Google Do-Gooder: Brilliant - InformationWeek

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11/5/2008
05:30 PM
Fritz Nelson
Fritz Nelson
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Google Do-Gooder: Brilliant

Dr. Larry Brilliant, today's first speaker at the annual Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, has marked a turn in the tone of this seminal conference. Brilliant, a long-time philanthropist who has spent his life helping fight disease around the world, is the executive director of Google.Org, the search giant's attempt to make a difference in the world, and he opened the main stage conversations and "high orde

Dr. Larry Brilliant, today's first speaker at the annual Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, has marked a turn in the tone of this seminal conference. Brilliant, a long-time philanthropist who has spent his life helping fight disease around the world, is the executive director of Google.Org, the search giant's attempt to make a difference in the world, and he opened the main stage conversations and "high order bits," with John Battelle and Tim O'Reilly.

Google.org swiped the idea of taking 1% of its equity and profits and employee time to tackle the world's biggest problems from Salesforce.com, Brilliant openly admitted. The organization is not only a line-item in the Google business, but it operates as a C corporation, so it can invest and lobby, for example.

Google.org has three major initiatives, behind which it has "put to work" (his words) $100 million: First, Inform and Empower creates community activism by using information -- information about things like the quality of water and education -- to drive change. Second, Predict and Prevent uses several tools, like HealthMap to discover and predict epidemics and map them geographically weeks before CDC. And finally, RE<C (renewable energy is cheaper than coal) is an effort to drive money into renewable energy sources so that those will become cheaper than existing sources.

Brilliant tied it all together by saying that today, more than ever, people are searching for meaning in our lives. While Google.org is part of Google, it is kept strictly separate and the discussion hovered around what it will take to infuse this mentality throughout all corporations.

It seems, in looking through the agenda for this year's Summit and listening to the opening welcome from Battelle and O'Reilly, their vision for the future of the Web platform will be in driving social change, meaningful change.

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