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How we’re supporting 30 new AI for Social Good projects

Over recent years, we have seen remarkable progress in AI’s ability to confront new problems and help solve old ones. Advancing these efforts was one reason we set up the Google Research India lab in 2019, with a particular emphasis on AI research that could make a positive social impact. It’s also why we’ve supported…

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Over recent years, we have seen remarkable progress in AI’s ability to confront new problems and help solve old ones. Advancing these efforts was one reason we set up the Google Research India lab in 2019, with a particular emphasis on AI research that could make a positive social impact. It’s also why we’ve supported nonprofit organizations through the Google AI Impact Challenge.

Working in partnership with Google.org and Google’s University Relations program, our goal is to help academics and nonprofits develop AI techniques that can improve people’s lives — especially in underserved communities that haven’t yet benefited from advances in AI. We reported on the impact of six such projects in 2020. And today, we’re sharing 30 new projects that will receive funding and support as part of our AI for Social Good program

During the application process, Googlers arranged workshops involving more than 150 teams to discuss potential projects. Following the workshop meetings, project teams made up of NGOs and academics submitted proposals which Google experts reviewed. The result is a promising range of projects spanning seventeen countries across Asia-Pacific and Sub-Saharan Africa — including India, Uganda, Nigeria, Japan and Australia— focused on agriculture, conservation and public health. 

In agriculture, this includes research to help farmer collectives with market intelligence and use data to improve crop and irrigation planning for smallholder farmers. In public health, we are backing projects that will enable targeted public health interventions, and will help community health workers to forecast health risks in countries such as Kenya, India and Uganda. We’re also supporting research to better forecast the need for critical resources like vaccines and care, including in Nigeria. And in conservation, we’re supporting research to help understand animal population changes, such as the effect of poaching on elephants, and gorillas . Other projects will help reduce conservation conflict and poaching, including human-elephant conflict in Kenya.

Each project team will receive funding, technical contributions from Google and access to computational resources. Academics in this program will be recognized as “Impact Scholars” for their contributions towards advancing research for social good.  

We’ve seen the impact these kinds of projects can make. One of the nonprofit leaders supported by the program last year, ARMANN founder Dr. Aparna Hegde, has received AI research support from IIT Madras and Google Research to improve maternal and child health outcomes in India. The team is building a predictive model to prevent expectant mothers dropping out of supportive telehealth outreach programs. Results so far show AI could enable ARMANN to increase the number of women engaged through the program by 50%, and they have received a second Google.org grant to enable them to build on this progress. Dr. Hedge says the program is “already showing encouraging results — and I am confident that this partnership will bring immense benefits in the future.”

Congratulations to all the recipients of this round’s support. We’re looking forward to continuing to nurture the AI for Social Good community, bringing together experts from diverse backgrounds with the common goal of advancing AI to improve lives around the world.

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Fostering inclusive spaces through Disability Alliance

I was 2 when my parents discovered I had polio, which impacted my ability to stand and walk. Growing up in China, I still remember the challenges I faced when I wanted to go to college. Back then, all potential candidates had to pass a physical test, which posed a challenge. Knowing this, my parents,…

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I was 2 when my parents discovered I had polio, which impacted my ability to stand and walk. Growing up in China, I still remember the challenges I faced when I wanted to go to college. Back then, all potential candidates had to pass a physical test, which posed a challenge. Knowing this, my parents, my teachers and even the local government advocated for me. Thanks to their support, I was granted an exception to attend college, where I graduated with a degree in computer science.

When I joined Google in Shanghai in 2011, the real estate team was working to open a new office space. I was part of the planning process to ensure we designed an inclusive workspace, especially for individuals with physical disabilities. When I discovered the desks at the office were too high, or if the meeting space was not designed wide enough for someone in a wheelchair to enter, I worked with the team to solve the problem. I also suggested building wheelchair-accessible restrooms when they were not available on the floor I was working on.

These experiences showed me everyone has the voice to drive change — including myself. I decided to co-lead our Disability Alliance (DA), one of Google’s resource groups in China, with other passionate Googlers. We wanted to create a space to help address challenges Googlers with disabilities face, and build allyship among the wider Google community. We also wanted to create a platform to increase awareness of different forms of disabilities. For example, some people don’t think about invisible disabilities, but it’s equally important to build awareness of disabilities you might not immediately see. I’m incredibly excited to see how we continue to grow our community in the coming year across China.

Having a disability doesn’t limit me, and I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by people who value my abilities instead of my disability. Over the years, I’ve achieved my goals and dreams from leading an incredible team of 50 at Google, taking on physical activities such as skiing and marathons, and driving change for the broader disability community.

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Office spotlight: Chicago

“It almost feels like the first day back at school,” says Rob Biederman as he waits in line for breakfast at the Fulton Market cafe. It’s April 4, and Chicago Googlers like Rob have just started their first official week of hybrid work.Opened in 2000 with only two employees, the Google Chicago office in the…

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“It almost feels like the first day back at school,” says Rob Biederman as he waits in line for breakfast at the Fulton Market cafe. It’s April 4, and Chicago Googlers like Rob have just started their first official week of hybrid work.

Opened in 2000 with only two employees, the Google Chicago office in the West Loop neighborhood has now grown to more than 1,800 employees across two buildings. In 2021 alone, more than 500 “Nooglers” — what we call new employees — joined the campus.

Chicago Googlers work on all kinds of products and teams. You’ll meet engineers designing Pixel devices and working on Search, Ads and Cloud projects; salespeople helping businesses across North America grow; and folks working across finance, human resources and product management. “It’s amazing to now see all the different organizations and product areas represented in Chicago,” says Britton Picciolini, who was the office’s tenth hire in 2002. “It feels like such a great cross section of what we do at Google.”

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Building a secure world

Securing users in Ukraine and the broader regionAs the Russian invasion of Ukraine unfolded, Google mobilized to help the people of Ukraine and protect the security of our users and services – an area where we are uniquely positioned to help in this conflict.We have our own specialized teams dedicated to identifying, tracking, and countering…

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Securing users in Ukraine and the broader region

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine unfolded, Google mobilized to help the people of Ukraine and protect the security of our users and services – an area where we are uniquely positioned to help in this conflict.

We have our own specialized teams dedicated to identifying, tracking, and countering threats from government-backed actors.

Russia-backed hacking and influence operations are not new to us; we’ve been tracking and taking action against them for years. To put this into perspective, we’ve seen and worked to disrupt Russian operations targeting the U.S. elections in 2016 and 2017 and campaigns targeting the 2018 Olympic games. In October, we blocked a Russian campaign targeting 14,000 Google users.

And we’ve seen first hand the targeting of Ukraine by Russia. It has been ongoing for years with both espionage and occasional cyber attacks tracked by our teams. As the war intensified, we also saw Russian threat actors shift focus to targets elsewhere in Eastern Europe.

Our Threat Analysis Group (TAG), regularly publishes details on campaigns it detects, and disrupts these efforts to help governments and private sector companies better defend their systems.

We’ve seen threat actors beyond Russia shift their focus and targeting, including a growing number of threat actors using the war as a lure in phishing and malware campaigns. This includes government-backed actors from China, Iran, North Korea, Belarus and financially-motivated, criminal actors using current events as a means for targeting users.

For example, we’ve seen one cyber crime group impersonating military personnel to extort money for rescuing relatives in Ukraine.

In addition to disrupting threats, we are doing everything we can to increase protections for high risk users and organizations in Ukraine. We’ve redoubled our efforts to offer free tools to help – including protecting hundreds of high risk users on the ground with our Advanced Protection Program, and expanding eligibility of Project Shield to include the Ukraine government. Shield is currently protecting over 200 websites in Ukraine from distributed denial of service attacks.

It is in this spirit of action that we are expanding our partnerships and investment in the broader region on cybersecurity.

In fact, this week a delegation of our top security engineers and leaders are on the ground across Eastern Europe to provide hands-on training to high risk groups, deliver security keys and support local businesses as they look to improve their security posture.

To share what we know about the threat, we are engaging in technical exchanges with governments in the region.

We’re providing free tools and expertise to democratic institutions and civil society, such as the Protect Your Democracy Toolkit — which we launched today in partnership with our Jigsaw team.

We’re also investing in, and shaping, the next generation of cybersecurity professionals. For example, Google has committed to provide scholarships for 150,000 people in Europe, the Middle East and Africa through the new Google Career Certificate training.

We’re also helping governments and businesses stay ahead of the threat, including helping government agencies, companies and utilities who rely on outdated hardware and software to replace old systems with better foundations and we are here to build up businesses and governments’ confidence to embrace digital transformation securely.

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