CT at Google: Using Data and Creativity to Provide Support in Times of Disaster

CT at Google: Using Data and Creativity to Provide Support in Times of Disaster


Raquel: A natural disaster–
an earthquake, a flood, or a hurricane– it could happen at any time, and it’s often
totally unexpected. And during an event like that, it could be
that power goes down; it could be
that roads are inaccessible. But often we’re finding
that people with mobile phones still have
some limited battery left, and often that can be their
only form of communication. So the field of crisis response
ranges from, in definition– could mean people who are physically responding
to disasters, but it could also mean people who are digitally responding
to disasters. There’s an emerging need
to make sure that people’s everyday tools
that they’re used to using are the same tools
that are useful during a time of crisis. So if you’re used to using Google Search
to find information, it makes sense that you would
use that same tool–Search– in order to learn
about something after a natural disaster. The goal of
Google Crisis Response is to make information available
to users immediately before, during,
and after a crisis. Our team provides solutions
and tools to everyday users that, ideally, help them stay
out of harm’s way and help them
to make good decisions to take care of themselves,
their friends, and their family during natural disasters. That information should be
relevant to users and it should be actionable. They should be able to take
that information and do something with it. Ezra:
When approaching any problem, it’s important not
to just build a solution that’s specific to
the one instance of the problem you have in front of you. So it’s important
to always think how you can build solutions that
are general and flexible enough that they can easily adapt to handling many different
instances of similar problems. Raquel:
A flood and an earthquake are two completely different
types of disasters. Someone in the United States
might experience a particular type of event
completely differently than somebody who lives, say,
in the Philippines. So when building technology, we need to make sure
that we build something that applies to multiple types
of disasters, many different types of users, but at the same time,
we want it to be relevant to any given person so that that person can find
what they need for that situation. So what’s amazing is that even
a small team like ours can build something
that has the potential to impact millions of people. Ezra:
One challenge our team has is how to measure the impact
of our products. How do we know whether they’re
actually achieving their goals? We want to make sure
that any information we provide to our users
is actually relevant to them. Some of these things are not
so easy to measure, so we have to come up
with creative ways to try and evaluate them. Paypal: We wanted to find
a measurement or metric to help guild our team’s work. So after doing internal
and external research, we found a metric that tries to
measure how much harm is reduced before, during, and after
a disaster. In addition,
we analyzed lots of data, such as the information needs and what people
are searching for before a disaster hits. After doing our analysis,
we found that, for us, focusing on early warnings is really where we could have
much more impact and specifically
around disaster types tropical storms and floods, because they have such a high
vulnerable population globally. Ezra: One of the solutions we’ve
developed is Public Alerts, which tries to provide early
warning in times of disaster by getting official
emergency bulletins from forecasting agencies and bringing them
to potentially affected users. Even after a disaster has
passed, our work isn’t done. We need to evaluate the impact
that we had to see if we’re reaching the
goals that we set for ourselves. For example, how many of
the users in the affected area did we reach with our alerts? And of those that we reached,
did they find our alerts useful? Payal: When you’re building
a technology or solution, it’s important for you
to measure your impact and make sure you’re meeting
your goals. Raquel:
Without understanding the user, you could provide all
the information in the world and the user wouldn’t be able
to absorb it. Ezra: It’s really the power
of data and internet that makes our work possible
on a global scale, and it’s through constant
measurement and evaluation that we can make our solutions
better over time. Raquel: Computational thinking
is critical to any computer scientist’s job. Being able to take a problem, break it down into many
different sized pieces, work on each one individually, and eventually bring it all
together to solve something– that’s a skill
that can benefit anyone, even beyond computer science.

One thought on “CT at Google: Using Data and Creativity to Provide Support in Times of Disaster

  1. No entiendo ni mierda :V

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