Google, with its powerful search-engine, database technologies and its satellite-camera driven Google Earth project that monitors the planet's structures closely, is often seen as a high-technology snoop by those who believe that sharing too much information with it could lead to a loss of privacy or secrets.
But now, turning the impression on its head, the world's hottest Internet company is spying for good causes, as it were. Google.org, the public service initiative under which Google Inc invests in charities, said on Friday it will invest $25 million through global partners to help society tackle disease, empower the poor and develop renewable energy.
At the heart of the funding – a fifth of which is coming into India this year --- is the desire to "capture information" in a manner that helps generate insights that could help solve the world's pressing problems, Google officials say.
"Information leads to accountability, which leads to change," Sonal Shah, an Indian-born executive of Google.org, told
. "We are talking about information on communities. And they are not on the Net."
In India, the project's beneficiaries include Pratham, a non-governmental organization which will prepare a Nationwide Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), Bangalore-based Centre for Budget and Policy Studies (CBPS), which will create a budget information service on local governments, the Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research which will study urban governance and Chennai-based Institute of Finance Management and Research which will collect district-level data on development issues.