Google in Africa

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Archive for the ‘Google.org’ Category

Google.org Announces Core Initiatives to Combat Climate Change, Poverty and Emerging Threats

leave a comment »

Reveals its plans for philanthropy; announces new grants and investments

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (January 17, 2008) – In its continuing effort to use the power of information and technology to help people better their lives, Google.org today rolled out five core initiatives that will be the focus of its philanthropic efforts over the next five to ten years. Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), will collaborate with experienced partners working in each of these fields, investing its resources and tapping the strengths of Google’s employees and global operations to advance its core initiatives.

Today’s announcement includes more than $25 million in new grants and investments to initial partners. The resources come from a commitment by Google’s founders to devote approximately 1 percent of the company’s equity plus 1 percent of annual profits to philanthropy, as well as employee time.

“In their first Letter from the Founders (2004), Larry Page and Sergey Brin said that we wanted to ‘make Google an institution that makes the world a better place.’ The work of Google.org will help us do that by applying Google’s strengths in organizing information and scaling technology to these complex issues,” said Sheryl Sandberg, VP Global Online Sales & Operations, and Google.org Board member.

Added Dr. Larry Brilliant, executive director of Google.org, “These five initiatives are our attempt to address some of the hard problems we as a world need to face in the coming decade. We have chosen them both because we think solving them will make a better, fairer, safer world for our children and grandchildren – and the children and grandchildren of people all over the world – but also because we feel that these core initiatives fit well with Google’s core strengths, especially its innovative technologies and its talented engineers and other Googlers, who are really our most valuable assets.”

Google.org joins a community of like minded groups working to make the planet and population healthier and more equitable. Google.org’s five initiatives and initial partners include:

Predict and Prevent

Google.org supports efforts to empower communities to predict and prevent events before they become local, regional, or global crises, by identifying “hot spots” and enabling a rapid response. Rapid ecological and social changes are increasing the risk of emerging threats, from infectious diseases to drought and other environmental disasters. Google.org is initially focused on Southeast Asia and tropical Africa. In Southeast Asia, a hot spot for SARS and potentially bird flu, Google.org is working with partners to strengthen early warning systems and build local capacities to prevent the next pandemic. Initial grants include:

$5 million to InSTEDD (Innovative Support to Emergencies, Diseases and Disasters) to improve early detection, preparedness, and response capabilities for global health threats and humanitarian crises. InSTEDD will work with the community of relief and response organizations, governments, academia and top scientists around the world to address gaps in information flow with software and other technology-based tools and services. Acting as an innovation laboratory, InSTEDD aims to support the humanitarian community in preparing for and responding to global public health emergencies, working together towards a safer world. For more information, see http://instedd.org/.

$2.5 million to the Global Health and Security Initiative (GHSI), established by the Nuclear Threat Initiative to prevent, detect, and respond to biological threats. Google.org’s support will help GHSI to strengthen national and sub-regional disease surveillance systems through workforce training and better laboratory capacity in the Mekong Basin area (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Yunnan province, China). For more information, see http://www.ghsi.org/.

More than $600,000 to Clark University, with equal funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, for Clark Labs to develop a system to improve monitoring, analysis and prediction of the impacts of climate variability and change on ecosystems, food and health in Africa and the Amazon. This system is a prototype platform to deploy global environmental, health, and development data, information and analysis tools that the global community can freely access over the Internet. For more information, see http://www.clarklabs.org/.

Inform and Empower to Improve Public Services

Google.org works with partners to improve the flow of vital information to improve basic services for the poor in India and East Africa. In many countries in the developing world, essential public services are failing, especially for the poorest members of society. Google.org supports efforts to provide information to empower citizens and communities, providers, and policy makers to improve the delivery of essential public services such as education, health, water and sanitation. Initial grants include:

$2 million to Pratham, a non-governmental organization in India, to create an independent institute that will conduct the Nationwide Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) as well as large scale assessments in the education sector. Our goal is to expand these types of assessments to other sectors. For more information, see http://www.pratham.org/.

$765,000 to the Centre for Budget and Policy Studies, a Bangalore-based analysis group, to create a Budget Information Service for local governments to facilitate better district- and municipal-level level planning in India. For more information, see http://www.cbpsindia.org/.

$660,000 to the Center for Policy Research, an action oriented think tank based in India, to increase the debate and discourse on issues of urban local governance and urban service delivery. With the rapid expansion of cities in India, our goal is to provide policy makers the necessary information to make more informed decisions. For more information, see http://www.cprindia.org/.

Fuel the Growth of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises

Google.org supports efforts to lower transaction costs to invest in SMEs, create opportunities to access larger financial markets and make investments in this sector. SMEs are critical for inclusive economic growth and job creation in the developing world, but lack the capital and tools necessary to succeed. Many micro-enterprises and most large businesses have access to capital through microfinance institutions, banks and capital markets, but SMEs remain extraordinarily underserved, creating a “missing middle.” Google.org wants to help increase the flow of capital to “the missing middle” by tackling some of the root causes that prevent these firms from becoming profitable investment opportunities. Technoserve is an initial partner:

$4.7 million grant to TechnoServe to provide general support to expand Technoserve’s efforts to support enterprises, spur job creation, and strengthen poverty alleviation programs globally, and to develop and implement a business plan competition to support entrepreneurs in Ghana and Tanzania. For more information see, http://www.technoserve.org/.

These three new efforts join two climate change related initiatives announced earlier this year:

Develop Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal (RE<C)

This cross-Google collaboration has set a goal of producing one gigawatt of renewable energy capacity that is cheaper than coal, within years not decades. The initiative, known as RE<C, was launched in November 2007 and will focus initially on advanced solar thermal power, wind power technologies, enhanced geothermal systems and other potential breakthrough technologies. For more information on Google’s commitment to a clean energy future, see http://www.google.com/renewable-energy. As part of the RE<C initiative, Google.org is supporting strategic investments, including:

$10 million to eSolar, a Pasadena, CA-based company specializing in solar thermal power which replaces the fuel in a traditional power plant with heat produced from solar energy. eSolar’s technology has great potential to produce utility-scale power cheaper than coal. Google announced its intention to work closely with eSolar in November, and has now closed the investment deal. For more information, please visit http://www.google.com/corporate/green/energy/esolar.pdf.

Accelerate the Commercialization of Plug-In Vehicles (RechargeIT)

RechargeIT is a Google.org initiative that aims to reduce CO2 emissions, cut oil use and stabilize the electrical grid by accelerating the adoption of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and vehicle-to-grid technology. Google.org launched a $10 million request for investment proposals this Fall, and will invest amounts ranging from $500,000 to $2 million in selected for-profit companies whose innovative approach, team and technologies will enable widespread commercialization of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, electric vehicles and/or vehicle-to-grid solutions.

Unlike conventional philanthropies, Google.org is a hybrid organization, giving it the flexibility either to make direct grants or invest in for-profit companies that might yield returns. Google.org can also lobby public officials in favor of policies supporting its goals.

Additional Google Giving
Beyond the grants and investments announced today under Google.org’s core initiatives, Google will continue its philanthropic work through programs to leverage Google products for non-profits, including: Google Grants™, which donates free ads to non-profits; Google Apps™, which provides free, web-based services to non-profits; and contributions from departments including Google Earth™, which offers mapping to monitor events such as the crisis in Darfur.

About Google.org
Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google, uses the power of information and technology to help people improve their lives. We develop and invest in tools and partnerships that can help bring shared knowledge to bear on the world’s most pressing challenges in the areas of climate change, economic development and global health. For more information, visit http://www.google.org.

About Google Inc.
Google’s innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day. Founded in 1998 by Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google today is a top web property in all major global markets. Google’s targeted advertising program provides businesses of all sizes with measurable results, while enhancing the overall web experience for users. Google is headquartered in Silicon Valley with offices throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia. For more information, please visit http://www.google.com.

Conference Call Information

Google.org’s call begins today at 9:00 AM (PT) / 12:00 PM (ET). To participate, call 877-604-9673 in the United States or 719-325-4905 for calls from outside the United States, and use the confirmation code 4699562. A replay of the call will be available beginning at 3:00 PM (ET) today through midnight Thursday, January 24th, 2008 by calling 888-203-1112 in the United States or 719-457-0820 for calls from outside the United States. The required confirmation code for the replay is 4699562.

Media Contact:
Jacquelline Fuller
Google
press@google.com
+1.650.930.3555

Written by aheavens

January 17, 2008 at 9:47 am

Posted in Google.org

Tagged with ,

Entrepreneurs pitch their businesses

leave a comment »

Posted by Rachel Payne, Program Manager, Google.org blog

Last fall, a dozen Google employees served as lecturers, one-on-one consultants, and business plan evaluators for entrepreneurs participating in the Believe Begin Become business plan competition in Tanzania and Ghana. They were very impressed by the participants and winners, and they recognized that entrepreneurs in developing countries rarely get the chance to directly interact with investors to get the funding and support they need for their businesses. Together with TechnoServe, and using FlipVideo cameras, the volunteers filmed the entrepreneurs. Our video production team helped us quickly assemble the videos that now appear on the recently launched Believe Begin Become TechnoServe Channel on You Tube.

On the channel, you will find an inspiring group of entrepreneurs talking about the opportunities and challenges they face running their businesses. In Tanzania, the enterprises that we work with range from selling carbon credits to rebuilding a local high school and running a radio station — businesses that you will have the opportunity to view firsthand on the channel. Perhaps you will be as inspired as we are. People who want to do more to support these small and medium-sized (SME) businesses in Africa and elsewhere, can contribute directly from the You Tube Channel by using the Google Checkout payment option. We hope that sharing these stories will raise awareness of SMEs, provide firsthand accounts of the experiences of entrepreneurs in Africa, and create a direct channel for helping these businesses grow and thrive.

Written by aheavens

January 16, 2008 at 11:20 am

Continuing to Believe, Begin, Become

leave a comment »

Posted by Stacy Brown-Philpot, Director, Finance – Online Sales, Google – Google.org blog

In partnership with Google.org, Technoserve recently completed the second Believe Begin Become program in Ghana, identifying 10 new winners of its annual business plan competition. As a Google volunteer, I had an opportunity to interact with this year’s participants by teaching a class on presentation skills, judging the final round of the competition, and conducting one on one consulting sessions. I also visited the growing operations of 3 winners from last year and saw firsthand how the Believe Begin Become program has contributed to the success of their business.

I was both impressed and humbled by every entrepreneur I met. They all exhibited a level of energy, passion and enthusiasm that was overwhelmingly contagious. Operating in an environment where sound infrastructure is not a given, poverty is a reality, and health issues abound, they are seeking to create and build sustainable businesses that will change their community and their country for the better.

This year’s top winner of the overall business plan competition, Sheila Ocansey (pictured below, left, with me, right), embodies this energy and passion. With FrutyFresh, she plans to package and distribute quality fresh fruit to local Ghanaian professionals, families, and children. Sheila was thoughtful enough to bring a sample of her product to her oral presentation, something that impressed all of the judges. I craved FrutyFresh fruit for its freshness, quality, and taste throughout the rest of my stay in Ghana. The other top winners include: Darko Abednego, Stanley Adjei, Yaw Agyei-Henaku, Joseph Brenyah, Savior Deikumah, Nikoe Gavu, Mary Koranteng, Daniel Oduro, and Joseph Tettey.

I observed firsthand the promise of what is possible for this year’s winners through visits with three winners from last year. Nicholas Vordzgbe of City Wash launched his mobile car wash service using a highly profitable, environmentally friendly approach to a common activity. City Wash is capable of washing an SUV with just 2 liters of water! His next move includes opening a point of service location and expanding his mobile activities. Isaac Bohulu launched Natural Scientific Pharmaceuticals in a style characteristic of Silicon Valley. In a room that should have been his master bedroom, he is running a government approved production facility for his flagship product, Neemfresh Herbal Mouthwash, made from completely natural ingredients. Finally, last year’s overall winner, Joseph Tackie of MeatyFoods, showed us how a shift in his marketing strategy allowed him to quintuple his revenues in one month. While we sampled the butcher’s spicy sausage, he told us of his plans to open his second store.

The Believe Begin Become program was launched with the hope that we would create an ecosystem of entrepreneurs, investors, customers, and employees that contribute to the growth and economic development of Ghana. Participating in the judging process, seeing the operations in action, and spending time with the entrepreneurs provided evidence that this is exactly what is happening. Participants from last year have become customers and/or suppliers of each other. Last year’s winner was a mentor to at least 3 of the winners from this year. The judges and potential investors have high standards; not only are they funding these businesses, but they are personally engaged and interested in their success. The program creates employment opportunities and causes capital to flow back into communities. With 120 alumni in the Believe Begin Become program, the newly-created alumni association will help fuel and expand on the already growing ecosystem that has been created.

Written by aheavens

October 15, 2007 at 11:26 am

Meet Joseph Tackie

leave a comment »

Posted by Daniel Conrad, Senior Business Analyst, Google on Google.org blog

Joseph Tackie is the CEO of Meaty Foods Limited, a high-end butcher in Ghana. He’s also the winner of last year’s Believe Begin Become (BBB) business plan competition (run by TechnoServe and sponsored by Google.org), and the elected president of the BBB Ghana Alumni Association.

I had a chance to meet with Joseph a few weeks ago in Accra, when Google.org sent me to join this year’s BBB class at their graduation. He told me about the progress of his business one year since his graduation.

DC: I heard that you quintupled sales in one month after winning seed capital from BBB last year. How on earth?

JT: See, the difficulty of our environment is that no investor will give you money for basic things. They expect you to have already made it, to have already become successful before they invest. They are not going to finance your marketing. With the seed capital from BBB, I was able to create a very good billboard. That’s all it took. People would see the billboard and come in and want to see what it was that we were doing. And our sales quintupled in just one month.

Three weeks ago I got my certification from the Ghanaian Standards Board. It cost a lot of money, and this is the type of thing that nobody will finance because they see you as a start-up. Now I can sell to any supermarket in Ghana.When you are a start-up, none of the banks wants to do business with you. But with a little success, now they are chasing you to do business with them.

DC: What are your future plans for your business?

JT: First, we are developing our outlets. We have one store now, we are renovating two more in middle class areas in Accra. We also have a request to set up a similar processing facility in Mali. They have lots of beef in Mali but no high-end processing.

DC: What did you learn from the BBB program?

JT: What really made the difference with the program was the networking. Because the program is organized by entrepreneurs it is very practical. They are like role models. Your anxieties are things they have experienced, so you can share with them.

Working with entrepreneurs breaks down the fears and anxieties. Issues to do with risks are minimized. You are exposed to success. A lot of people are afraid to venture because of the losses they have dealt with. But working with other entrepreneurs enables you to look forward. The obstacles will always be there, but you will be equipped to go around them.

There have been a lot of people saying foreign aid is bad. But this is different. It is like you are teaching me to fish. This BBB program empowered me.

Written by aheavens

September 10, 2007 at 10:33 am