Tag Archives: COVID-19

Building a more inclusive internet, beyond COVID-19

Between 2015 and 2020, more than 1.5 billion people began using the internet for the first time. Another billion more are set to join them online by 2025.

Most of these new internet users come from Asia, Latin America and Africa. They experience the internet differently from those who came before them—connecting on their phones and adopting new apps and tools incredibly quickly.  More and more, it’s their needs and ideas that are shaping the future of technology, in areas from financial inclusion to language translation

Today, though, new internet users face their biggest challenge—the impact of COVID-19. How we help them get through it will go a long way towards ensuring the recovery from the pandemic is inclusive and sustainable. 

A half-decade of change  

Without question, the internet is more accessible and democratic than it was in 2015. Data costs have plummeted, helping the number of smartphone owners reach more than three billion people. The proportion of non-English speakers using the internet has reached three quarters of the global total, and people around the world are increasingly using video and voice as their tools to find information and services online.

The changing digital landscape 2015-2020
New users trends 2015-2020

For Google, our work building for new users has helped us build better for everyone. Since we launched the Next Billion Users initiative five years ago, it’s led to breakthroughs we wouldn’t otherwise have made—from offline modes in YouTube and Maps, to AI that can help kids read in multiple languages, apps that protect privacy on shared devices, and the new user experience in Google Pay (first launched  in India and soon coming to the rest of the world). We’re also sharing open-source tools and guidelines to help others, because we know that supporting new users is a shared goal.

Google NBU product launches

Over the past-half decade, the technology industry has made meaningful progress in closing digital divides, helping millions more people a week share in the benefits technology creates. Yet as the pandemic increases the importance of technology in our lives, work, education and health, the risk is that this progress will slow or, worse, reverse. 

The impact of COVID-19

We asked new internet users how the coronavirus has affected them, and many told us it’s added to pressures they already face. At a time when essential services are increasingly moving online, it’s becoming harder and harder for new users to access the internet in the first place.  

The combination of fewer jobs, lower income and higher prices means they’re forced to ration their data. Food and shelter have to take priority—and with more people at home, even when data is available, it tends to be spread thinly across multiple family members.  

On top of that, a lack of digital literacy means new users often struggle to take advantage of government financial aid, community resources or schooling. And when it comes to the virus itself, many are finding it hard to separate fact from misinformation, or to find reliable healthcare options.

Not surprisingly, all this is taking a toll on new internet users’ sense of emotional wellbeing, interrupting their support systems and forcing them to put some of their aspirations on hold. 

Impact of COVID-19 on new users

How we help new users from here: economy, education, ecosystem

Countering the impact of the virus by helping new users through and beyond COVID should be a priority for industry, governments, international organizations and nonprofits.

First, we have to make sure new users have easy-to-use tools that meet their immediate economic needs.

We recognise Google’s responsibility in this. Apps like Kormo Jobs in Bangladesh, India and Indonesia — which connects people to entry level jobs—are already playing a role helping people find work. In the coming months, we’ll be experimenting with a new Google product that can provide additional earning opportunities through crowdsourcing, recognising that for most new internet users, protecting income is the first priority. 

Second, we have to increase our focus on education—helping new users better understand online information and services, and adapt to deeper changes like the rise of online education. 

Grassroots, nonprofit-led literacy initiatives like those Google.org is supporting in Southeast Asia are important steps in the right direction. So too are the Google News Initiative’s partnerships throughout Latin America, and Grow with Google’s global programs like Be Internet Awesome, which promotes online safety and confidence for kids. It’s critical that we build on these programs in the aftermath of the pandemic. 

Third, we have to keep building a supportive ecosystem around new users. We should aspire for every organization that owns or builds technology to prioritize inclusion.

Too often, the responsibility for helping new users get online falls to ‘informal teachers’, the friends and family around them. Initiatives like the Design Toolkit for Digital Confidence show how we can begin to change that, equipping technology-makers to build tools that are intuitive for everyone, no matter what their circumstances.

Finally, we have to keep advancing the work that led Google to create the NBU initiative in 2015: ensuring the internet and the devices and the tools it supports are helpful and accessible to more people, in more languages and more ways (including for those living with disabilities). 

COVID-19 is a challenge for everyone, and it’s hitting new internet users especially hard. But if governments, businesses and civil society organizations work together, we can and should make the internet better and more inclusive in the post-COVID world, for the billions online today, and the next billion to come.


An update on our efforts to help Americans navigate COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges and emphasized how important it is for each of us to do our part to help find solutions. I’m sharing an update here on how Google is contributing to keep people safe and helping to get American businesses back up and running.

Contributing to economic recovery efforts

As I’ve written earlier, to help small businesses gain easier access to badly-needed capital, we founded the $170 million Grow with Google Small Business Fund alongside $10 million in Google.org grants, with an aim to help the most underserved small businesses, particularly those owned by women and minorities. In collaboration with Opportunity Finance Network, more than $53 million dollars of loans and Google.org grants have been allocated to community partners who are focused on serving rural, women, Black, Latino and Native borrowers, which helps American communities start to get back on their feet. Tires by Papi and Bailiwick Clothing Company are two such examples.


Of course, our greatest contribution continues to be developing products to help people stay informed, adapt and get through this pandemic. 

According to the Connected Commerce Council, nearly one in three small business owners report that without digital tools they would close all or parts of their business. To help small businesses, we rolled out many new, free product features earlier this year, so that they can inform their customers about things like takeout, delivery, no-contact delivery, or curbside pickup. Today, people can now find this information on Search and Maps for more than 2 million restaurants and retailers in the U.S.


Using Search and Maps, you can find information about businesses.

We’ve used Google’s Duplex technology to make calls to businesses and confirm things like temporary closures. This has enabled us to make 3 million updates to business information globally, which have been seen by people over 20 billion times in Search and Maps. 


To help people searching for jobs, we have stepped up to help in many ways. We added new relevant features in the U.S. like showing jobs that can be done remotely. Google Cloud has partnered with different states to help jobseekers: we assisted Rhode Island’s Virtual Career Center, a new platform that  connects thousands of jobseekers with jobs and employment services; worked with the State of Illinois to develop a 24/7 Virtual Intelligent Agent on the IDES website; developed a chatbot, in partnership with the New Jersey Office of Innovation to provide real-time answers to the 20 most popular unemployment questions. These are just some of the examples. 


We also transformed our free Grow with Google training to virtual formats and have already trained more than 1 million Americans on digital skills this year. The Google IT Support Professional Certificate—which takes beginner learners to entry-level jobs ready in under six months—has become the most popular certificate on Coursera during COVID-19.

Grow with Google digital skills training

Providing trusted information

Questions related to the pandemic are more searched than sports or music (and even elections) in every state. 

Top coronavirus related searches in the U.S. this month:

  1. Coronavirus symptoms

  2. Coronavirus update

  3. Coronavirus vaccine

Across the U.S. people are searching on Google to stay informed and adapt. In 47 states, the top coronavirus-related question during the last six months has been “How many cases of coronavirus in [my state].” Search interest for “online courses” reached an all-time high in April this year, as did searches for “unemployment,”compared to search trends over the last 15 years. 


During this time, we’ve also seen people seek out information to help them navigate their daily lives. For example, since the pandemic began, searches for “curbside pickup” have increased 13-fold compared to this time last year, while searches for “contact tracing” spiked 1,000 percent  in April and then reached an all-time high in May. 


In March, we launched Search Knowledge Panels so when people search for information related to COVID-19, they immediately see local guidance, information about symptoms, prevention and treatments. We’ve committed $250 million in Ad Grants to help government agencies provide critical information related to COVID-19. As of today we’ve served more than 100 million PSAs from local public health agencies, which have been seen by tens of millions of people across the U.S.


We also launched the Journalism Emergency Relief Fund to provide emergency funding for small and medium sized news organizations covering the pandemic. To date, we’ve distributed $9 million to U.S. newsrooms across all 50 states. 

Helping people make safe choices 

To help people make informed decisions about where to go, the COVID layer in Google Maps shows critical information about new cases in an area and how they’re trending. As of this month, our COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports, which are used by public health agencies and researchers around the globe, have been downloaded more than 16 million times. 

In May, we partnered with Apple to launch the Exposure Notifications System (ENS) and made it available to public health authorities around the world in their fight against COVID-19. Designed specifically and carefully to protect users’ privacy while helping public health authorities and governments manage countries’ re-opening, today 13 states and U.S. territories have built apps based on this ENS technology.

In a short time, COVID-19 has changed how people live their lives. We’ll continue to update our products and roll out initiatives to help people and American businesses find trusted information, adapt and manage economic uncertainty.  

Source: Google LatLong


Stay informed and get around safely with Google Maps

People turn to Google Maps for accurate, fresh information about what’s going on in the world—especially so during the pandemic. Activities like picking up something from the store, going for a walk, or grabbing a bite to eat now require a significant amount of planning and preparation. At any given time, you may be thinking: “Does the place I’m headed to have enough room for social distancing?” or “What safety precautions are being taken at my destination?”


Today, as part of our Search On event, we’re announcing new improvements to arm you with the information you need to navigate your world safely and get things done.

Make informed decisions with new live busyness updates

The ability to see busyness information on Google Maps has been one of our most popular features since it launched back in 2016. During the pandemic, this information has transformed into an essential tool, helping people quickly understand how busy a place is expected to be so they can make better decisions about where to go and when. In fact, as people around the world adjusted to life during the pandemic, they used popular times and live busyness information more. We saw engagement with these features rise 50 percent between March and May as more people tapped, scrolled and compared data to find the best days and times to go places.   


We’ve been expanding live busyness information to millions of places around the world, and are on track to increase global coverage by five times compared to June 2020. This expansion includes more outdoor areas, like beaches and parks, and essential places, like grocery stores, gas stations, laundromats and pharmacies. Busyness information will surface in directions and right on the map—so you don’t even need to search for a specific place in order to see how busy it is. This will soon be available to Android, iOS and desktop users worldwide.


live busyness

You’ll soon be able to see live busyness information without even searching for a place.


busyness_directions

See live busyness information for your destination when getting directions

A new way to source up-to-date business information

It’s hard to know how a business’ offerings have changed during the pandemic. To help people find the freshest business information possible, we’ve been using Duplex conversational technology to call businesses and verify their information on Maps and Search. Since April 2020, this information has helped make more than 3 million updates, including updated hours of operation, delivery and pickup options, and store inventory information for in-demand products such as face masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant. To date, these updates have been viewed more than 20 billion times.


Important health and safety information about businesses is now front and center on Maps and Search. You can quickly know what safety precautions a business is taking, such as if they require customers to wear masks and make reservations, if there’s plexiglass onsite, or if their staff takes regular temperature checks. This information comes directly from businesses, and soon Google Maps users will also be able to contribute this useful information.

health_safety_attributes

Health and safety information is now front and center in Google Maps

See helpful information right from Live View

Getting around your city looks different these days. The stakes are higher due to safety concerns, and it’s important to have all the information you need before deciding to visit a place. In the coming months, people using Android and iOS devices globally will be able to use Live View, a feature that uses AR to help you find your way, to learn more about a restaurant, store or business.

Say you’re walking around a new neighborhood, and one boutique in particular captures your attention. You’ll be able to use Live View to quickly learn if it’s open, how busy it is, its star rating, and health and safety information if available, 

live_view_place_info

Use Live View to quickly see helpful information about a business.

The pandemic has changed how we interact with the world. Getting around, shopping for essentials and finding things to do all require more thought and consideration, and Google Maps is here to help.

Source: Google LatLong


Behind the scenes: popular times and live busyness information

If you’ve ever been in a rush to grab a quick bite, you may know the pain that comes along with finding out that the restaurant you chose is packed and there’s nowhere to sit. Or maybe you need to pick up just one item from the grocery store, only to find that the line is out the door—derailing your plans and causing you unnecessary stress. 


These problems were top of mind when Google Maps launched popular times and live busyness information—helpful features that let you see how busy a place tends to be on a given day and time or in a specific moment. This information has become a powerful tool during the pandemic, making it easier to social distance because you know in advance how crowded a place will be. Today, we’ll take a closer look at how we calculate busyness information, while keeping your data private and secure.

Popular times: making sense of historical busyness information

To calculate busyness insights, we analyze aggregated and anonymized Location History data from people who have opted to turn this setting on from their Google Account. This data is instrumental in calculating how busy a place typically is for every hour of the week. The busiest hour becomes our benchmark—and we then display busyness data for the rest of the week relative to that hour. 


For example, say there’s a new ice cream shop down the block known for its homemade waffle cones 🍦. With Location History insights, our systems know that the shop is consistently most crowded on Saturday afternoons at 4 p.m. As a result, popular times information for the rest of the week will be displayed as “Usually as busy as it gets” when it’s approximately as busy as Saturday at 4 p.m.,“Usually not too busy” when it is much less busy, and “Usually a little busy” for somewhere in between. This data can also show how long people tend to spend at the ice cream shop, which is handy if you’re planning a day with multiple activities and want to know how much time to allocate at each place. 


popular_times

Popular times information shows you how busy a place tends to be

Making adjustments in times of COVID

Google Maps’ popular times algorithms have long been able to identify busyness patterns for a place. With social distancing measures established and businesses adjusting hours or even closing temporarily due to COVID-19, our historical data was no longer as reliable in predicting what current conditions would be.  To make our systems more nimble, we began favoring more recent data from the previous four to six weeks to quickly adapt to changing patterns for popular times and live busyness information–with plans to bring a similar approach to other features like wait times soon.


Real-time busyness information: how busy a place is right now

Busyness patterns identified by popular times are useful—but what about when there are outliers? Shelter in place orders made local grocery stores much more busy than usual as people stocked up on supplies. Warm weather can cause crowds of people to flock to a nearby park. And a new promotion or discount can drive more customers to nearby stores and restaurants.


Take the ice cream shop again. Say that, knowing that business is slow on Tuesdays, the shop owners decide to host a three scoop sundae giveaway on a Tuesday to promote their newest flavor—because everyone loves free ice cream! The promotion brings in more than double the amount of customers they typically see on that day and time. Gleaning insights from Location History data in real time, our systems are able to detect this spike in busyness and display it as “Live” data in Google Maps so you can see how busy the shop is right now—even if it varies drastically from its typical busyness levels.


live_busyness

Live busyness information shows you how busy a place is right now

Making sure your data is private, safe and secure

Privacy is a top priority when calculating busyness, and it’s woven into every step of the process. We use an advanced statistical technique known as differential privacy to ensure that busyness data remains anonymous. Differential privacy uses a number of methods, including artificially adding “noise” to our Location History dataset to generate busyness insights without ever identifying any individual person. And if our systems don’t have enough data to provide an accurate, anonymous busyness recommendation, we don’t publish it—which is why there are times when you may not see busyness information for a place at all.


Google Maps is always thinking about ways to solve the problems you face throughout your day, whether they’re big (like getting around safely) or small (like quickly snagging your favorite scoop of ice cream). Check out the Maps 101 series for other under-the-hood looks at your favorite features, with more deep dives coming soon.

More from this Series

Maps 101

Google Maps helps you navigate, explore, and get things done every single day. In this series, we’ll take a look under the hood at how Google Maps uses technology to build helpful products—from using flocks of sheep and laser beams to gather high-definition imagery to predicting traffic jams that haven’t even happened yet.

View more from Maps 101

Source: Google LatLong


This researcher is tracking COVID with help from Google

A research team at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) has been working to make epidemiological forecasting as universal as weather forecasting. When COVID hit, they launched COVIDcast to develop data monitoring and forecasting resources that can help public health officials, researchers, and the public make informed decisions. 

Last month, CMU received $1 million from Google.org and a team of thirteen Google.org Fellows to work pro bono for six months to help continue building out COVIDcast. This was part of Google.org’s $100 million commitment to COVID relief

We caught up with Ryan Tibshirani, a research lead at CMU, to learn more about the project and what the Google.org fellows will work on. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.  

I'm a faculty member at CMU, jointly appointed in Statistics and Machine Learning, and I’m very interested in epidemiological forecasting and tracking. In 2012, I cofounded Delphi centered on this topic with Roni Rosenfeld, Professor and Head of Machine Learning at CMU.  

What do you focus on most these days?

Since the pandemic began I’ve  spent all of my time on COVID-19 research. Delphi has quadrupled the number of researchers in just eight months and we’re laser-focused on COVID. Leading Delphi's pandemic response effort has been both a challenge—I've never done anything like this before—and a joy—the group is full of amazing people. 

How did you come up with the idea for COVIDcast? 

To back up just a bit: Roni and I formed Delphi in 2012 with the goal to develop the theory and practice of epidemiological forecasting, primarily for seasonal influenza in the U.S. We want this technology to become as universally accepted and useful as today’s weather forecasting. 

Our forecasting system has been a top performer at the Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) annual forecasting challenges, and last year Delphi Group was named one of the two Centers of Excellence for Influenza Forecasting. I like to think of COVIDcast as a replica of what we’ve done for the flu but better and faster.

Break it down for us, what is COVIDcast?

The COVIDcast project is about building and providing an ecosystem for COVID-19 tracking and forecasting. Our aim is to support informed decision-making at federal, state, and local levels of government, in the healthcare sector, and beyond. 

The project has many parts: 

  • Unique relationships with tech and healthcare partners that give us access to data with different views of pandemic activity in the U.S;

  • Code and infrastructure to build new, geographically-detailed, continuously-updated COVID-19 indicators;

  • A historical database of all indicators, including revision tracking;

  • A public API that serves new indicators daily, along with interactive maps and graphics to display them;

  • And lastly, modeling work that builds on the indicators to improve nowcasting and forecasting the spread of COVID-19.

A key element of COVIDcast is that we make all of our work as open and accessible as possible to other researchers and the public to help amplify its impact. We share both our data and a range of software tools—from data processing and visualization to sophisticated statistical tools. 

How will the Google.org funding and fellowship help?

This support will help Delphi expand our efforts to provide a geographically-detailed view of various aspects of the pandemic and to develop an early warning system for health officials, for example, when the number of cases in a locale are expected to rise. There will be more pandemics and epidemics after COVID-19. We want to be prepared, and we believe Delphi's work can help us do that. 

The Google.org Fellowship just kicked off. What are you most excited about?  

Everything! We're excited to embed all the Google.org Fellows—engineers, user experience designers and researchers, program and product managers—into our workstreams. We hope they can help accelerate our progress and introduce us to leading industry product and software development techniques. Each and every one of the fellows has special skills that will be put to good use. We can't wait to see what we can achieve, together. 

More broadly, what role does the tech sector play in COVID-19 response efforts? 

An enormous role. The tech sector is uniquely positioned to provide data and platforms that even governments can't provide. It also has the skills and experience to quickly assemble large-scale systems, in real time. Google has been extraordinarily helpful to us on all of these fronts.

Navigate safely with new COVID data in Google Maps

More than one billion people turn to Google Maps for essential information about how to get from place to place–especially during the pandemic when safety concerns are top of mind. Features like popular times and live busyness, COVID-19 alerts in transit, and COVID checkpoints in driving navigation were all designed to help you stay safe when you’re out and about. This week, we’re introducing the COVID layer in Maps, a tool that shows critical information about COVID-19 cases in an area so you can make more informed decisions about where to go and what to do. 

How it works

When you open Google Maps, tap on the layers button on the top right hand corner of your screen and click on “COVID-19 info”. You’ll then see a seven-day average of new COVID cases per 100,000 people for the area of the map you’re looking at, and a label that indicates whether the cases are trending up or down. Color coding also helps you easily distinguish the density of new cases in an area. Trending case data is visible at the country level for all 220 countries and territories that Google Maps supports, along with state or province, county, and city-level data where available.

Where we get the data 

Data featured in the COVID layer comes from multiple authoritative sources, including Johns Hopkins, the New York Times, and Wikipedia. These sources get data from public health organizations like the World Health Organization, government health ministries, along with state and local health agencies and hospitals. Many of these sources already power COVID case information in Search, and we’re now expanding this data to Google Maps. 


While getting around is more complicated these days, our hope is that these Google Maps features will help you get where you need to be as safely and efficiently as possible. The COVID layer starts rolling out worldwide on Android and iOS this week. 


Shop safely and easily from stores in your community

Convenience and safety are important when you’re deciding how to shop–in fact, we’ve seen Google searches for “curbside pickup” and “safe shopping” increase tenfold in the last few months. And while you may want to support the stores nearby that have opened their doors, figuring out the best way to do so can be challenging. Which stores have reopened? Do they have the item you want in stock? Do they offer any services to minimize contact and time in store for shoppers? 

We want to help take away some of the unknowns when it comes to shopping in person. Here are a few ways we’ve improved Shopping results on Google Search, to help you safely and easily support the stores in your community. 

Filter to see what’s locally available 

Want to see an item in person before purchasing, or can’t wait for shipping and delivery? Whatever you’re looking for, whether it’s a new laptop for working from home, a baby jacket for fall or a grill for backyard barbeques, Google makes it easy for you to see what’s available locally. Simply tap the Shopping tab, and select the Nearby filter at the top of the page or add “near me” to your search to view product options available from stores located near you.  

Google Shopping Nearby


Compare hours, locations and inventory before you go  

It’s now easier to see what’s in stores near you before committing to going in person, with a map view and list of stores in the area. You can check each business’s opening and closing hours, as well as how far each store is from you. You’ll also get a preview of the items they sell that match what you searched for, with a carousel you can scroll through to see pictures and prices of the available products. 

Google Shopping Compare


Safely pick up what you need with curbside or in-store pickup

If you’re worried about how to shop safely, we make it easy to see which stores offer ways to minimize contact while shopping with labels to indicate if shops offer curbside or in-store pickup.

If you’re concerned an item will be out of stock when you get to the store, you can just click to call and speak with someone to confirm inventory. There’s also a direct link to navigation to get you there right away if you’re in a rush. 

Shopping in person comes with new challenges these days, but luckily stores are making it easier to adjust. And if you’re a local business interested in helping shoppers find your store hours, locations, products, and pickup options on Google, you can create or update your Google My Business profile or upload your local product feed through Google Merchant Center.

We’ll keep working to provide more helpful answers to your shopping questions and needs, so that you can safely and easily pick up what you’re looking for while supporting the stores in your community.

Google supports COVID-19 AI and data analytics projects

Nonprofits, universities and other academic institutions around the world are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics to help us better understand COVID-19 and its impact on communities—especially vulnerable populations and healthcare workers. To support this work, Google.org is giving more than $8.5 million to 31 organizations around the world to aid in COVID-19 response. Three of these organizations will also receive the pro-bono support of Google.org Fellowship teams

This funding is part of Google.org’s $100 million commitment to COVID-19 relief and focuses on four key areas where new information and action is needed to help mitigate the effects of the pandemic.


Monitoring and forecasting disease spread

Understanding the spread of COVID-19 is critical to informing public health decisions and lessening its impact on communities. We’re supporting the development of data platforms to help model disease and projects that explore the use of diverse public datasets to more accurately predict the spread of the virus.


Improving health equity and minimizing secondary effects of the pandemic

COVID-19 has had a disproportionate effect on vulnerable populations. To address health disparities and drive equitable outcomes, we’re supporting efforts to map the social and environmental drivers of COVID-19 impact, such as race, ethnicity, gender and socioeconomic status. In addition to learning more about the immediate health effects of COVID-19, we’re also supporting work that seeks to better understand and reduce the long-term, indirect effects of the virus—ranging from challenges with mental health to delays in preventive care.


Slowing transmission by advancing the science of contact tracing and environmental sensing

Contact tracing is a valuable tool to slow the spread of disease. Public health officials around the world are using digital tools to help with contact tracing. Google.org is supporting projects that advance science in this important area, including research investigating how to improve exposure risk assessments while preserving privacy and security. We’re also supporting related research to understand how COVID-19 might spread in public spaces, like transit systems.


Supporting healthcare workers

Whether it’s working to meet the increased demand for acute patient care, adapting to rapidly changing protocols or navigating personal mental and physical wellbeing, healthcare workers face complex challenges on the frontlines. We’re supporting organizations that are focused on helping healthcare workers quickly adopt new protocols, deliver more efficient care, and better serve vulnerable populations. 

Together, these organizations are helping make the community’s response to the pandemic more advanced and inclusive, and we’re proud to support these efforts. You can find information about the organizations Google.org is supporting below.  

Monitoring and forecasting disease spread

  • Carnegie Mellon University*: informing public health officials with interactive maps that display real-time COVID-19 data from sources such as web surveys and other publicly-available data.

  • Keio University: investigating the reliability of large-scale surveys in helping model the spread of COVID-19.

  • University College London:modeling the prevalence of COVID-19 and understanding its impact using publicly-available aggregated, anonymized search trends data.  

  • Boston Children's Hospital, Oxford University, Northeastern University*: building a platform to support accurate and trusted public health data for researchers, public health officials and citizens.

  • Tel Aviv University: developing simulation models using synthetic data to investigate the spread of COVID-19 in Israel.

  • Kampala International University, Stanford University, Leiden University, GO FAIR: implementing data sharing standards and platforms for disease modeling for institutions across Uganda, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Kenya, Tunisia and Zimbabwe. 

Improving health equity and minimizing secondary effects of the pandemic 

  • Morehouse School of Medicine’s Satcher Health Leadership Institute*: developing an interactive, public-facing COVID-19 Health Equity Tracker of the United States. 

  • Florida A&M University, Shaw University: examining structural social determinants of health and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 in communities of color in Florida and North Carolina.

  • Boston University School of Public Health:investigating the drivers of racial, ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in the causes and consequences of COVID-19, with a focus on Massachusetts.

  • University of North Carolina, Vanderbilt University:investigating molecular mechanisms underlying susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 and variability in COVID-19 outcomes in Hispanic/Latinx populations. 

  • Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center: quantifying the impact of COVID-19 on healthcare not directly associated with the virus, such as delayed routine or preventative care.

  • Georgia Institute of Technology:investigating opportunities for vulnerable populations to find information related to COVID-19. 

  • Cornell Tech:developing digital tools and resources for advocates and survivors of intimate partner violence during COVID-19. 

  • University of Michigan School of Information: evaluating health equity impacts of the rapid virtualization of primary healthcare. 

  • Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar: modeling the impact of air pollution on COVID-related secondary health exacerbations. 

  • Cornell University, EURECOM:developing scalable and explainable methods for verifying claims and identifying misinformation about COVID-19.

Slowing transmission by advancing the science of contact tracing and environmental sensing

  • Arizona State University:applying federated analytics (a state-of-the-art, privacy-preserving analytic technique) to contact tracing, including an on-campus pilot.

  • Stanford University:applying sparse secure aggregation to detect emerging hotspots.

  • University of Virginia, Princeton University, University of Maryland:designing and analyzing effective digital contact tracing methods. 

  • University of Washington: investigating environmental SARS-CoV-2 detection and filtration methods in bus lines and other public spaces. 

  • Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru:mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in India’s transit systems with rapid testing and modified commuter patterns. 

  • TU Berlin, University of Luxembourg:using quantum mechanics and machine learning to understand the binding of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to human cells—a key process in COVID-19 infection.

Supporting healthcare workers 

  • Medic Mobile, Dimagi: developing data analytics tools to support frontline health workers in countries such as India and Kenya.

  • Global Strategies:developing software to support healthcare workers adopting COVID-19 protocols in underserved, rural populations in the U.S., including Native American communities. 

  • C Minds:creating an open-source, AI-based support system for clinical trials related to COVID-19.  

  • Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein:supporting and integrating community health workers and volunteers to help deliver mental health services and monitor outcomes in one of Brazil's most vulnerable communities.

  • Fiocruz Bahia, Federal University of Bahia:establishing an AI platform for research and information-sharing related to COVID-19 in Brazil.

  • RAD-AID:creating and managing a data lake for institutions in low- and middle-income countries to pool anonymized data and access AI tools.  

  • Yonsei University College of Medicine: scaling and distributing decision support systems for patients and doctors to better predict hospitalization and intensive care needs due to COVID-19.

  • University of California Berkeley and Gladstone Institutes: developing rapid at-home CRISPR-based COVID-19 diagnostic tests using cell phone technology. 

  • Fondazione Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia:enabling open-source access to anonymized COVID-19 chest X-ray and clinical data, and researching image analysis for early diagnosis and prognosis.

*Recipient of a Google.org Fellowship 

How we’re supporting the news with our marketing

As every marketing team knows, staying on top of the news is critical to developing campaigns that are thoughtful, relevant and helpful to people’s lives. Not only do we depend on news publishers to inform our marketing, but we also have a deep respect for the important work journalists do to keep everyone informed and safe.

But in the wake of the coronavirus, many publishers have been facing challenges funding the journalism we all rely on. While Google has long spent its marketing dollars with news organizations, a few months ago, we set out to think about how we could do even more to help the news industry through this challenging time. 

Building on ongoing efforts across our company, we've made four commitments to better support high-quality journalism with our marketing. Here's more about the steps we’ve taken and what we've learned.

1. Invest more with news organizations

News publishers provide an effective platform for advertisers to engage audiences. We also think it’s important to support journalism financially with our marketing.


For the first time, we’re holding ourselves to a marketing spend goal with the news category. Back in March, we committed to invest over $100 million with news organizations around the world by the end of the year. We’re well on our way to hitting this goal.

2. Revisit brand safety settings

Like many marketers, we added “coronavirus” to our negative keyword list when COVID-19 first hit as a brand safety precaution. These lists are intended to prevent ads from showing up next to unsuitable content.


As COVID-19 became a mainstream topic that dominated the news cycle, we realized that we were being too conservative in our approach. We decided to remove “coronavirus” from our negative keyword list, which led to a 25 percent increase in the placement of our ads on news content, more effective campaigns, and more of our marketing dollars going to high-quality news publishers. To help other marketers support news organizations too, our colleagues working on Google Ads and Display & Video 360 added alerts within the product, prompting brands using “coronavirus” negative keywords to consider removing these phrases, so their campaigns could similarly reach news sites.


This inspired us to do a broader audit of our brand safety strategies to make sure we weren’t inadvertently preventing our marketing campaigns from appearing on news content, and we continue to review our settings in the face of important news cycles. For example, while we’ve never excluded “Black Lives Matter,” we recently reassessed our settings to make sure our ads are set up to run alongside reporting on the racial justice movement. We encourage other marketers to do the same.

3. Support Black- and Latino-owned publishers

In June, we announced a set of commitments to improve racial equity inside and outside of Google. As a marketing team, one of many questions we asked ourselves was, how can we put more of our campaign dollars towards Black- and Latino-owned publishers in a meaningful way? 


So as part of our ongoing conversations with Black- and Latino-owned newspapers, we’ve been working to identify a more systematic way to spend our marketing dollars with them. These conversations raised a common challenge that many of these publishers face: their businesses are not set up to take advantage of digital advertising at scale. 


We’re taking three immediate steps to help address this. First, we’re working with the National Newspaper Publishers Association, representing Black-owned newspapers, and the National Association of Hispanic Publications to spend more with their member publications in the U.S. Second, we’re creating a Google News Initiative program with these same organizations and others to help Black- and Latino-owned publishers advance their digital maturity and build digital advertising capabilities, so they can attract more advertisers and grow revenue. Finally, Display & Video 360 is highlighting publications owned by multicultural groups within the product to help marketers who similarly want to spend more with these businesses.

4. Elevate local news

From stay-at-home orders to natural disasters, every day people turn to local news to stay informed and safe. In partnership with the Local Media Association and Local Media Consortium, we launched a marketing campaign in June to “Support Local News.” This program delivered funding to thousands of local news outlets in the U.S. and Canada, including Black- and Latino-owned publishers, and reached tens of millions of people with our call to action to subscribe, donate and advertise. 

Better support for news publishers will remain a priority across all of our marketing campaigns for Google's products. While there is more work to be done, we hope these steps inspire marketers to think differently about their campaigns and support news organizations in similar ways.


Using symptoms search trends to inform COVID-19 research

Search is often where people come to get answers on health and wellbeing, whether it’s to find a doctor or treatment center, or understand a symptom better just before a doctor's visit. In the past, researchers have used Google Search data to gauge the health impact of heatwaves, improve prediction models for influenza-like illnesses, and monitor Lyme disease incidence. Today we’re making available a dataset of search trends for researchers to study the link between symptom-related searches and the spread of COVID-19. We hope this data could lead to a better understanding of the pandemic’s impact.

fever-2x.gif

Using the dataset, researchers can develop models and create visualizations based on the popularity of symptom-related searches. This sample visualization is based on search volume for fever across the U.S. This visualization does not reflect the dataset’s user interface but shows what can be generated. 

How search trends can support COVID-19 research 

The COVID-19 Search Trends symptoms dataset includes aggregated, anonymized search trends for more than 400 symptoms, signs and health conditions, such as cough, fever and difficulty breathing. The dataset includes trends at the U.S. county-level from the past three years in order to make the insights more helpful to public health, and so researchers can account for changes in searches due to seasonality.


Public health currently uses a range of datasets to track and forecast the spread of COVID-19. Researchers could use this dataset to study if search trends can provide an earlier and more accurate indication of the reemergence of the virus in different parts of the country. And since measures such as shelter-in-place have reduced the accessibility of care and affected people’s wellbeing more generally, this dataset—which covers a broad range of symptoms and conditions, from diabetes to stress—could also be useful in studying the secondary health effects of the pandemic.

The dataset is available in Google Cloud's COVID-19 Free Public Dataset Program and is downloadable in CSV format from Google Research at Open COVID-19 Data GitHub repository

Advancing health research with privacy protections

The COVID-19 Search Trends symptoms dataset is powered by the same anonymization technology that we use in the Community Mobility Reports and other Google products every day. No personal information or individual search queries are included. The dataset was produced using differential privacy, a state-of-the-art technique that adds random noise to the data to provide privacy guarantees while preserving the overall quality of the data.

Similar to Google Trends, the data is normalized based on a symptom’s relative popularity, allowing researchers to study spikes in search interest over different time periods, without exposing any individual query or even the number of queries in any given area. 

More information about the privacy methods used to generate the dataset can be found in this report.

What’s next

This early release is limited to the United States and covers searches made in English and Spanish. It covers all states and many counties, where the available data meets quality and privacy thresholds. It was developed to specifically aid research on COVID-19, so we intend to make the dataset available for the duration of the pandemic. 

As we receive feedback from public health researchers, civil society groups and the community at large, we’ll evaluate and expand this dataset by including additional countries and regions. 

Researchers and public health experts are doing incredible work to respond to the pandemic. We hope this dataset will be useful in their work towards stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Source: Search