GOOGLE PHILANTHROPY UP HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS – Donations slated to produce affordable renewable energy, fight poverty and alleviate risk of pandemics3 February 2008
The philanthropic arm of the search engine Google plans to boost spending to “hundreds of millions of dollars” in the next few years.
Larry Brilliant, who is running the operation, said expenditure would rise significantly on efforts to produce affordable renewable energy, fight poverty and alleviate the risk of pandemics.
Mr Brilliant said that he had been “living under a microscope” since his appointment in April 2006, but had now concluded extensive internal and external consultations and drawn up his priorities.
He said they were guided by three principles: whether they would benefit the poorest, could be scaled up to reduce unit costs over time, and exploited Google’s comparative advantage.
He said programmes would include equity to fill the “missing middle” in funding for entrepreneurs between micro-credit and bank loans; systems to detect early signs of disease outbreaks; tools to help governments in developing countries operate more efficiently and citizens to evaluate their services; and efforts to cut the price of renewable energy to 1-3 cents per kilowatt hour “in years not decades”.
Mr Brilliant said the greatest problem was “not finding five things to do, but 95 things not to do”. He said the most painful topic for him to abandon, given his background in smallpox and polio eradication work, was fighting malaria, but he had hired 40 employees, and then “the hardest part, to listen to them”.
He said Google’s co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page were both very involved in the organisation, with Mr Page chairing a weekly meeting and spending all his vacation time travelling to low-income countries where he “trained himself to look at poverty”. He said he valued “their minds” at least as much as their money.
Google has allocated $90m to the Google Foundation, a classic US tax-exempt foundation, of which $85m remains today, with no expectation of further money.
The bulk of its philanthropic activities will be funded through Google.org, a more innovative non-charitable organisation, which allows it to invest in profitable activities and lobby in a way that is forbidden for US tax-exempt foundations and requires less public disclosure.
The company committed to spend $175m by the end of 2008, but pledged to fund Google.org within a maximum of 20 years with 30m of its shares and 1 per cent of annual profits.
See Related: PHILANTHROPY
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