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1/17/2008
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Google.org To Fund $25 Million In Philanthropic Projects

The foundation announces three new philanthropic initiatives designed to combat climate change, poverty, and diseases as an add-on to two other ventures.

Google's fledgling philanthropic organization on Thursday announced it will fund more than $25 million for three different projects designed to fight climate change, poverty, and global diseases.

The initiative adds to two previous endeavors announced by Google.org. One to build up renewable energy sources that are less expensive than coal and the other to develop solar-powered cars, especially ones that could plug back into and contribute to a power grid.

The money comes from a commitment by Google's founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to devote approximately 1% of the company's equity plus 1% of the company's annual profits to goodwill projects, as well as employee time. The funds are expected to be implemented over the next five to ten years.

Larry Brilliant, executive director of the non-profit group, said while it hasn't done anything yet, the group is hoping to use the power of Google to make a contribution such as identifying "hot spots" for pandemics and enabling health organizations to respond quickly.

"How different the world would have been if we could have found the first person who contracted AIDS from a monkey and been able to respond to stopping the disease," Brilliant said during a news conference.

The funding has been chopped up into larger categories such as Predict and Prevent; Inform and Empower to Improve Public Services; and Fuel the Growth of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises. Brilliant said he was most eager to start on fighting disease, which he hoped would compliment other international groups such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, and William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

For example, Google.org said it would give $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 in Southeast Asia and tropical Africa.

The group said it will grant $2.5 million to the Global Health and Security Initiative (GHSI), which was originally established by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, with a goal to prevent, detect, and respond to biological threats. The funds would be used for sub-regional disease surveillance systems through workforce training and better laboratory capacity in the Mekong Basin area, which includes Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Yunnan province in China.

More than $600,000 has been earmarked to Clark University, with equal funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Google.org said. The money for Clark Labs will go 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.

In the area of improving public services, Google.org said $2 million of the funding will go 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.

Some $765,000 will be granted to the Centre for Budget and Policy Studies. The Bangalore-based analysis group aims to create a Budget Information Service for local governments to improve district- and municipal-level level planning.

The Center for Policy Research, an action-oriented think tank based in India, will get $660,000, Google.org said, to increase the debate and discourse on issues of urban local governance and urban service delivery.

Brilliant also noted that Google.org wanted to help fill in the gaps that smaller enterprises fall into. As part of a plan to empower what he called "the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker," Google's goodwill arm will grant $4.7 million grant to TechnoServe 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. The investment model is similar to venture capital funding, protecting the businesses from some of the pitfalls of debt.

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