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Google Starts Project to Map ‘Zika’ Virus also Donates $1Million

March 3, 2016 - Written By Curtis Bond

For all of Google’s tech advancements and industry-leading web services, the company has a strong reputation as one of the most philanthropic organizations in the entire world. In the past, the company has donated portions of its considerable profits to several global foundations and charities, having been consistently ranked among the most generous companies in the United States each year. It’s not always just about the money either, as Google regularly contributes in ways that go beyond simply writing a check; in fact, they oftentimes utilize their own technology and engineering acumen as a means of assisting other organizations in various humanitarian efforts (e.g. earlier this year they introduced charitable ‘Donation Cards’ on YouTube).

In a recent partnership with the United Nation’s Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the company once again looks to affect change with both their bank account and their technological prowess. Specifically, both organizations are working together to tackle the so-called Zika virus, an infection believed to cause birth defects in children. Researchers believe the Zika virus might be linked to a condition known as microcephaly (a birth defect signified by smaller-than-normal heads in affected children) which could then lead to even greater challenges in a child’s early development. Zika has been particularly troublesome for Brazil, and the country has reported thousands of individual cases throughout the past year. Moreover, health professionals are currently limited in their ability to accurately test for the virus, making it even more difficult to effectively contain the outbreak.

For their part, Google donated $1 million to UNICEF to assist volunteers working in the field, particularly in Brazil and other Latin American nations. The company took their efforts a step further, however, by providing UNICEF with several volunteer members of their own expertly-qualified engineering team. The team’s objective will be developing a platform for mapping potential outbreaks through a variety of sources, such as weather and travel patterns. The upshot is providing a method of illustrating when and where Zika outbreaks are most probable, thus providing researchers and medical professionals with a more effective means of curbing the virus’s progression throughout Latin America. In typical Google fashion, the company labels their platform as “open source”, meaning that interested third parties will have the opportunity to contribute to its growth and development.