One of the things that I like to think that my blog can achieve is to share/broaden awareness of topics that interest me, which I come across and believe that are not so well known. A good example of that is “Project 10 to the 100th”, a Google sponsored initiative to collate “ideas to change the world, in the hope of helping as many people as possible”. Google has committed to invest $10 million to support this.
Now that I’ve come across this initiative, I’m surprised that the project seems to be so ‘low key’. I also consider the name to be surprisingly ‘techie’ for something that is ultimately aimed at delivering global social/environmental improvements (and hence risking lack of attention from people who might not have come across Google’s blogs).
The project started last Autumn (2008), and since then over 150,000 different ideas were submitted. Rather than picking specific ideas, Google decided to collate the ideas into a number of categories and “big ideas”, and is now taking votes on which ideas to support (voting set to end on October 8, 2009).
The 16 “big ideas” (category name in brackets) are:
- Build better banking tools for everyone (Opportunity)
- Collect and organize the world’s urban data (Community)
- Work toward socially conscious tax policies (Environment)
- Encourage positive media depictions of engineers and scientists (Education)
- Drive innovation in public transport (Energy)
- Make educational content available online for free (Education)
- Build real-time, user-reported news service (Everything Else)
- Create more efficient landmine removal programs (Shelter)
- Make government more transparent (Community)
- Provide quality education to African students (Education)
- Help social entrepreneurs drive change (Opportunity)
- Create real-time natural crisis tracking system (Community)
- Enhance science and engineering education (Education)
- Create real-world issue reporting system (Community)
- Promote health monitoring and data analysis (Health)
- Create genocide monitoring and alert system (Community)
From these 16 “big ideas” Google will pick up to 5 to support financially.
The categories are defined as follows:
Google claims to be choosing the idea to support based on the following criteria:
- Reach: How many people would this idea affect?
- Depth: How deeply are people impacted? How urgent is the need?
- Attainability: Can this idea be implemented within a year or two?
- Efficiency: How simple and cost-effective is your idea?
- Longevity: How long will the idea’s impact last?
Further information about Project 10^100, and where you can “vote” for which of the topics Google will support, can be found here:
Premie facie, this seems to me to be a very good, philanthropic effort, which the global community can benefit from (and hence, I have submitted my vote). Google has presented this initiative as being focused on “helping as many people as possible” rather than having a positive economic return (either for Google, or for anyone else).
It does however also raise some interesting questions on how to observe such an effort:
- What do Google shareholders think of Google’s use of cash to sponsor such an effort? (immaterial? marketing? investment opportunity? distraction?)
- Is this Google’s way of trying to catalogue people’s entrepreneurial thoughts and ideas, having conquered search of documented information? Where can this go next?
- What will happen to the 150,000 ideas that were submitted to Google? Will Google look to adopt those ideas as their own, maybe tweaking them to make them better?
- What financial return will Google make from this (and also, how could the return be measured)?
- Who will ensure that the final choice of which ideas receive financial support, and choice of suppliers/implementers of the ideas are made in an independent manner?
- Is $10 million ‘enough’ to make the chosen “big idea(s)” successful? What will happen if it is not?
Finally, with 150,000 ideas having been submitted, from all over the world, Google should show us that it has the chance to “lighten up” occasionally, and share with us some of the more exotic, humorous, or crazy suggestions that it received.