In 2008, solar panels were considered to be an enviable luxury. Beginning in 2013, the prices thereof began to lower, and this year the cost of solar technology is at a record low and can actually save thousands of dollars per year on electric bills.

There are still a lot of factors to consider where the installation of solar panels are concerned: how much sunlight hits the roof, the local weather, or if there are any businesses nearby where someone could be hired to install them.

Since so many people have asked Google about solar energy, engineer Carl Elkin came up with the initial idea that has since become Project Sunroof. This online tool takes the data from Google Maps and gives all the necessary information including how much money could be saved by installing solar panels.

In the next few months, the project goal is to expand to more cities, more countries and eventually become accessible worldwide. “Elkin writes that Project Sunroof is part of Google’s wider vision of accelerating the wide-scale adaption of zero-carbon energy.”

Solar panels, also called photovoltaic panels, turn energy from the sun into electricity. That energy is then synchronized to become compatible with the power grid in the home. This process actually saves energy that was formerly reliant on carbon energy and replaces it with something that is actually better for the environment.

A popular myth is that solar energy is unreliable, so people will avoid considering the technology until it improves. In actuality, solar panels generally come with a manufacturer’s warranty of 25 years and also requires little to no maintenance during its lifetime. There are few existing electronics to date with 25-year warranties.

So, with all of the existing benefits of solar energy to the environment and to the people who utilize it, the solar subscription service Bright has decided to bring those benefits to developing countries starting with Mexico.

“Working with local partners, Bright provides the software, financing, and maintenance. Using its software, it monitors installations and deploys partners to fix any errors.” These initiatives make energy more affordable and therefore, more accessible and enjoyable.

Project Loon gives the developing world access to the internet, and Project Sunroof combined with the initiatives of services such as Bright gives the necessary energy for not only the maintaining of devices that connect to the internet but also for everyday activities.

So, not only can the developing world be provided with water mills and food, but can even (for example) be helped with alternative methods of storing them and keeping them fresh for longer periods of time.

Anna Brailow

Sources: Voice of America, IFL Science, RE-volv, Bright
Photo: CS Monitor

Africa was once known as “The Dark Continent,” a place of mystery and hardship. While many hardships continue today, Africa is not nearly so dark as it once was: with electricity and economic growth sweeping across the continent, wealthy foreign investors have set their eyes on the potential wealth hidden in emerging African markets, and some American companies are making it their mission to launch Africa into the future. As of 2011, U.S. companies had invested over $48 billion in Africa. The following are three American companies investing in Africa.

The search engine giant turned jack-of-all-trades has been pursuing countless investment opportunities over the last decade, the least of which is its foray into Africa. With mobile technology and Internet access rapidly changing the face of Africa, it’s a no-brainer that the tech mogul wants in. Google Africa has a number of on-going projects in Africa, from simply expanding its network, to installing the hit Google Fiber, to hosting a development summit for technical officers, devs and designers. The massive corporation has even invested in renewable energy development, which some economists have touted as the “cure for poverty.” In addition to developing its own enterprise, Google also launched in 2004, a nonprofit formed to create awareness about climate change, global public health and global poverty.

This global designer and manufacturer of diesel engines has been present in Africa since 1946. The company describes its activities across the continent as including “an extensive network of company-owned, joint venture, and independently owned distributors and dealers.” Much of their business in the 51 of 54 African countries they operate in is selling and servicing products, namely power generators for homes and businesses. Unlike many large multinational corporations, Cummins works to keep a portion of its works dedicated to establishing locally-owned branches of the company, keeping a portion of the profits within the local community. The company also makes a point of embracing its responsibility as a corporate leader “to help improve the communities in which employees work and live,” and Cummins works to have a positive impact in its areas of operation.

The original auto manufacturer has also had a long-standing presence in Africa, having been involved in the South African automotive industry since the 1920s. Ford employs over 3,700 people in South Africa and recently announced plans to establish a production plant in Nigeria, hoping to eventually spread throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Besides making cars, the Ford Motor Company has been developing a customizable electric bike that they hope will revolutionize urban travel and expand local business opportunities. Ford is also working with a number of African initiatives to improve access to education and healthcare, including World Vision in Africa and Riders for Health.

“As much as we are a car company, Ford is also a people company. Our investment in the community across Africa–through various health, education and mobility projects is as fundamental to our business as producing vehicles, as this is key to unleashing the potential of the African continent,” said Jeff Nemeth, president & CEO of Ford Motor Company of the Sub-Saharan Africa region.

Africa’s emerging and veritably booming economy is drawing more and more international attention, with investors convinced that “the dark continent” will be the home of the next gold rush. Whether or not all corporations eyeing Africa for their next venture are considering the positive impact they can make across the impoverished continent, their presence is having a dramatic impact and is pulling the struggling economy towards a brighter future.

Gina Lehner

Sources: American Outlook, Automotive World
Photo: IB Times

Corporate Matching
What is corporate matching? When a company recognizes the charitable actions of their employees and decides to match that same altruistic nature through financial means. The following companies practice corporate matching (and are in no particular order).

1. General Electric

Today, the GE Foundation matches over 35 million dollars annually to nonprofit and educational institutions.

2. Google

Matching up to over $12,000 in donations per employee each year, Google has been highlighted as a company that not only matches charitable giving, but also matches funds employees personally raise for charities.

3. CarMax

Matching to nearly every nonprofit organization, CarMax’s 1:1 match policy on all donations applies to not only all employees, but all of the employees’ dependents until the age of 26.

4. Soros Fund Management

This company has the highest matching gift ratio (3:1 match for employees and 2:1 match for partners) of any corporation, creating a high incentive for Soros families to give.

5. Boeing

Boeing matches both employee and retiree donations. In addition, they provide a $100 grant to a nonprofit every time an employee participates in a charitable event (run/walk/bike type events).

6. BP

This company offers every type of employee giving with their generous giving programs. BP allows for the public to track all of its charitable spending in addition to the standard 1:1 matching.

7. Gap Corporation

Including many of the Gap subsidiaries, Gap employees can request matches made to majority of nonprofit based organizations. They also offer the most comprehensive and user-friendly online match system. Gifts made within the company can range from $1,000 to $10,000.

8. Microsoft

Through employee giving within the company, more that $1 billion was donated to charitable organizations within the match program.

9. Johnson & Johnson

All company employees, including retirees, are eligible to request up to $10,000 in donation matching. They also have a 2:1 matching ratio for current employees, and a 1:1 rate for all retirees.

10. Bank of America

With a 1:1 matching for all family members, including those of part-time employees, Bank of America has a $5,000 matching cap and has a longer period of acceptance for those matches than other companies.

– Alysha Biemolt

Sources: Double the Donation 1, Double the Donation 2, Double the Donation 3,

malaria no more
Every 60 seconds, a child dies from a preventable and curable disease that claims the lives of 453,000 children per year—90 percent of those in Africa.

Malaria is considered one of the top three causes of death for children worldwide. But there’s one nonprofit that’s taking on the challenge to slow down the clock and lower its global threat to about half the world at risk. Malaria No More is dedicated to bringing an end to malaria deaths by engaging leaders, rallying the public and delivering lifesaving tools and education to families across Africa.

With the rate of 13,000 children losing their lives to a mosquito bite everyday, it is a critical time for this nonprofit to do its work efficiently and effectively. They do this through two sectors: lifesaving commodities and health education.

Malaria No More has covered over five million people with mosquito nets in at least 17 African countries, which to date is the surest way to prevent malaria. In Senegal, the organization conducted the first universal coverage of mosquito net distribution. In Cameroon, they inspired over 500,000 people to sleep under mosquito nets with their education campaign.

In the Fall of 2013, Malaria No More launched a campaign to deploy rapid diagnostic tests and artemisinin-based combination treatments to reduce malaria deaths in children. Rapid-diagnostic tests help expand the world’s ability to confirm malaria cases in remote settings and ensure that people get the right treatment where they need it. Likewise, artemisinin-based combination therapies act as a powerful treatment for malaria with a full course costing just one dollar to buy and deliver, curing a child one to three days time.

In addition to these lifesaving commodities, Malaria No More offers health education, which plays a vital role to preventing, diagnosing and treating the disease. For example, their NightWatch initiative has reached at least 20 million Africans by engaging mobile platforms and African leaders, from international music icons to local sports heroes, to deliver lifesaving health education.

Malaria No More works on the ground to make sure that every family in Africa has timely access to the resources they need, whether it’s providing mosquito nets to sleep under at night or the one dollar full-course treatment.

Other solutions the nonprofit suggests include indoor residual spraying to help kill mosquitoes and reduce the rate of malaria transmission in addition to the development of more vaccines for malaria and support via government funding.

Though foreign aid represents less than one percent of the U.S. federal budget, all efforts make an impact on the ground. Bridging the current funding gap and helping countries deliver lifesaving resources will help bring down the rate of malaria deaths. Since 2000, malaria mortality rates have fallen about 60 percent among children under the age of five, but there’s still much more work to do.

Thanks to technology behemoth Google, Malaria No More is closer to reaching their goals. In December 2014, Google made a huge move toward fighting against malaria by announcing a $600,000 grant to help fund a mobile phone project to combat the disease.

So how does it work? Since many Africans communicate via mobile phones, there’s no better way to collect data and send them vital information that details preventative measures that can save those in targeted areas from one of the most deadly diseases. Malaria No More will partner with a Nigerian startup called Sproxil, which helps fight the counterfeit drug market by putting codes on authentic medicines. Anyone who purchases these can now text the codes to verify the drugs.

In addition, texting codes allows Malaria No More to receive data on what drugs people are taking in remote areas as well as track the spread and treatments for the disease.

– Chelsee Yee

Sources: Malaria No More, Geek Wire, Fighting Malaria
Photo: Malaria No More

remote areas
Google has partnered with the French space agency, the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales, to provide rural and remote areas of the world with Internet access. The partnership aims to reach higher ground with the Project Loon initiative.

Project Loon is a Google research and development project with the mission of providing Internet access to rural and remote areas. The project uses high altitude balloons to create an aerial wireless network that project Wi-Fi signals.

The balloons are solar powered and each is coordinated to make movements in a complex formation to provide continuous service. Google’s new approach on these balloons involves using technology with powerful satellites. Powerful satellites will provide more responsive Internet for the balloons to harness and spread.

They rise more than 60,000 feet above the Earth’s surface, placing them far beyond the reach of airplanes and atmospheric storm systems.

Satellite Internet is already becoming faster and more inexpensive at a steady rate. About 1.5 billion people get home Internet through a satellite connection, though only 0.2 percent of people in developed countries are connected through satellite.

Google wants to launch 100,000 balloons into the stratosphere to offer free Internet access in remote and rural locations around the world, and retrieve them when they lose air and fall to the ground.

To date, there are 75 Google balloons airborne, hovering somewhere near the far reaches of the Southern Hemisphere. These balloons automatically regulate their altitudes according to the algorithms to catch wind drafts and keep them on path.

A majority of the world still lacks Internet access, even after the 1.8 billion people that joined the Internet in 2014. An astounding 4.4 billion people still have never been online.

Internet access can benefit those in developing countries, especially those in India, where the population has more mobile phones than sanitary toilets. In India, over 1 billion people are still offline.

Moreover, China’s massive population of 1.3 people may be iPhone-obsessed, but more than half of its population still remains disconnected.

The Internet can be a useful tool for farmers, as access to the Internet allows farmers to be updated on constant climate changes, and projected problems in the seasons that may affect crop growth. Moreover, Internet access can also be a useful education tool used in schools for learning, and it can improve literacy rates.

Google’s balloons may sound expensive, but research actually indicates that these balloons are cheaper than setting up and maintaining cell towers, and the balloons are also more effective to bring access to remote areas.

Although Google’s project has faced criticism and doubts along the process among Project Loon, Google notes that the next big step is testing how the balloons handle thousands of pounds of pressure.

Google’s engineers have spent weeks trying to isolate any problems they had in the past with the balloons that are already hovering over vast remote areas. Google has the potential to deliver its promise of Internet access across the world and to regions that have been without it with precise research and design.

Sandy Phan

Sources: Google, NPR
Photo: Digital Trends

gender equality
Over the past century, women around the world have made great strides in the workplace, in their homes and in politics. However, a campaign created by Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai on behalf of the United Nations highlighted how far women still have to go to fully achieve gender equality.

The campaign utilized Google’s “Auto Complete” feature, which brings up related phrases and words whenever a word is typed into the search bar. They used this feature to demonstrate what would happen when the words “women should…” were typed in the search bar. The auto-complete words and phrases that came up were surprising.

The results that appeared demonstrated the extent to which gender equality is not fully embraced  in society today. For example, phrases such as: “Women should… stay at home, be slaves, be in the kitchen, be put in their place, be disciplined etc,” all appeared. A snap shot of the search results were placed over women’s mouths – as if silencing their voices.

The powerful response quickly spread around the world as people did their own auto-complete searches to see what came up. The campaign drew attention to the fact that women still face many obstacles in achieving gender equality.

Here are some quick facts about gender equality around the world today:

1. More than half of all employed women in the world (and 80 percent in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa) work in an informal work sector where they do not have job security or receive benefits.

2. In most countries around the world, women earn between 70 and 90 percent of men’s wages.

3. Gender inequality is a major cause and effect of hunger and poverty – an estimated 60 percent of chronically hungry people are women and girls.

4. If women had the same access as men to agricultural resources, they could help boost a developing country’s total agricultural production by 2.5 to 4 percent, which would reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12-17 percent (100-150 million people.)

5Women hold only 21.4 percent of the world’s parliamentary seats.

Developing countries face gender inequality more intensely, with many women and girls denied adequate access to education and the employment opportunities enjoyed by men. While women in sub-Saharan Africa spend collectively 40 billion hours each year collecting water, their ability to learn, work and take advantage of opportunities to be entrepreneurial is diminished.

Raising awareness about gender equality through such a powerful ad campaign reminded women everywhere to not become complacent when it comes to fighting for female empowerment in the work place, politics, education and the home. While it is easy to believe that women today have every opportunity open to them and that gender equality is uncontested, the fact is that the majority of women throughout the world do not have every opportunity and are too often oppressed.

This campaign reminded people everywhere that bringing more women into the work force is not only good for poverty reduction, but also for the overall development of countries around the world.

– Andrea Blinkhorn 

Sources: Adweek, UN Women 1, UN Women 2

Photo: The Muslim Times

Google’s Project Link to Connect in Uganda
Google is joining the quest to bring parts of the developing world that are not yet online up to speed, and the parts that are, to a much faster speed. 
Google’s Project Link initiative will build fiber-optic networks to assist in connecting the last few billion people around the world to the internet.

Three million residents in and around Kampala, the capital of Uganda, will be the first to experience Project Link.

The country’s president, Yoweri Museveni, has publically shown disinterest toward developing technology. However, in the case of Uganda, the initiative is predicted to enhance the services of pre-existing providers, rather than create new ones.

According to Google, the city currently has what is described as “pre-broadband” speed, and “unreliable connections.”

Kai Wulff, Google’s Access Field Director, took to the company’s blog to explain how Project Link will strengthen the supply chain between undersea cables that deliver data to Africa and internet service providers.

Testimonials from Kampala residents, featured in a Project Link promotional video, cite the initiative as the way to encourage development, trade possibilities, and improve education. They describe it as being more than just a tool with which to grow business, but also as a vision of prosperity for Uganda.

Project Link is being compared to Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg’s initiative – another attempt to bring the developing world online.

Both Facebook and Google run the risk of appearing exploitative of new markets and ultimately pursuing profits under the guise of philanthropy. A possibility that does not seem far-fetched, considering only 16% of Africa’s population currently has Internet access.

However, the general consensus at the recent Transform Africa Summit, suggests that corporate motivations are not the primary concern for those invested in Africa’s development.

Government officials discussed the importance of public and private sectors working together – something that is evident in Rwanda, where the summit was held.

A successful example of this, is Korea Telecom’s heavy investment in Rwanda. The collaboration between corporation and country has even enabled a 4G broadband rollout to 95% of the population.

It seems Google is following suit. Project Link is not the only endeavor the multinational corporation has undertaken in Africa lately. Its navigation system has been slowly extended to multiple developing countries on the continent.

As of December, owners of Android phones in Somalia, Burundi, and Djibouti could access the voice-guided Google navigation system on their phones.

– Zoë Dean

Sources: Wired, Google blog
Photo: Occupy Corporatism

Philanthropist and Microsoft Co-Founder Bill Gates has been focusing much of his attention on developing and delivering a cure for malaria in impoverished areas of the world. Other tech-gurus have also recently turned their eyes into using their abilities to fight a greater cause – delivering Internet connectivity to these remote and poverty-stricken regions. While Gates obviously believes that it is important to help these disconnected nations engage with the developed world, he told the Financial Times that he finds this priority to be, in fact, a “joke.”

“I certainly love the (information technology) thing,” said Gates, “but when we want to improve lives, you’ve got to deal with more basic things like child survival, child nutrition.” And of course, Gates indeed has a good point. Perhaps connecting the world through technology is important, but is it as important as ridding the world of malaria and other diseases? Should the talents of others be wasted on connectivity and not on health and wellness?

Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, is one of those who is looking to make the internet available to billions from all corners of the world. He believes that the next wave of connectivity will be driven by mobile broadband networks sending densely compressed data delivered by extremely efficient servers. Furthermore, Google’s Project Loon seeks to bring broadband to developing countries by floating transmitters on balloons.

“Take this malaria vaccine, (this) weird thing that I’m thinking of. Hmm, which is more important, connectivity or malaria vaccine? If you think connectivity is the key thing, that’s great. I don’t,” said Gates.

Gates has not been shy about his disapproval for the priority being placed on such programs. Moreover, he continues to try to help the world in his own way, the way he believes to be truly important. Founded in 1997, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation works to alleviate extreme poverty and health crises in developing countries. It seems that Bill is indeed taking this goal to heart.

– Sonia Aviv

  Sources: RedOrbit, The Huffington Post, Business Insider

Top Ten Most Searched People Google Morgan Freeman
Who is the world intrigued with? Look no further than the top searches on Google. The top 10 searched for people provides a very interesting sampling of who represents humanity.

1. Whitney Houston. She became a beloved artist, actress, producer, and model. Guinness world records called her the most awarded female of all time. In later years she had a drug problem but recovered. She was posed to become the next judge on the show “The X-Factor” and revive her career right before she died.

2. Kate Middleton. She is a modern day Cinderella. Now Kate has been voted number one on the Vanity Fair’s best dressed list for three years in a row. Before she won the prince’s heart, she was considered simply “a beautiful commoner.” Today she works closely with five charities which mainly work with children.

3. Amanda Todd. Released a YouTube video about how she was bullied before she committed suicide. The video went viral and is now used to support anti-bullying movements.

4. Michael Clarke Duncan. Became famous when appearing in “The Green Mile” which won him an Academy Award nomination. He was an avid advocate for PETA. Michael died at age 54.

5. One Direction. Popularized by the show “The X-Factor,” the boy band has sold over seven million records. The teenage heart throbs are avid advocates for the organization Comic Relief.

6. Felix Baumgartner. Broke the world record height for sky diving. During his decent, he became the first person to break the sound barrier without using mechanical power.

7. Jeremy Lin. A lesser known professional basketball player until he led a winning streak for the New York Knicks.

8. Morgan Freeman. He acts, directs, and narrates. Some of his recent films include Oblivion, Now You See Me, and The Dark Knight Rises.

9. Joseph Kony. Leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army. He was made famous by an Invisible Children documentary that went viral.

10. Donna Summer. Known as the “undisputed queen of the Seventies disco boom.” Four of her singles topped the billboard chart within a thirteen month period. She held five Grammy Awards.

How can this diverse group of people be summarized? They usually come from the entertainment business. The good outnumber the bad. They are overwhelmingly represented in the media. When given power or influence most chose to represent the underprivileged and fight for inequality. Many gain a following in the wake of their death. Their lives read like a very dramatic story. The kind of story that gets them on the top ten Google searched list.

– Nicole Yancy
Sources: Biography, Wonder’s List, Fox News, E Online
Photo: LoL Forum

Google Blimps
Some companies provide food to people in countries who need it, others may donate supplies to build homes or schools, and some may send doctors or medical supplies to help the sick. Google is taking a different approach, using their technology skills to bring the internet to Africa via blimps.

The company’s goal is to connect nearly 1 billion people across Africa and Asia to the internet with high-flying blimps and balloons. The Google blimps are beneficial because they can cover a wider area while remaining cost-efficient. Google has created an ecosystem of smartphones that are low-cost with low processing power, and the signals are carried by the balloons. Google also is asking the local government regulators for permission to use television airwaves for their project, because these waves are better at transferring signals through buildings and across large areas of land than traditional WiFi infrastructure.

Google isn’t the first to propose a plan that uses balloons and blimps. Afghanistan already uses blimp technology for surveillance purposes by scanning wide areas that wouldn’t be possible or as simple as other forms of ground technology. The U.S. military is also involved in cloud-type projects involving blimps, and the Army uses them for communication. Instead of using traditional satellites to communicate back and forth with troops on the ground, which is very expensive, they use Combat SkySat balloons.

Google has begun a trial launch of their blimps in South African schools to test how well the new technology performs.

Katie Brockman

Source Forbes, Wired