Policy by the Numbers
Data for policymaking from Google and friends.
Visualize the world’s economic recovery and win $2,000
Thursday, March 29, 2012
The summer before I started looking for jobs, Bear Stearns collapsed. What my classmates and I had thought would be a challenging task turned into a near-impossible one. For most of us, this economic recession has hit home in one way or another as jobless rates reached 9.6% in both the
in 2010—the highest they’ve been in almost 30 years. If faulty numbers caused the housing bubble that dragged us down, we need to start crunching real numbers to figure out how to get us out of this slump.
We’ve teamed up with the
to launch a
to find the best visualization of public data sets and figure out which government policies are reversing the trend. Using information from the World Economic Forum, World Bank,
UN, World Trade Organisation, IMF and some of the world's major economic experts, we want you to make an argument about how to generate sustainable growth in the 21st century.
Finding solutions to these problems is critical to the future of our society and economy. To debate the issues that surface in the visualizations, we’ll be co-hosting public conversations via Google+ hangouts that are anchored in hard numbers. Stay tuned to this blog or the Guardian Datastore for details.
The competition is open to U.K. and U.S. citizens with a prize of $2,000 going to the most compelling, beautiful and informed visualization. Entries are due by May 21 and results will be published on the Guardian Datastore’s new site,
Show and Tell
A new economic reality is setting in, and if we are going to master it, we need citizens and leaders alike to invest in figuring out how to adapt. Check out the data from our list or bring your own as long as it’s free and available to the public -- and let us know what you think by submitting an entry to
posted by Dorothy Chou, Senior Policy Analyst at Google
Sony's other disruptive copying technology
Thursday, March 22, 2012
, we talked about measuring the net impact of technological changes. One of the challenges here is that the uses of technologies may change over time and be quite unexpected.
A classic example of this is the
, one of the first VCRs. In 1976, certain copyright holders sued Sony out of
that the VCR would undermine existing revenue streams, but ultimately they lost the court case and the device grew the economic pie for everyone. It created new markets for movie rentals and sales, which now represent the majority of Hollywood’s revenues.
Sony’s technology also drove creativity in more subtle, but equally important, ways. The Betamax built on an existing copying technology that came out in 1967, called the
Sony Video Rover
The Rover was a camera kit, and while it was
as a way to record family events, people quickly started putting it to other, unexpected, uses.
One of those uses led to the television show “Saturday Night Live.” As Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad write in
their early history of the show, "The technology spawned a movement known as guerrilla television, which was populated by hundreds of long-hairs carrying [recorder] units, nascent auteurs who'd previously had no access to the mechanisms of television production and who set out to invent their own kind of programs” (
). Bill Murray, Jon Belushi and other comedy legends were among those “auteurs.” At that time, NBC ran Johnny Carson reruns at 11:30 PM every Saturday because they couldn’t sell advertising against anyone else at this hour. Today, Saturday Night Live—which occupies that spot—is going on its 37th season.
The Rover and the Betamax may seem like unrelated technologies, but they are not. Sony created technology to quickly and cheaply copy moving pictures and sound to portable film. While one recorded from a lens and the other could record from a television directly, they were both built on the same underlying tools.
How much creativity was Sony’s copying technology responsible for? We’ll never be able to measure exactly, just as we’ll never know what the world would have been like if the VCR court case in 1976 had gone the other way.
say is that the cost of producing, distributing and consuming video continues to fall rapidly. So rapidly, in fact, that today there is one hour of video uploaded to YouTube every second. As that platform grows, it will continue to create incredible new opportunities for artists and fans alike.
If history is any guide, then the results of this increase will be
inevitable and yet still surprising
Posted by Derek Slater, Policy Manager at Google
Pinball & data-driven public policy
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Over the last 40 years, copying technology decimated an industry that was once bigger than Hollywood.
What should public policy have to say about the fall of the pinball industry and the technological changes that led to it? Obviously, no one would support a Pinball Protection Act—but why not? If you care about data-driven public policy, it’s an interesting exercise.
As you can learn about in the documentary film,
Special When Lit
), pinball made more money for the American economy between 1955-1970 than the movie industry. Though pinball was
in many major markets during this time (with New York
prohibition-style raids on arcades), teenagers went in droves down to “honky tonks” to get their fix, and popular media like
But as video game platforms flourished, the pinball industry faded, and now only a single company manufacturers pinball machines in the U.S.
If we measure innovation by whether competitors copied to get an edge or whether particular competitors were harmed, we’re measuring it wrong. After all, developers for systems like
copied the idea of pinball and adapted it to their systems; similarly, pinball came
with Microsoft Windows 95, without a license fee being paid to pinball’s original creators. But even though this copying removed some incentive for kids to trek down to arcades and thus clearly harmed traditional pinball companies over the long run, we wouldn’t consider it bad for society.
The right measurements would focus more on the net economic and social impact of a technological shift. Of course, a portion of the impact was negative for some people, but the net impact of the video game industry has been extraordinary. Consider these metrics, for example: video games alone are now an
; consumers spend
enjoying games than ever before; and “the art of video games” is now an
at the Smithsonian.
This is a simple example that is meant to illustrate a simple point, because it’s a lesson that has implications for public policy more generally. Technological changes that may initially seem like a net negative to some sectors may end up being huge net positives for those same sectors. In order to harness those changes and expand their impact on society even further, public policy needs to measure them right. Only then can we start to make data-driven policy a reality.
Posted by Derek Slater, Policy Manager at Google
A historical anecdote about open data: the Domesday Book
Monday, March 19, 2012
As an open data and open government advocate, I get drawn into conversations with developers, dataset owners and bureaucrats about the difficulty in identifying, cleaning and then publishing datasets in the open. As a historian, I know that half the challenge in good economic history is identifying the appropriate data sources.
Nine hundred and twenty six years ago, William the Conqueror ordered a thorough survey of the property and economy of his recently acquired British Islands. Teams of commissioners visited 13,000 villages, towns and estates and interviewed up to 62,000 witnesses. Their work produced the data that has become known as
the Domesday Book
This data proved critical for developing strategy in the new Norman Court. Facing civil unrest and foreign invasion, the Court needed an accurate count of the financial and human capital available while evaluating their economic, political and military options.
Although there had been previous surveys, inquests and local roll-taking elsewhere in Europe, the Domesday Book looms as a landmark in data collection and analysis in the West. It provides a snapshot of the wealth, land holdings, animal population, household possessions and feudal relationships among the gentry and nobility in William’s kingdom. Really, it’s a record of how the 1% rolled a thousand years ago.
Collecting the data was
not an easy process
. In fact, the standards for data collection were constantly evolving as the survey was conducted; agricultural, economic and seigneurial data sources had not been combined before; the process of reviewing and correcting data was initially quite cumbersome; and the final product was still the product of a particularly focused and determined individual.
Today, technology has made the collection of social, economic and simply transactional data far simpler, but we haven’t really begun to systematically explore how these volumes of data can help governments and communities address their fundamental public policy challenges. Much of the initiative around open data has been the result of the energetic efforts of a small number of innovators and their supporters. Open data is still largely characterized by the small scale project with localized relevance.
Which makes the
project a wonderful link between the past and present. Thanks to academics at the University of Hull and
, an open data volunteer, the data from the Domesday Book has been translated for the technology age.
lets the ordinary web surfer sort through this historic data by location, name or by reference to the book itself. The results are overlaid on contemporary maps of Great Britain. The ability to easily drill through centuries of history and reveal data about a community, a family or a region like this is stunning. Data collected ages ago continues to deliver results and insight.
The lasting impact of the Domesday book is often fresh in my mind when I think about the open data initiatives being launched around the world. The capacity to liberate and share data is only just beginning to affect our relationship with the government and with our communities. With every new collaboration, whether at a local level, with the World Bank, the United Nations or through the Open Government Partnership, we can imagine open data achieving scale and an impact similar to that of the Domesday Book in its time.
Posted by Colin McKay, Canadian Public Policy Manager at Google
Let women lead in Asia
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Each year, International Women’s Day reminds us of the remarkable progress that has been made in the empowerment of women around the world. A century ago, just two countries in the world allowed women to vote. Today, there are more female heads of state, ministers and parliamentarians than ever.
Asia is not without
of female political leaders. Corazon Aquino was elected as the Philippines’ first female president in 1986. Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Prize winning opposition leader in Myanmar, led the National League of Democracy to election victory in 1990, although the results were eventually overruled by the military junta. In 2011, Yingluck Shinawatra was elected Thailand’s first female prime minister at the age of 44.
But these are the exceptions. The political world in Asia remains dominated by men, and we need more women leaders who can broaden our political horizons.
There are certain strengths that women bring to the table that are important to leadership roles. In many countries around the world, women legislators have played a key role in passing progressive laws on domestic violence, employment, health care, social welfare and land reforms. As former Secretary of Defense Joseph Nye has
, this is partly because women leaders tend to be more collaborative and understand how to use the soft powers of persuasion and diplomacy in addition to the hard power of command. Perhaps we could draw inspirations from Lung Ying-tai, a female cultural icon and the newly-appointed cultural minister of Taiwan, who
that she wanted to be the defense minister so that she could spend the hefty military budget on increasing mutual understanding by throwing cultural events!
Asia stands out for its gap between female and male participation in politics and government. According to the UN report
The World’s Women in 2010
, the average proportion of women in parliament in the four subregions of Asia ranges from 14% in East Asia to 20% in Southeast Asia.
from the World Economic Forum show that, with the exception of Nepal, no Asian nations have reached the 30% mark for women participation in parliament and ministerial positions.
Governments can play a key role in bringing more women into political decision making. According to a recent UN report,
2011 - 2012 Progress of the World’s Women: In Pursuit of Justice
, at least 23 of the 28 countries that have reached or exceeded 30% female participation in parliaments have used quotas to boost the number of women legislators.
The Nordic countries were early pioneers in bringing more women into governments and legislatures. In the 1970s, political parties in Denmark, Sweden and Norway introduced voluntary gender quotas. Today, Sweden has among the highest percentage (45%) of women in parliament in the world, while other Nordic countries are also strong in this respect. Finland and Norway now have more female ministers than male ones. Nepal is one rare bright spot in Asia. In 2007, it passed the Interim Constitution which stipulated that at least one third of parliamentary election candidates must be women.
Of course, reserving quotas for women in government is far from what is needed to empower women politically. It can take a long time to change outdated gender views, not only among men but also among women themselves. But these quotas send an important signal to societies, and will stimulate change and encourage women to be more publicly visible. Together with other supportive policies, women can contribute much to the social well-being of Asia.
For more information, check out the
Global Gender Gap Index
in Google’s Public Data Explorer.
posted by Andy Yee, Policy Analyst at Google
Think STEAM, not STEM, to shape America’s next great innovators
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Being Commander-in-Chief now includes learning how to fire a marshmallow cannon. President Obama picked up this skill from students participating in the
2012 White House Science Fair
, which promoted the administration’s focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Renewed interest in STEM piqued in the mid-2000s, when President Bush pegged these subjects as keys to jumpstarting America’s diminishing global competitiveness. Since then, STEM has been at the forefront of education reform discussions including the $250 million funding of 2010’s “
Educate to Innovate
” Act, aimed at preparing and training math and science teachers.
The activity around STEM makes sense, as students accelerating in these fields will no doubt help to restore our country’s standing as a leading innovator. But the next generation of STEM whiz kids will also need to be able to apply their creativity to solve problems. STEAM not STEM, a rallying call gaining momentum, asks for the arts (A) to be included in STEM discussions. Sadly, while STEM education funding initiatives have been making headlines, cuts in arts education programs have been relegated to the back pages. The National Endowment for the Arts recently found that fewer than half of adults report receiving any arts lessons or classes in schools as a student, a percentage that has been decreasing since the 1980s (
Rabkin and Hedberg
The urge to discount the arts misses the bigger picture, as many of the world’s most successful STEM-ers are also known for their incredible creativity. In
Reinvesting in Arts Education
, the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities listed the multiple outcomes of arts programs including problem solving, critical and creative thinking, dealing with ambiguity and complexity, integration of multiple skill sets, intellectual risk taking, and teamwork. At Michigan State University, Robert Root-Bernstein uncovered that Nobel laureates in the sciences were 22 times more likely to be involved in the performing arts than scientists in general (
). Reading, writing, drawing, acting, and designing are the building blocks of innovation and exploration; students can be as well versed in math and science problems as ever, but it’s the coupling of left-brain skills (logic, analysis, objectivity) and right-brain activity (intuition, thoughtfulness, subjectivity) that produces bravery and breakthroughs.
operates eight writing and tutoring centers across the country, and we recognize multiple opportunities for incorporating STEAM projects within our focus on homework completion and helping students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing. On any given day at an 826 center, you might find a student inventing and writing species descriptions for mythical creatures, working with a tutor to research and write a report on how robots work, or interviewing a professional scientist for a student-authored publication. We believe that whether a child will go on to be the next Ernest Hemingway or Ernest Rutherford, a wily imagination, honed creativity, and strong ability to communicate one’s ideas are essential to future success.
posted by Ryan Lewis, Director of Research and Evaluation at
Keeping an “OER mind” about shared resources for education
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
With ever-increasing demands being placed on our education system, including new skill sets that need to be taught to create a pipeline that can fill 21st century jobs, we must figure out how to make high-quality education more accessible to more people without overburdening our existing educational institutions. The Internet, and the platforms, tools and programs it enables, will surely be a part of the answer to this challenge.
Open Educational Resources (OER) are one piece of the solution. OER are teaching and learning resources that anyone can share, reuse and remix. As part of our ongoing commitment to increasing access to a cost-effective, high-quality education, we’re supporting the
— a collaboration of higher education institutions and associated organizations from around the world creating OER — in organizing
Open Education Week 2012
, which begins today.
An example of OER in action is
, a recent non-profit initiative of Rice University and
to offer students free, professional quality textbooks that meet scope and sequence requirements for several courses. They
that these books could save students over $90 million in the next five years. Non-profit isn’t the only model for open education.
Flat World Knowledge
has built a business around OER by providing free online access to open textbooks, then selling print-on-demand copies and supplemental materials.
We’ll be acknowledging OER week through a panel event in Washington, DC, and over on our
+Google in Education page
, where we’ll be posting articles, sharing stories and interviews about the benefits of open education resources. Opening these resources to everyone can improve the quality of education while getting more out of our investments in educational resources. We hope you’ll join us in celebrating Open Education Week. Go to
to learn more and get involved.
posted by Maggie Johnson, Director of Education and University Relations,
Teacher Salary Project
Friday, March 9, 2012
Imagine a day when college students stay up at night worrying about a future in the teaching profession the same way many of them worry now about which medical school will accept them. Creating a profession so desirable is an exciting and important prospect. It’s not impossible, but it will require educators, legislators and everyday Americans to change our culture and make teaching a rewarding career, both financially and professionally. Now is a perfect time to call for such a change.
anticipates a shortage of 16 million college-educated adults in the U.S. workforce by 2025. In addition to that gap,
7,000 students drop out of school every day
. Teachers, the most important component of a school campus, need our respect and support, and more than thank you notes with apples or discounts at their local tanning salon. They need professional salaries, healthy working conditions and autonomy to meet high standards.
Here are some statistics highlighting the urgent need for policy change:
68% of college students
said they would consider teaching if paid more than 50% of the occupations they were considering.
Teachers are paid
than other professionals with similar training.
92.4% of teachers
use their own money to buy supplies.
Every year in the U.S.,
14% of teachers
leave the profession, and in urban areas, 20% leave. This turnover costs the country
$7 billion dollars
each year, and threatens the ability of individual schools and communities to thrive.
62% of teachers
have second jobs outside the classroom to make ends meet.
In 1970, starting teachers earned $2,000/year less than starting attorneys in NYC. Today, a starting teacher earns
and a starting attorney earns $160K.
Compelled by this data, we sought to create a persuasive narrative that captures the value of teachers—and counters the
they’ve taken over the past 18 months.
is a feature-length documentary film that delves into the core of our schools as seen through the eyes of U.S. teachers. It’s accompanied by an
packed with links, statistics and summaries of positive policy changes at the local level.
1.8 of our 3.2 million teachers
are about to retire and we can use this opportunity to ask ourselves: How can we make sure college students who are interested in teaching don’t feel condemned to a vow of poverty by taking on this important role, especially given the huge college loan debt they face? How do we stop lambasting this group of professionals and get communities behind them? And, finally, when we have great people in the classroom, what conditions and salaries are needed to keep them there?
2011 Gates Foundation and Scholastic study
points to the fact that many working teachers don’t have salary on the top of their list for school improvement. We can’t allow this information to let America off the hook. Teachers who have found ways to make ends meet will always rank their students’ needs above their own, but low salaries dissuade college students from teaching and push educators out of the classroom.
We know that our country’s greatest strength is each child sitting in a school today—their future innovations, contributions and families. So, why continue to undernourish that asset?
posted by Nínive Calegari, a former public school teacher, co-producer of
American Teacher Project
and co-founder of
Understanding network performance, 460 terabytes at a time
Monday, March 5, 2012
In 2009, Google helped a group of researchers and industry partners
(M-Lab), an open platform for broadband measurement tools. Since then, the platform has produced
of open data to help users, researchers, companies, policymakers and others in the Internet community better understand the performance of broadband connections.
So what can one do with all that data? Because the data’s open, anyone can build on top of it, and that’s led to some exciting experiments.
We’ve been happy to see people using M-Lab not just to measure their own individual broadband connection, but also to make the aggregate data intelligible beyond the laboratory. In addition to a number of national regulators who use M-Lab tests and data to inform their decisions, individual developers and researchers are digging into the numbers and exposing the stories they tell. Below are just a few cool examples of what’s possible using 460+ terabytes of open measurement data in combination with some serious creativity:
event this summer, developers and designers working out of Italy and the UK created an
in which users can correlate data from M-Lab’s NDT tests with other global metrics from
. In the screenshot below, we can see a correlation between M-Lab download speed and Eurostat data giving statistics on regular Internet use and population size. Not surprisingly, countries with better speeds show increased Internet use.
Tony Blank, a developer from Colorado, used data from M-Lab’s Glasnost tool, which helps users measure whether particular applications are being throttled by their broadband provider. His visualization,
, allows you to explore a dynamic, per-application view of the throttled applications worldwide.
Finally, Tiziana Refice, a researcher at Google, worked to join download throughput numbers from M-Lab’s NDT tool with OECD advertised speed data. What we see here is the top portion of a
, showing data for all countries (where it’s available). As the table demonstrates, in all cases the median measured download speed is well below the median advertised speed.
There are many, many more visualizations where those came from, and I encourage you to
and get to know some of the surprising and unsurprising conclusions that we’re able to make based on cool uses of good, open data.
posted by Meredith Whittaker, Program Manager for Google Research who focuses on network measurement
Future of Music
Hangouts on Air
Internet of Things
Oxford Internet Institute
The authors of these posts include Googlers and guest bloggers. Opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent Google’s views. We hope the numbers presented will inspire meaningful conversations and inform policy debates.
Public Policy Blog
Official Android Blog
Lat Long Blog
Ads Developer Blog
Android Developers Blog