Google goes Bollywood

Google is at it again. This time it’s all set to revolutionize the world of philanthropy with Google.org, its for-profit charitable arm that, with $1 billion in seed money, is out to tackle global poverty, protect the environment, and spur energy innovations. So, how does Google aim to achieve these ambitious goals? One NGO, Planet Read, one ...

607075_planetread5.jpg
607075_planetread5.jpg

Google is at it again. This time it's all set to revolutionize the world of philanthropy with Google.org, its for-profit charitable arm that, with $1 billion in seed money, is out to tackle global poverty, protect the environment, and spur energy innovations. So, how does Google aim to achieve these ambitious goals? One NGO, Planet Read, one of Google's first grant recipients, offers a look at how Google would go about it.

There has been much ado in the press about India's highly–educated, English-speaking workforce stealing white-collar American jobs. But that attention masks the fact that almost 50 percent of India is without access to literacy programs. Planet Read, created by Biju Kothari, aims to change all that. By combining televised Bollywood song and dance routines (the infatuation of millions of Indians) with karaoke-style subtitling, Kothari hopes that people who ordinarily have no reading practice will follow the words as they watch and sing along.

On the Google blog last year, Kothari wrote:

Google is at it again. This time it’s all set to revolutionize the world of philanthropy with Google.org, its for-profit charitable arm that, with $1 billion in seed money, is out to tackle global poverty, protect the environment, and spur energy innovations. So, how does Google aim to achieve these ambitious goals? One NGO, Planet Read, one of Google’s first grant recipients, offers a look at how Google would go about it.

There has been much ado in the press about India’s highly–educated, English-speaking workforce stealing white-collar American jobs. But that attention masks the fact that almost 50 percent of India is without access to literacy programs. Planet Read, created by Biju Kothari, aims to change all that. By combining televised Bollywood song and dance routines (the infatuation of millions of Indians) with karaoke-style subtitling, Kothari hopes that people who ordinarily have no reading practice will follow the words as they watch and sing along.

On the Google blog last year, Kothari wrote:

More than 500 million people in India have access to TV and 40 percent of these viewers have low literacy skills and are poor. Through PlanetRead’s approach, over 200 million early-literates in India are getting weekly reading practice from Same Language Subtitling (SLS) using TV. The cost of SLS? Every U.S. dollar covers regular reading for 10,000 people – for a year.

Here’s Google.org’s Executive Director Larry Brilliant (click on Press) testing out the program. Although it’s thought of as a source for innovation, Google’s real talents lie in recognizing good ideas and making them better. Google has changed the lives of many in the devopling world by making it easier to access information, books, newspapers and even create revenue. Until now, this impact has been incidental, but with Google supporting programs like Planet Read, one looks forward to seeing what the little company that became a household verb can do for the developing world.

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