Author Archives: The Official Google Blog

A proactive approach to disaster relief

"It was as if someone had thrown an atomic bomb. Everything was destroyed." Fisherman Luciano Morales says this was the damage that Hurricane Maria brought his small Puerto Rican village of Punta Santiago. One of three residents who decided to stay back to protect his household and belongings, Luciano soon realized that a generator and gasoline weren’t enough to weather the storm, or “Mrs. Maria” as he called it. His home and belongings, along with most of the village’s infrastructure, turned to rubble.

Following the hurricane, GiveDirectly, a nonprofit that gives money to the poor, no strings attached, applied it’s model in response to Maria, and gave cash to Luciano and over 4,700 families, empowering them to solve their most pressing needs. 

Historically, following major disasters, charitable organizations and aid agencies supply bottles of water, sheets of drywall or any number of other goods and services that those affected may need. While this support can at times be critical, it’s impossible for a pre-set bundle of goods and services to meet the diverse needs of those affected by a disaster. Some people need life preserving pharmaceuticals that require refrigeration. Some have medical conditions that call for a very specific kind of diet. And some have jobs for which they’re paid only when they show up. It’s impossible to forecast every person or family's most pressing needs. 

Research on direct cash transfers has shown wide-ranging positive outcomes and immediate improvement on recipients’ lives. Affected individuals largely prefer it over traditional forms of aid—yet cash giving makes up a very small share of disaster response spending. 

Ahead of this year’s storm season, Google.org is contributing $3 million to GiveDirectly to support large-scale cash transfers when a natural disaster hits the U.S. The grant will allow GiveDirectly to support more than 2,400 low-income families and help them better understand how people like Luciano want to be helped during different points of the recovery process. A team of four Google.org Fellows is working full-time to combine government data on socioeconomic indicators and storm damage data into a single tool that will help GiveDirectly better identify and support the people most in need.

In a study published by GiveDirectly, the organization found cash transfers had a significant impact on the poorest populations following the 2017 hurricanes in Texas and Puerto Rico. Cash allowed families to expand their children’s nutritional intake, improve the quality of their homes, avoid debt, reduce stress and improve living conditions.

There are still important questions remaining about direct cash giving after natural disasters. Our collaboration with GiveDirectly on this work will be guided by some of these outstanding questions: How does the impact change if you give the cash several weeks after a disaster, as opposed to several months later, as was the case in the pilot study? Does giving money at different intervals have different impacts? Do large cash transfer programs impact the economy beyond individual recipients?

Crisis response has always been a key focus area of Google.org. We’ve supported communities and nonprofits on the front lines through immediate and long-term recovery via our products, technical volunteers and over $60 million in funding since 2005. With GiveDirectly, we look forward to evolving the way we respond to ensure that we’re providing support to those who need it most in times of crisis in the most effective, data-driven and efficient way possible.  


When journalists collaborate instead of compete

At ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative news organization, collaboration is part of our DNA. Since we first started publishing 11 years ago, we've partnered with news organizations all over the U.S., from the Des Moines Register to the New York Times, and from NPR to CBS News. Those collaborations have taken many forms. In the past few years, we’ve taken on very large scale partnerships, working with many newsrooms at once, sharing a data set that hundreds of reporters could use to do their jobs.

We’ve learned that it's not easy to wrangle hundreds of journalists on a single project—but we’ve developed some strategies and tools to help. With the support of the Google News Initiative, we're publishing a guidebook to collaborative data journalism, including big crowdsourced projects like the ones we've done. The guide provides tips for establishing collaboratives, managing workflows and tracking your work. Our collaborative reporting guidebook is available on our website. Our database tool will be available in the fall.

For the past few years, we’ve been working with the Google News Initiative on making large-scale collaborations possible. In 2016 and 2018, we worked together on the Electionland project, which monitored voting problems in real time. (Google provided financial support for the 2016 Electionland.) That project allowed ProPublica and our partners to tell stories about long lines, voter check-in issues, voter ID and much more, reporting on these problems as they arose so that authorities could have the opportunity to address them. 

Starting in 2017, Google and ProPublica have worked together on building tools for Documenting Hate, which tracks hate crimes and bias incidents. We've reported on how hate manifests itself in communities big and small, from schools and universities to superstores and supermarkets. We are now taking what we’ve learned and the tools we’ve built and giving them away so that other newsrooms can launch and run their own collaborations around data. 

When we start a large collaboration, local and national newsrooms sign up to get access to the data we’ve collected, which they can use to report their own stories. That way, we can make the most out of a big set of data, and help reporters all over the country tell stories. We’ve also built software to help organize, verify and share tips; we’ll be making that available for other newsrooms to use later this fall. You can sign up using our form to learn when our collaborative reporting tool is ready.

While collaboration in journalism has grown considerably in the last few years, we know that some newsrooms are still hesitant due to concerns about competing with other media organizations and getting exclusive access to sources. But through our experience with these projects, we know that journalists can do great reporting through collaborations. This guide demonstrates that by working together, newsrooms can benefit by reaching larger audiences, finding new stories and making the most out of large data sets. We hope it will be helpful and will inspire more journalists to work together.

7 ways to grow programmatic video revenue with Google Ad Manager

Advances in programmatic video technology present exciting opportunities for publishers to package and sell their video inventory in new ways and ultimately increase efficiency, fill rates, and revenue. As advertisers continue to embrace video as their storytelling medium, and as programmatic spend increases, publishers can use this technology to grow their business.

Below are seven best practices my team has identified that can help you win with programmatic video. These best practices are based on our experience working with leading video partners and building programmatic technology that empowers publishers to deliver seamless, personalized, and measurable ad experiences everywhere.

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Share more information about your inventory to drive more value

There’s a strong correlation between how much information you share about your video inventory and higher CPMs and fill rates. When video inventory contains viewability, brand safety, and demographic data, it’s more desirable to advertisers who want to reach audiences on premium content. As shared in our recent video viewability guide, increasing the viewability of your video ads from 50 percent to 90 percent, can result in more than an 80 percent revenue uplift (averaged across desktop and mobile sites) according to internal data.

If your video inventory contains signals like Device ID, App ID, Package Name, Show Name, TMSID, Description URL and Viewability signals it will likely drive the highest possible value for you and your advertising partners. When it comes to Device ID, Google Ad Manager supports the IAB's Identifier for Advertisers (IFA) guidelines and we recommend that partners adopt these guidelines to provide better ad experiences in a privacy-focused way.

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Establish a responsible first-party data strategy 

If you have first-party data or unique insights from your audiences or content that you have the right to use for advertising purposes, consider ways to use your custom data to help maximize the value of your programmatic inventory. Use Google Ad Manager’s audience solutions to help your advertising partners benefit from your first-party data whilst protecting against data leakage. This can improve advertising effectiveness and result in a high-quality advertising experience for audiences.
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Create organizational alignment between direct and programmatic sales teams 

One of the biggest challenges our broadcaster research revealed is achieving organizational alignment between direct and digital sales teams. Programmatic guaranteed deals represent a good opportunity to educate your sales organization on your programmatic offering and strategically cultivate relationships with agencies, demand-side platforms, and brands—with the benefit of improved efficiency. According to our programmatic guaranteed report, publishers save 57 percent more time when using Programmatic Guaranteed deals versus traditional reservations, all while maintaining the same level of control over their campaigns. 


Create alignment by empowering your sales team to sell programmatic guaranteed video ads and compensate them for programmatic revenue.

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Maximize yield across all transaction types 

Google Ad Manager offers flexibility over how your inventory can be sold—including transaction types like Open Auction and Exchange Bidding. Partners like DAZN have been able to increase programmatic video revenue by 150 percent using Exchange Bidding for instream video. No matter how you sell, Ad Manager offers a unified platform with comprehensive yield management features that work across both direct and programmatic sales.


When it comes to pricing, we recommend: 

  • Using Unified Pricing for Open Auction and Exchange Bidding to centrally manage your target CPM or floor prices across all programmatic demand.

  • Setting Programmatic Guaranteed pricing on par with your traditional reservation rate card. 

  • Setting higher pricing for Programmatic Guaranteed with Audience Lists and for buyers who would like to retain the ability to pass on impressions through non-guaranteed private marketplaces.

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Conduct technical video audits periodically

Technical errors can result in missed opportunities or cause a poor user experience. The Ad Manager technical consultant team, that works with partners to identify and fix video issues, recommends your audit include the following steps: 

  • Review sites and apps for latency, render rates, and prefetching opportunities.

  • Audit for VAST errors, timeout windows, and issues passing user agent.

  • Use Ad Manager inventory controls, like the ability to block VPAID creatives on connected TV devices, or create network level duration settings and player profiles for a better ad experience. 

  • Use Ad Manager’s Dynamic Ad Insertion to ensure a seamless experience across content and ads.

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Maintain your brand with Ad Manager's publisher protections

Maintain your brand by using Ad Manager’s spam protections, including standards like Ads.txt and apps-ads.txt. You can reduce the risk of fraud by sending all programmatic video inventory to Ad Manager through the Interactive Media Ads SDK. We also recommend using Ad Manager’s Ad Review Center to review individual ads and decide whether you want to continue showing them on your pages or blog, or report ads in real-time. 

With these protections in place, you can rest assured that you’ve taken steps to minimize the risk that your inventory will be compromised by bad actors, and advertisers will increasingly feel comfortable that the video inventory they buy through Ad Manager is from the declared, trusted source they set out to run on. 

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Grow your revenue with Ad Manager’s demand-side connections

Google Ad Manager can also help you grow awareness and revenue for your inventory through our integrated demand-side connections to Google Authorized Buyers, including Display & Video 360, Google Ads, and agencies. You can easily strike curated deals through your publisher profile in Ad Manager. Our teams may also be able to help you highlight your inventory in the Display and Video 360 Marketplace program or by incorporating your brand in other marketing programs throughout the year.

Implementing these best practices can help you successfully monetize your video programmatically, grow demand from advertisers, and allow you to continue to create more great content for audiences everywhere. 

Learn more on the Google Ad Manager website.

Meet this year’s Doodle for Google contest winner

I’m still not sure if I know what I want to be when I grow up. But by looking at all of the Doodle for Google submissions we have received this year, I’ve learned that kids have a lot more figured out than I do. Around 222,000 students entered this year’s contest and responded to the theme “When I grow up, I hope…”  

Yesterday, one of our guest judges this year, Jimmy Fallon, announced this year’s National Winner, Arantza Peña Popo. She stopped by "The Tonight Show" to chat about her winning Doodle, called “Once you get it, you give back,” which she drew in honor of her mom. “When I grow up, I hope to care for my mom as much as she cared for me my entire life,” she said. “My mom has done so much for me and sacrificed a lot.”

Doodle for Google 2019

Today, millions of people will be able to see Arantza’s Doodle on the biggest “refrigerator door” around: the Google homepage. Additionally, Arantza will receive $30,000 toward a college scholarship and her school, Arabia Mountain High School (where she was recently named valedictorian), will receive a $50,000 technology package. Thank you to Arantza and all of the students who entered this year for sharing your hopes with us. And maybe one day, we grownups will figure out what we want to do when we grow up. 

Cloud Covered: What was new with Google Cloud in July

July was a month for barbecue, ice cream and sunshine. Here at Google Cloud, we managed to squeeze in some of what we consider cloud computing fireworks, like a supercomputing record and new partner in bringing more storage options to businesses. 

The internet, under the sea
It’s easy to imagine all of what we do on the internet as just sort of floating around in the air. But there are actually thick cables under our oceans that carry data around the world, so we can get our email and web search results quickly. Google fully funds some cables, while others are shared. The new Equiano subsea cable will connect Europe and Africa once it’s done. It includes cool technological advances that give this cable 20 times the network capacity of the last one built to serve this region. 

G Suite gets even more security features
In Tokyo last month, we hosted another cloud conference where one of the big topics was security and how it works within our products. At the event, we announced that Google’s Advanced Protection Program now works with G Suite, so people whose data is at risk of online attack (think high-level executives) can be protected with help from IT. We also brought IT administrators new auto-alerts in their tools to help them see and prevent risky activity in their company. It’s powered by machine learning models.

Storing files is a big job
File storage enables businesses to store lots of files that users or apps need to access simultaneously. Of course, on a business scale, there can be thousands or millions of these files, so the underlying systems need to be able to handle that volume. Last month we announced that Elastifile is now a part of Google Cloud. Elastifile will be integrated with our Cloud Filestore product. This will help those managing large file systems to scale them quickly. 

Cloud beats not-cloud in machine learning benchmark 
Cloud TPU Pods are Google’s supercomputers built just for machine learning. They get faster in each generation of hardware—they’re now in v3—and set three new performance records last month in an industry benchmarking exercise. It used to be that this type of speed could only be achieved with on-premises systems, meaning hardware physically located and operated in a data center. Google Cloud is the only provider of public cloud technology that has been able to do these tasks faster than an on-premises system can. 

School’s not out for summer, after all
Cloud computing, like most things related to technology, is constantly changing. New concepts and products arrive regularly, and even the most experienced IT pros can learn new things. We offer lots of different classes and certificates, and just added a new class to our Google Cloud course catalog: theArchitecting with Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) Specialization. It uses both lectures and hands-on labs to demonstrate how Kubernetes works. It’s a new way of organizing and managing all the information that lives in your cloud, so there’s a lot to learn about how it works and how to get started using it.

That’s all for July! Stay up to date with Google Cloud on our blog.

How Android helps law firms make their case with mobility

Information privacy and security are essential for businesses in the legal industry. Legal teams want the convenience afforded by mobility, while devices must adhere to strict management and data protection standards. Several major law firms are choosing Android Enterprise solutions for the security, flexibility and management capabilities to keep their teams connected while giving IT peace of mind about secure access to sensitive case information.

How Android keeps teams connected at Howard Kennedy LLP

Howard Kennedy LLP is a London-based law firm that sought to ensure that their teams could securely access essential case files from mobile devices, instead of needing to bring the paper files or pull out their laptop.  When the time came for devising this strategy with the IT team, the firm’s partners made it clear that they didn’t want employees to have to carry personal and work devices.

Personally-enabled work devices were the right solution—these corporate devices use the Android work profile to keep personal and corporate apps and data separate on the same device, while also giving IT a vast array of device controls. 

“We've equipped our users with devices that they can use for just about anything, business or personal.” said Howard Kennedy IT Director Clive Knott. “More importantly, we've got those devices locked down in such a way that we have full control over what we do.”

By managing the devices with Enterprise Mobility Management provider BlackBerry, Howard Kennedy IT teams are confident in their device security and management tools. The IT team also uses managed Google Play to deliver the essential apps needed for their legal work. 

Android the right verdict for Brodies LLP

Brodies LLP, a large Scottish law firm, wanted to invest more deeply in mobility so its team of lawyers could access essential information quickly and securely from anywhere.

The solution was deploying a fleet of fully managed devices to its legal teams. With BlackBerry UEM partner Appurity, the firm implemented a secure and rapid device rollout.

“With Android zero-touch enrollment, and as part of our Mobile Managed Service when building and deploying devices for legal firms, we can deliver large-scale environments across multiple sites, with the required apps,” said Appurity Director Steve Whiter.

With managed Google Play, the firm deploys several apps to the Android work profile to support the legal teams’ work.  For example, the Rubus Android app, developed by Appurity Connect gives lawyers access to iManage, for accessing and tracking their key files.  iManage is a widely-used document management system for legal and finance customers, including both Howard Kennedy and Brodies. 

As part of its Android solution, Appurity securely enables this software on devices so fee earners and partners can send and file essential documents within a matter of minutes, and access, edit, and open them from virtually anywhere. 

“Android allows our employees to use consumer apps when they're sensible, while Android Enterprise connects everything back to our network in a secure way,” Brodies LLP IT Director Damien Behan said. “If you're in a meeting with a client and they ask you about a particular document, the ability to directly access the latest version of that document is invaluable. It's been a great advantage for our lawyers."

Enterprises across various industries continue to adopt Android in the workplace to support critical business needs.

Learn more about getting started with Android, and discover devices and service providers that are Android Enterprise Recommended.

New coding activities for any classroom

Since its launch in 2013, CS First, a Code with Google curriculum for elementary and middle school students, has been used by hundreds of thousands of teachers and millions of students in over 75 countries. While we’ve heard teachers love bringing the magic of coding into the classroom, they’ve also told us that they want more subject-specific coding activities.  

We’ve listened to their feedback, and today we’re announcing two new CS First activities called Characterization and Interactive Presentation, two key components of English Language Arts (ELA) instruction. Both activities align with Common Core ELA Anchor Standards, and like all CS First lessons, provide everything needed to start teaching right away: instructional videos, lesson plans, student materials and more.

CS First animation

In the Interactive Presentation activity, students use code to create a presentation with sound, graphics and animation.

The activities were created as the result of a pilot between the CS First team and the San Francisco United School District (SFUSD)—one of four pilots that took place in the U.S. and Canada during the 2018-19 school year. The SFUSD, long recognized as a computer science education leader, was working toward fulfilling a 2015 mandate to bring coding to all district students, and they worked with Google to bring CS curriculum ideas for non-CS subjects.

For the pilot, they took eight activities within the Storytelling unit of CS First and analyzed how they connected with the elements of narrative writing covered by the district’s ELA curriculum. They recruited 27 teachers, asking them to think creatively about using a storytelling unit alongside topics like writing, narrative or dialogue. 

Participating teachers shared that they found value and meaning in bringing CS into their classrooms and offered tangible ways to improve the program. “At first, teachers shared concerns about student progress, but it turns out they were just being perfectionists,” says Bill Marsland, the SFUSD’s Computer Science Content Specialist. “Their students did a lot of quality work, and I came away with an increased understanding of how integrating storytelling into ELA is both worthwhile and doable.”

This is the start of what we hope will be many subject-specific CS First activities; we plan to roll out more activities for ELA instruction in classrooms in the coming weeks. As the new school year approaches, we look forward to bringing fun and creative CS activities like these to classrooms everywhere.


How local accelerators are powering global startups

At Google Developers Launchpad Accelerator, we’re focused on working with the best startups from around the world and sharing what Google does best to help startups grow. One way we reach the world's best startups is through our Powered by Launchpad program, where we bring the best of Google—its people, network, research and advanced technologies—to top local startup acceleration programs in key locations globally. 

Our partners are in the world’s fastest growing economies, and tend to predict technology trends in their regions. They bring together universities, investors, policy makers and top entrepreneurs to help local small businesses thrive. Here are just a few examples of our local launchpad partners around the world. 

Raising up founders in Serbia with Startit

Serbian entrepreneurs from Belgrade go through a design thinking session at Startit.

Serbian entrepreneurs from Belgrade go through a design thinking session at Startit.

Startit, based in Belgrade, Serbia, is on a mission to give new life to the Serbian economy. Serbia, like many countries in Southeast Europe, has faced economic stagnation for decades, with much of its best local tech talent moving abroad in search of better opportunities. 

To battle this issue, Startit developed a plan: work together with Launchpad to create an entrepreneurship curriculum and raise up a new generation of startup founders. 

“We have world-class engineers in Serbia, but if we taught them how to make a business around the amazing technology, it would have a meaningful impact on their careers, their families and our entire economy,” says Vukasin Stojkov, Startit’s founder. 

Startit created a semester-long course for more than 20 students at Belgrade’s Computer Science College (RAF). During the program, these students learned about key startup concepts and met with some of the most successful entrepreneurs in Serbia. 

Computer science student Milica Kostic came to the course with a few startup ideas. By the end, she was already taking action with two of her friends from the group. “We have an idea to help deaf people by making it easier for them to communicate with people who are not familiar with sign language,” Milica says. “The course showed us that it is possible to make it, and I really believe that I can do the same.”

Rethinking how Indonesians eat with Wayhoo and Digitaraya 

Wayhoo’s founder and CEO, Peter Shearer, poses with a local warteg owner.

Wayhoo’s founder and CEO, Peter Shearer, poses with a local warteg owner.

Digitaraya, based in Jakarta, Indonesia, partnered with Launchpad last year to create an accelerator focused on early-stage startups.  Since then, Digitaraya has graduated more than 30 startups. One of their graduates is Wahyoo, which is modernizing food kiosks, or “wartegs” as they are known in Indonesia, by digitizing small businesses and enabling them to run faster.

Wahyoo saw that warteg entrepreneurs faced problems such as poor time management, low awareness of hygiene and unorganized financial records. “Equipping wartegs with digital tools will level the playing field and bring forward significant growth to this small industry,” says Peter Shearer, CEO of Wayhoo. “We can help food kiosks become more efficient in ordering supplies and developing higher sanitation standards, while also allowing owners to accept mobile payments.” 

Digitaraya is connecting Wahyoo with relevant partners and industry leaders. Launchpad is providing Wahyoo with technical resources and access to expert mentors. 

Accessibility through AI in Ecuador with Talov and IMPAQTO

Founders take part in a workshop during IMPAQTO Labs’ program.

Founders take part in a workshop during IMPAQTO Labs’ program.

Launchpad partnered with IMPAQTO, a leading impact accelerator in Ecuador, in late 2018 to help local entrepreneurs bring social, environmental and economic progress to Latin America. 


One of IMPAQTO's portfolio companies, Talov, uses artificial intelligence to help people with auditory and visual disabilities more easily interact with the world via speech-to-text and sign language recognition technology. 


After the first mentorship sessions with IMPAQTO Lab, the Talov team saw that metrics like the number of app downloads were not actually strong indicators of customer satisfaction. The team left the lab with a new focus: identify metrics that could measure how Talov has improved the lives of its users. 


“We now want to use the inclusion of people with auditory and visual disabilities in the labor force as an indicator of development,” says Hugo Jacome, one of Talov’s founders. “We need these metrics to know if our platforms are truly changing the lives of our users.”


Indigenous speakers share their languages on Google Earth

Of the 7,000 languages spoken around the globe, 2,680 Indigenous languages—more than one third of the world's languages—are in danger of disappearing. The United Nations declared 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages to raise awareness about these languages and their contribution to global diversity. To help preserve them, our new Google Earth tour, Celebrating Indigenous Languages, shares audio recordings from more than 50 Indigenous language speakers.

“It is a human right to be able to speak your own language,” says Tania Haerekiterā Tapueluelu Wolfgramm, a Māori and Tongan person who works as an educator and activist in Aotearoa--the Māori name for New Zealand--and other Pacific countries. “You don’t have a culture without the language.”

Tania is one of several dozen Indigenous language speakers, advocates and educators who helped create the tour. Thanks to their contributions, people can click on locations meaningful to Indigenous speakers and hear people offer traditional greetings, sing songs, or say common words and phrases in their languages. 

“Hundreds of languages are a few days away from never being spoken or heard again,” says Tania. “By putting Indigenous languages on the global stage, we reclaim our right to talk about our lives in our own words. It means everything to us
Indigenous Voyager

Listen to more than 50 Indigenous language speakers globally in Google Earth


The healing power of speaking one’s own language

The people who recorded audio in their languages and connected Google with Indigenous speakers each have their own story about why revitalizing Indigenous languages strikes a chord for them. 


For Arden Ogg, director of Canada’s Cree Literacy Network, and Dolores Greyeyes Sand, a Plains Cree person and Cree language teacher, the focus is on providing resources for language learners. For Brian Thom, a cultural anthropologist and professor at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, the interest grew out of his work helping Indigenous communities map their traditional lands


Brian asked yutustanaat, a member of the Snuneymuxw First Nation and a language teacher in British Columbia, to record the hul’q’umi’num’ language. “Our language is very healing,” says yutustanaat. “It brings out caring in our people and helps our students be strong, because the language comes from the heart.” In her recording, yutustanaat speaks the traditional hul’q’umi’num’ greeting: ‘i ch ‘o’ ‘uy’ ‘ul’ or “How are you?”

By using their languages—and sharing them with the rest of the world—Indigenous people create closer connections to a culture that is often endangered or has outright disappeared. 

Wikuki Kingi, a Māori Master Carver, recorded traditional chants in Te Reo Māori, an Eastern Polynesian language indigenous to New Zealand. He says, “Speaking Te Reo Māori connects me to my relatives, to the land, rivers, and the ocean, and it can take me to another time and place.” 

Ensuring that generations to come will hear their languages

“I do this not for myself, but for my children and grandchildren, so that in the future, they’ll hear our language,” says Dolores, who recorded audio in her native Plains Cree

To ensure that future generations hear and speak Indigenous languages, more needs to be done to support their revitalization. Tania Wolfgramm suggests checking out how her nonprofit organization, Global Reach Initiative & Development Pacific, uses technology to connect far-flung Indigenous people to their traditional communities—like bringing Google Street View to the remote island of Tonga. Arden Ogg directs people interested in Indigenous languages to the Cree Literacy Network, which publishes books in Cree and English to facilitate language learning. And a video from the University of Victoria suggests five ways to support Indigenous language revitalization, such as learning words and phrases using smartphone apps, and learning the names of rivers, mountains and towns in the local Indigenous language.

Meet Indigenous Speakers and Learn How They're Keeping Their Languages Alive

This initial collection of audio recordings in Google Earth only scratches the surface of the world’s thousands of Indigenous languages. If you’d like to contribute your language to this collection in the future, please share your interest.    

An environmental nonprofit takes on AI “sprint week”

This May, the global group of Google AI Impact Challenge grantees gathered in San Francisco to kick off the six-month Launchpad Accelerator program. With $25 million in funding from Google.org, credits from Google Cloud and mentorship by Google’s AI experts, the teams sought to apply AI to address a wide range of problems problems, from protecting rainforests to coaching students on writing skills. 

Now in the second phase of the program, Tech Sprint Week, the grantees tackled their projects’ greatest technical challenges with support from a team of mentors from Google. At Google for Startups’ campus in London, teams continued work on their ideas and learned user experience design principles along the way.

Grace Mitchell, a data scientist at grantee WattTime, opened up about her team’s experience at Tech Sprint Week—and how they’re using AI to build a globally accessible, open-source fossil fuel emissions monitoring platform for power plants.

Can you tell us about WattTime? 

WattTime is an environmental tech nonprofit, and our mission statement is to give people the power to choose clean energy. Users integrate our API into their IOT (Internet of Things) capable devices, which tells them the type of fuel that provides their energy. It also tells them the environmental impact of the type of fuel they’re using. As an example, coal has a value equivalent to around 900 to 1200 pounds of emissions per megawatt hour, whereas renewable energy would be zero.The whole point is to shift electricity usage based on high or low emission periods. 

For this program, we’ve partnered with The Carbon Tracker Initiative to take on a new challenge: fossil fuel emissions monitoring. We’re using image processing algorithms and satellite networks to replace expensive, on-site power plant emissions monitors with a globally accessible, open-source monitoring platform.

Who is on your team for this project?

Our project for the Google AI Impact Challenge is a partnership between two different organizations, WattTime and The Carbon Tracker Initiative. We're a collection of data scientists, and project managers, and we think about the best ways for organizing our data and how best to engage new users.

What have you learned at Tech Sprint Week?

We’ve covered a lot! We went through a lot of user experience design and research, thinking about how users will be interacting with our product as we design it. We’ve also learned a lot about machine learning and feature engineering. The mentors reminded us to make sure we train our model on the type of data that it would actually have, which sounds intuitive but it's actually hard to do. It might be easy to give your model a “leg up” with training data that it shouldn't have, but then you would see that it's not operating as you expected. 

Now that Tech Sprint Week is complete, what are your next steps? 

We need to catch up with everybody else on the team and share all of the great information and resources that we've received from this week. I’ve also been exposed to a lot of new tools like TensorFlow, an open source library that makes it easy to create machine learning models. So I want to get familiar with that tool and actually integrate it into our workflow. We're also doing a lot of hiring, so we’ll continue to build our team. 

What kinds of people have you met through this program? 

All the mentors have been helpful. Everyone has this attitude of “Hey, how can we help?” Our AI Coach, Ang Li, has been extremely useful and really responsive. I'll contact him at random times of the day and get a response within a few minutes.