How Google used $11 million to help refugees

24 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Google Announces Info Hub, Aimed At Helping Refugees By Giving Them Information.

Google has developed an open-source project called the Crisis Info Hub dedicated to providing refugees with important information on their journey to safer countries. When used, it’ll provide information on nearby lodging, transportation, medical facilities, and more in what appears to be a compact way that doesn’t consume a lot of the device’s battery life. In a welcome change from the traditionally first-world “problems” that the tech industry at large tries to solve, Google’s latest initiative leverages its technical prowess to provide migrants with crucial data including travel conditions, lodging options, danger warnings, and the all-important registration information. It’s a follow-up to the Internet giant’s online fundraiser last month that sought to raise money for the crisis overseas, which managed to collect $5.5 million in just two days.

To further its efforts, Google recognized the importance of information to individuals and families leaving their homes for foreign lands, and decided to do what they do best — search — and put it in the hands of those who need it most. Moreover, the company says it plans to expand the scope of the website to other locations that have become hotspots for refugees such as the island of Kos. The project is open-source, making it easy for others outside of Google to contribute information to the site, which can be done via Google Docs. “Unlike some other disasters, this was one where many of the people in dire need already have phones and are used to using phones to get information,” said Jacquelline Fuller, director of Google.org, in an interview with CNN. The hub provides extensive details on the modes of transportation that are available to the new arrivals, the fares for each mode and even tips for those who choose to, or are forced to, walk to the registration centers. “If you choose to walk, along the road for the first 23km there are water taps where you can access free water. Along with the new site, Google has updated Google Translate to enable the many Arabic-speaking refugees to be able to instantly translate English and German words and documents, even when that user isn’t online.

Already Google has helped raise $14 million towards refugee relief, which has been divided equally among Doctors Without Borders, the International Rescue Committee, Save The Children, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Google.org, which is Google’s philanthropic organization, teamed up with NetHope, a group that helps provide Internet access in emergencies at locations such as refugee camps.

However, according to a Time article on the subject, with many of those fleeing Syria coming from cities and educated backgrounds, the vast majority of refugees have access to smartphones; in fact, smartphones are often the most important piece of equipment they have in their survival toolkit. Moreover, because most migrants do not primarily communicate in English, Google is “asking anyone who knows the languages spoken by refugees or the countries they’re traveling through to help us improve translations through Google Translate Community.” Already, the tech company has added Arabic as its 28th language for instant visual translation, but this barely scratches the surface of the thousands of languages spoken across the world. “In the coming weeks,” Google continues, “we’ll continue to work closely with our partners on the ground to evaluate how else we can bring the best of Google’s resources to help out with this tragic situation.” And hopefully, with such a huge presence in the tech community leading the charge, more companies will follow suit and lend their own expertise to improving the worsening situation across the sea. Moreover, one of the charities Google is working with on this project, NetHope, provides temporary wireless infrastructure and charging stations in and around refugee camps and along the common routes they’re taking to move between countries.

Earlier this month, Google added Arabic to its visual translation tool so anyone with the app can point their camera at text in German or English and an instant translation in Arabic will pop up. NetHope is a nonprofit organization that is actively engaged in enabling WiFi and cellular connectivity and in providing charging stations to help Syrian refugees remain in touch with families as they migrate. As part of its effort to help refugees migrating to different European countries, Google has also been improving its Google Translate language translation tool, Fuller said.

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