Google Earth Outreach is a partnership program that allows nonprofit organizations and charities to utilize Google Earth mapping and satellite-imagery software to raise awareness about causes. One of the first partnerships Google formed was with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, which is utilizing the software to call attention to the atrocities in Darfur. Areas of the region that were once villages but have been destroyed by war are denoted by a flame emblem, and users can see where refugee camps are now by tent icons. When users click on one of the icons, a new window pops up, providing information on how they can get involved with an organization helping in the region.
Google claims that more than 200 million people use Google Earth. It’s this tech-savvy base that they hope will get plugged into a network of charities through actually seeing pictures from regions around the world. In an interview with CNN, Rebecca Moore (the manager of Google Earth Outreach) said the groups that take advantage of the new program are really "trying to tell a story and trying to move people emotionally. They are trying to inspire action, advocate on behalf of a cause and drive people to, for example, make donations, sign a petition or lobby your congressional representative. They have somewhat unique needs. Therefore we have focused on helping them understand how to do these things."
So far, several environmental advocacy groups, international charities and social justice awareness organizations have all begun incorporating the free service into their campaigns. Currently, though, a $400 grant to receive an upgraded version of the software is only being given to select U.S. nonprofits that are certified by the IRS. At Google Earth Outreach’s website, users can get free tutorials on how to use the software, examples of it in action, case studies of how effective the application can be and tips for plugging in other multimedia into presentations.
The Internet giant has gained a reputation for innovation, but its new philanthropic initiative may prove to be its real hallmark of success.