Balloons the size of tennis courts are providing the internet across Peru.
PROJECT LOON / YOUTUBE
For the last few months, Google has sent several internet-enabled balloons into Peru’s stratosphere, roughly 10 to 30 miles above the Earth, enabling thousands of Peruvians access to the internet they wouldn’t otherwise have. The program, known as Project Loon, has been in development by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, over the last few years.
“Project Loon” has provided much-needed internet accessibility to flood-damaged Peru.
PATENT YOGI / YOUTUBE
As the BBC reports, over the last three months, Peruvians have used the balloons to send 160 GB worth of data, which translates to “two million emails” or “30 million instant messages” that would not have been sent otherwise. As Project Loon engineer, Sal Candido, told the BBC, “The thing about stratosphere balloons is they’re 20km above us, and they’re way above a lot of the chaos that goes on down on the ground.” So as floods and other natural disasters ravage places like Peru, the balloons are relatively safe.
Project Loon has confronted many problems and has implemented several technical advancements.
PROJECT LOON / YOUTUBE
Project Loon’s technology is not without its problems. So far, the longest a balloon has been able to stay airborne is 190 days, which is impressive. However, some have crashed to Earth after only an hour-and-a-half. Once in the air, the balloons are guided by artificial intelligence capable of understanding weather patterns that keep them strategically located in the skies above Peru. The internet is provided by a local service provider. In the case of Peru, Spanish company Telefonica has provided Google’s balloons with internet and telephone services.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, is not a contentious topic among Americans. The program offers young adults who entered the U.S. as children relief from deportation and a chance to live out of the shadows. Now that it has been reinstated, Google wants to help some people achieve the dream of being a DACA recipient.
Google is pledging a quarter of a million dollars to help people apply for DACA.
The Trump administration did everything in their power to end DACA. The constant uncertainty has left hundreds of thousands of young people in limbo. The war waged against Dreamers by the Trump administration came to a temporary end when a federal judge ruled that Chad Wolf was illegally installed as the head of the Department of Homeland Security. It invalidated a member from Wolf stating that no new DACA applications would be approved.
Kent Walker, the SVP of Global Affairs, laid out the case for DACA in an essay.
Walker discusses the uncertainty the hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients currently face after the tumultuous time for the program. He also touches on the economic hardships that has befallen so many because of the pandemic. With so many people out of work, some Dreamers do not have the money to apply or renew their DACA due to a lack of financial resources. For that reason, Google is getting involved.
“We want to do our part, so Google.org is making a $250,000 grant to United We Dream to cover the DACA application fees of over 500 Dreamers,” writes Walker. “This grant builds on over $35 million in support that Google.org and Google employees have contributed over the years to support immigrants and refugees worldwide, including more than $1 million from Googlers and Google.org specifically supporting DACA and domestic immigration efforts through employee giving campaigns led by HOLA (Google’s Latino Employee Resource Group).”
People are celebrating Google for their decision but are calling on Congress to do more.
Congress will ultimately have to decide on what to do for the Dreamers. There has been growing pressure from both sides of the aisle calling on Congress to work towards granting them citizenship. DACA is a risk of being dismantled at any moment. It is up to Congress to come through and deliver a bill to fix the issue once and for all.
“We know this is only a temporary solution. We need legislation that not only protects Dreamers, but also delivers other much-needed reforms,” writes Walker. “We will support efforts by the new Congress and incoming Administration to pass comprehensive immigration reform that improves employment-based visa programs that enhance American competitiveness, gives greater assurance to immigrant workers and employers, and promotes better and more humane immigration processing and border security practices.”
Google searches have become a sort of cultural thermometer that tell us what people are interested in. Obviously, 2020 has been been unlike any ar that any of us have lived before. And the Google data reflects that, as it details not only our likes and dislikes but also our hopes and our fears.
Based on Google’s report on the Year in Search, we see just how difficult 2020 has been for so many of us. But we also see in the data a resilience and hope for the future.
Also, given that many top search spot are taken by Latino artists and musicians, it’s evident that Latino culture is alive and well, despite an onslaught of attacks on our community and culture. Here’s some of the top Google searches from a year that will go down in history as one of the craziest ever.
The Top Ten searches offer proof of just how intense 2020 really was.
The top ten searches in the U.S. this year reflect two of the biggest stories of 2020: the pandemic and the presidential election. The Google lists are based on the searches that had the highest spike this year as compared to the previous year, so they discount terms that are generally searched every year.
This tumultuous year has resulted in some pretty bleak top search results, with “stimulus checks” and “unemployment” among the top news stories, as well as “Australia fires” and “murder hornets,” on top of everything coronavirus-related.
The most searched term was “election results,” with “who is winning the election,” taking seventh place, perhaps reflecting how long it took for the official results to be announced.
The word “coronavirus” was understandably in second place, with “coronavirus update” and “coronavirus symptoms” taking fourth and fifth place, respectively, followed by “Zoom” in sixth place, in a year where we have had to connect virtually amid social-distancing and self-isolation.
Plenty of Latinos also took top search spots on Google, reflecting how we as a community are more important than ever.
In a year of catastrophic loss, one loss seems to have struck a major chord among all of us – the tragic loss of Naya Rivera. The former Glee star was the 8th most searched topic in all of 2020 as people looked for information on her untimely death.
And props to Shakira, who became the 7th most searched person in 2020, thanks in part to her history-making Super Bowl half time performance with Jennifer Lopez – which also saw J Balvin and Bad Bunny make an appearance.
Of course, the Coroanvirus pandemic greatly affected our Google searches this year.
The effect of the pandemic can be seen in a spike in searches for all things virtual, with the U.S. searching for virtual museum tours, virtual classroom, and even virtual marriage.
The pandemic and its subsequent stay-at-home orders have also influenced the most popular “how-to” searches of the year, from “how to cut men’s hair at home” to “how to make hand sanitizer.”
The growing Black Lives Matter movement also helped change Google’s search data in 2020.
From the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd to Breonna Taylor and Elijah McClain, the police killings of unarmed Black Americans has many of us looking for answers and solutions.
Both George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery made the top ten most searched deaths in 2020, pointing to people’s interest in their stories.
But amid all the loss and pain of 2020, the hope and resilience also shines through.
There’s no denying that 2020 was one hell of a year. With so many people out of work, struggling to feed their families, in the hospitals battling for their lives, or simply trying to exist in the U.S. as a Black American, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
However, our Google searches also point to a strong sense of hope and resilience that should give all of us reason to celebrate the future. From vaccines for COVID-19 that were developed at a record-breaking speed to history-making searches for “how to help…,” it’s obvious that the human spirt and desire to keep moving forward is alive as it ever was.