Scott Harrison's organization called Charity: Water has funded nearly 7,000 clean water projects in some of the poorest areas of the world.
Harrison wanted to add sensors to the wells to give donors more assurances about the projects. But raising millions of dollars for the innovation was a problem.
Google stepped in with major funding to create and install sensors on 4,000 wells across Africa that will send back real-time data on the water flow. The $5 million grant is part of the first class of Google's Global Impact Awards totaling $23 million to spur innovation among nonprofits.
Experts say the new annual grants are a part of a growing trend in venture philanthropy from donors who see technology as an instrument for social change.