Like most commercial giants of the digital age such as Apple, Amazon and Facebook, Google are not strangers to the news for very long.
So, it’s time for an update on what they are doing that is perhaps not so well commented on as their legal battles, commercial ventures and other activities. Ask away….
Q: Is Google still regarded as a bad boy in the digital world league nowadays?
A: Not entirely. On tax paying, maybe. On privacy issues and monopoly of the web, almost certainly. But they are still capable of doing good.
Q: Do they still do no evil?
A: They seem to have quietly dropped their informal motto, ‘do not be evil’, but there are other restraints they still claim to adhere to.
Q: Oh yeah, like what?
A: Like the the things they hold to be true, written when they were still new and regularly updated. They say you can hold them accountable for these.
- Focus on the user and all else will follow (they want to serve you rather than their own internal goal)
- It’s best to do one thing really, really well. Solving search problems, they do that well. Maybe gathering so much data about people and places and using it to sell is just a by product of that aim.
- Fast is better than slow. The average search time is now a fraction of a second, which is what people want. But what is always put at the top of the search piles, that is another matter.
- Democracy on the web works. Millions of users help determine value of sites and data but it’s the Google algorithms which ultimately determine everything.
- You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer. In the increasingly mobile world, of course they have to get into gadgets and their Android platform offers more choice to consumers (to stay in the Google loop).
- You can make money without doing evil. They are a business, of course. People take different views about business/ethical practices.
- There’s always more information out there. All the world’s information is their target, at a click. Sounds laudable. That includes recording every street, every inch of the world. Google world.
- The need for information crosses all borders. They plan to facilitate information for the whole globe in every language. Ultimately, they may well create their own unique Google language to replace all these annoying varieties of tongues.
- You can be serious without a suit. Work should be challenging, the challenge should be fun. That has underpinned their creativity, their staff and every hour of the day. In fact, that approach of apparently casual informality and relaxed chill has proved invaluable.
- Great just isn’t good enough. They stretch themselves with goals beyond current targets, and it works. The side effect is that every solution ton each new problem incidentally adds to the control they exercise.
Q: So, is there anything tangible for us in Britain?
A: Yes, the Global Impact Challenge has been a practical and impressive tangible that may make make a real difference to thousands of people around the world.
Q: The Global Impact Challenge, what on earth is it?
A: It is a competition by not-for-profit organisations using technology and innovation to tackle tough human challenges. They say: ‘We look for entrepreneurial teams with an idea to change the world and a healthy disregard for the impossible. We are proud to announce the winners of the Global Impact Challenge in the UK: Zoological Society of London, Integrity Action, CDI Apps for Good, and SolarAid.’
Q: Who could enter?
A: Organisations based in the UK who are either registered as charities with the Charity Commission or recognised as charities by HMRC. They had to submit grant applications and a video and do a live presentation and were limited to one application each organisation.
Q: Who were the judges?
A: They were headed up by the much respected Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the man who invented the web in 1989, since when the world has changed beyond recognition. Entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, he of the Virgin products and appearances on telly; Google’s own Matt Brittin; Jilly Forster of Forster Communications, the social change agency and Jacquelline Fuller leader of Google Giving, ‘investing more than $50 million a year in tech innovators creating transformational impact at scale.’ complete the panel.
Q: What do the winners get?
A: A useful half a million quid each plus Chromebook and various technical assistance from Google. There were also six additional finalists each awarded £100,000 to help make their own visions into reality.
The four winners were for projects on digital eyes and ears for wildlife protection (Zoological Society of London), app development training for UK kids (CDI Apps for Good), an accountability tool for development (Integrity Action) and solar lights for off-grid communities in the world SolarAid).
Q: So Google are the white hats, after all, then?
A: Yes. Perhaps. Unless you regard this sort of money as peanuts scattered just to distract people from the bigger issues. But then you’d be a cynic, wouldn’t you?
Other related listings on MBF Blogs:
The Internet Is Simultaneously Both Good Cop and Bad Guy, 8 January 2013
The Internet Has Created a New Frontier in Lite-Tax Paying, 29 October 2012
Apple vs Google: Showdown of the Year, 5 July 2012
Improve Your Google Places Listing, Or Vanish, 2 April 2012
Zeitgeist: The Flavour of the (Google) Times, 1 January 2012
Image: Google self-driving car, der. Mariordo