertise to universities and national research & education networks (NRENs) across Sub-Saharan Africa. Through labs and a train-the-trainers program, NSRC will provide hands-on training on campus network planning, deployment, and management for over 600 university and NREN staff. Their work will bring the Internet to students and staff at over 50 institutions and increase network engineering know-how in Sub-Saharan Africa.KENET-NSRC Campus Network Design Workshop, Photo: NSRC Lesotho IXP setup. Photo Credit: ISOC/Michuki MwangiWe are also supporting ISOC, providing $1.3M to improve and create Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) in emerging markets. IXPs play a big role in core Internet infrastructure, allowing Internet Service Providers to peer locally (and cheaply), which can lower end user costs, promote competition, and improve user experience. ISOC will create a toolkit for those who want to create and improve IXPs and build an industry portal to share IXP information and data.Some of the brightest minds are working to improve lives in new ways through the Internet. By supporting the work of NSRC and ISOC, we can make sure that those opportunities are available to more people in more parts of the world. Posted by Jennifer Haroon, Principal, [...]

RISE Awards 2013: A global effort


“I am standing in a partial enclosure made of sticks and plant fronds. This is the school for roughly 35 students, ranging in age from three to about 20 years old. There are no desks. There is only a single shared chalkboard, and it has gaping holes.” — David Rathmann-Bloch from the 21st Century Chalkboard Project, writing from rural Haiti.These are just some of the many challenges faced by education organizations who applied for this year’s Google RISE Awards. The RISE (Roots in Science and Engineering) Awards program funds and supports organizations around the world that provide science and technology education at a grassroots level. This year we’re delighted to give awards to 30 new organizations from 18 different countries. Combined they will reach more than 90,000 children in 2013, helping inspire and teach the scientists and engineers of the future. Some, such as Haiti’s 21st Century Chalkboard Project and the Uniristii Association (site in Romanian) in Romania, help those from underserved communities gain access to computing resources.Others, like the U.K.’s Code Club and the U.S.’s CodeNow, offer extracurricular activities that help interested children, especially those from underrepresented minority backgrounds, to learn programming.A few, such as the Middle East’s MEET and iLab Liberia, seek to use technology education as a platform to bridge wider social and cultural divides.Some, like Girlstart in the U.S. and New Zealand’s Programming Challenge 4 Girls, aim to empower girls to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In addition to receiving funding and support to continue their outreach, RISE Award recipients will be brought together for a global summit this June in London. To paraphrase an old saying, from small seeds, great things can grow. The recipients of the 2013 RISE Awards have already made a difference. Connecting with other like-minded organizations will help spread valuable and practical expertise, and spark opportunities for global collaboration and expansion. Posted by Roxana Shirkhoda, Education Outreach Specialist [...]