It shouldn’t be unusual, but Google’s new open-source project Crisis Info Hub, which seeks to help refugees access important information about their journey, feels strangely, purely, good in an industry that has long worried itself more with how to get food to your door faster rather than how to get food on the tables of people who are hungry.
In a welcome change from the traditionally first-world “problems” that the tech industry at large tries to solve, Google’s latest initiative leverages its technical prowess to provide migrants with crucial data including travel conditions, lodging options, danger warnings, and the all-important registration information. It’s a follow-up to the Internet giant’s online fundraiser last month that sought to raise money for the crisis overseas, which managed to collect $5.5 million in just two days.
To further its efforts, Google recognized the importance of information to individuals and families leaving their homes for foreign lands, and decided to do what they do best — search — and put it in the hands of those who need it most. While the majority of the migrant population has access to smartphones, understanding how to use them to their advantage is not always the easiest process. “One issue identified was the the lack of timely, hyperlocal information for refugees,” says Google on its official blog. “Working with the International Rescue Committee and Mercy Corps, we’ve developed an open-source project called “Crisis Info Hub” to disseminate such information in a lightweight, battery-saving way.”
Simple, straightforward, and totally necessary, the site presents migrants with a wealth of information, ensuring their already-difficult journey is not further complicated by logistical uncertainty once they’ve arrived in various refugee hubs. And due to its open source nature, the entirety of Google’s enormous user base can contribute to the Google docs that are used to populate the Hub.
Currently, the Crisis Info Hub is live in Lesvos, Greece, but Google promises that more locations are soon to be added. Moreover, because most migrants do not primarily communicate in English, Google is “asking anyone who knows the languages spoken by refugees or the countries they’re traveling through to help us improve translations through Google Translate Community.”
Already, the tech company has added Arabic as its 28th language for instant visual translation, but this barely scratches the surface of the thousands of languages spoken across the world.
“In the coming weeks,” Google continues, “we’ll continue to work closely with our partners on the ground to evaluate how else we can bring the best of Google’s resources to help out with this tragic situation.” And hopefully, with such a huge presence in the tech community leading the charge, more companies will follow suit and lend their own expertise to improving the worsening situation across the sea.
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