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It was a cool way to launch a new book on an important subject. Teenagers and teachers from all over Europe recently converged at the European Parliament in Brussels to promote the educational handbook The Web we Want. The handbook for 13-16 year olds, developed by European Schoolnet in partnership with Liberty Global and us, outlines how teenagers can benefit from the web while staying safe. Click here to download.



For now, the book is only available in English. In 2014, our goal is to make the handbook available in eight additional languages.

The new handbook is just the latest of our educational materials. The YouTube Digital Citizenship Curriculum helps high school teachers educate their students on how to flag dangerous content. Classes from the Google Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum identify online tricks and scams. In Germany we’ve partnered with local NGO`s to publish a set of lesson plans to address topics like online reputation. The 250-page curriculum is available for free.

For updates on our efforts to support kids, students, teachers and parents exploring the web in a safe and confident way make sure to check our education resources and Good to Know page.

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If you are a butcher, sweet shop, clog seller, or baby clothes retailer - or any other small business - that has moved online, enter the euronews Business Awards. Broadcaster euronews and Google are looking for stories of how European small to medium sized enterprises are using the internet to successfully attract new customers, grow market share or go global.



Here’s how to enter. Film a video of up to one minute explaining how your business has moved online. Upload it to euronews Business Awards YouTube channel and choose one of the three categories: growing online, going international; or women in business.

Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a budding film director. We are not looking for beautifully shot videos using the latest in film technology and an array of props. A simple, homemade film shot with a simple, off-the-shelf video camera or even a mobile phone will be fine. The most important thing is to tell an interesting tale about a small business and the Internet. Any employee of the business is welcome to participate.

Winners will be announced during the European Commission’s SME Week in mid-October. They will be featured on euronews and win an all-expenses-paid trip to a prize-giving event in Brussels, a Galaxy Nexus phone, a Chromebook and online training from Google experts.

We’ve long believed that the Internet helps create innovative new small businesses - and that small businesses that go online, grow faster, export more and create more jobs than their offline competitors. A recent study coming out of Germany from the IW Cologne consultants found that German entrepreneurs have founded 28,000 new businesses over the past five years using online services from Google and other web companies. These new businesses have created nearly 100,000 new jobs and in 2010 generated EUR 8.6 billion in sales.

Help us illustrate these numbers by sharing some great stories of European businesses that are shining online.

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After 30 hours of intense coding - and personal visits from Vice President Neelie Kroes and journalist and blogger Cory Doctorow - it was time for the 37 hackers of 11 nationalities who took part in Hack4Kids to find out who would win the 5000 euro first prize awards.

In the Child Safety Track, the jury awarded:
  • First Prize: to Team Bodoques (Spain/Italy) with their eyeTime Tool informing kids and parents about the duration of their online session.
  • Second Prize: to Team Soe (Germany/Sweden/Cambodja) with their SecondFriend chat app allowing kids to chat with counselors from helplines in an easy, intuitive and privacy-friendly manner.
  • Third Prize: to Team Milktooth (Italy), with their Milktooth filter activated by the presence of the parents’ phone (by bluetooth) and filters of content that are picture/ad specific so that kids and parents watching the same website see customised pages.



In the Child Creativity track, the jury awarded:
  • First Prize: to Team Water (Finland), with their Waterbear tool to make coding for kids easier, so that they not only use digital products and services - but also understand them and learn how make them!
  • Second Prize: to Gianluca Cancelmi (Italy), with his semantic WikiQuiz including social media aspects.
  • Third Prize: to Team LeGarage (France), with their Kwizzle space invader quiz.
MEPs Sabine Verheyen, Róża Maria Gräfin von Thun und Hohenstein, Sean Kelly and Petru Luhan awarded the prizes at a special ceremony in the European Parliament.



The next step for all the sponsors (Google, Orange, Vodafone, Facebook) is to work with the coders to see if we can turn their ideas into real tools that can be used to make the web a better - and more creative - place for children and families.

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(Throughout this week we'll be publishing a series of posts on our Green Blog about our activities at Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. Our full schedule at the conference is available here, and follow our activities as they happen at #googleatrio20.)

On Friday, we unveiled at the Rio+20 Conference the initial fruits of a unique collaboration with a member of the European Parliament and the Society for Conservation Biologists: a global, interactive map of the world’s “Roadless Areas.”

The project came about when we were approached by MEP Kriton Arsenis, the European Parliament´s Rapporteur on forests. He explained that, while most people using Google Maps want to know which roads will get them from point A to point B, the same information is useful for conservationists who want to know where roads aren’t. In his words:

The concept of "roadless areas" is a well-established conservation measure coming from conservation biologists from all around the globe. The idea is that roads in most parts of the world lead to the unmanageable private access to the natural resources of an area, most often leading to ecosystem degradation and without the consent of the local and indigenous communities. Keeping an area roadless means that the specific territory is shielded against such exogenous pressures, thus sustaining its ecosystem services at the maximum possible level. An important tool which will drive environmental, development as well as global climate change policy forward will be the Google development of an interactive satellite map of the world's roadless areas.

We were intrigued by Kriton’s idea, so we decided to give it a try.

Start with where the Roads ARE

We started by taking all the road data (plus rail and navigable waterways) in Google maps today, and importing that into our Google Earth Engine platform for analysis. For example, here is what the road network in Australia looks like when zoomed out to country-scale:



Then figure out where the roads AREN’T

Based upon advice from Kriton Arsenis and his project collaborators in the Society for Conservation Biology, we decided to define a “Roadless Area” (for the purposes of this prototype map) as any area of land more than ten kilometers from the nearest road. Using the global-scale spatial-analytic capabilities of Google Earth Engine, we then generated this raster map, such that every pixel in the map is color-coded based on distance from the nearest road. Every pixel colored green is at least ten km from the nearest road, and therefore considered part of a Roadless Area. For example:



Or consider the island of Madagascar, home to some of the most unique species on Earth.



From these maps it becomes more apparent how the simple construction of new roads can fragment and disturb habitats, potentially driving threatened species closer to extinction.

Finally we decided to try running this “Roadless Area” algorithm at global-scale:



Large roadless areas are readily apparent such as the Amazon and Indonesian rainforests, Canadian boreal forest and Sahara desert.

Caveats and Next Steps

The road data used to produce these maps inevitably contains inaccuracies and
omissions. The good news is that Google already has a tool, Google Map Maker, that can be used by anyone to submit new or corrected map data, and in fact this tool is already being used in partnership with the United Nations to support global emergency response.

We look forward to continued development of this prototype, which can help to turn the abstract concept of “Roadless Areas” into something quite concrete and, we hope, useful to policymakers, scientists and communities around the world.

To explore these Roadless Area maps yourself, visit the Google Earth Engine Map Gallery.

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Have you ever had an amazing idea for improving the experience of children on the Internet? Or perhaps you’ve wondered why a tool or platform for harnessing the limitless creativity of young people didn’t already exist?

Then you should apply to participate in this year’s EUhackathon. The Hack4Kids event will be the second hackathon organised with the European Union institutions in Brussels and will take place on June 20 and 21, 2012 in Brussels.



Developers are invited to apply in one of two tracks: Child Safety or Child Creativity. The Child Safety Track focuses on building or improving tools that allow children, their parents and teachers enjoy a better Internet experience. Areas for focus include improved reporting mechanisms around cyberbullying, age verification tools and facilitating responsible web surfing.

The Child Creativity Track invites coders to create a tool or platform that enables children to create new online content such as a website, game, or video to be shared. Our ultimate goal is to unlock young people’s creativity.

Last year’s event was a major success with hackers from across Europe developing tools to help measure network speeds and to improve global transparency tracking. You can check out last year’s winners of the transparency track’s game, Beat the Censor and Internet Performance Analysis.

Applications are open until 16 April 2012 at noon CET. Good luck!

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The Sakharov Prize is the European parliaments most prestigious award celebrating human rights. It is named after Andrei Sakharov, a human rights activist in the former Soviet Union, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975. Past laureates of the EU award include such heroes as Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi and such heroic institutions such as Reporters Without Borders. This year’s winners are Arab Spring activists.



Google was honored to participate in yesterday’s Parliament’s “Sakharov Prize Network” event. Many of the former laureates gathered to dedicate the Sakharov Lounge in the European Parliament and to take part in panel discussions regarding human rights and technology.

Participants noted how the Internet had overturned the previous top-down model of global communications, allowed the previously voiceless to reach the entire world. “The Internet is our black cat that climbs up walls and into rooms without asking,” said Azerbaijani blogger Ali Novruzov. See more about his story in this documentary.

We know that our role in promoting free flow of information often puts us in the spotlight. Naturally, we received some tough questions about our policies. How do we deal with government requests to hand over information on users? Why don't we make sure everybody has access to the Internet? These provoked a constructive discussion - and an opportunity to explain our Transparency Report, which details what requests for information we receive from governments. Everyone should have access to the Net - and we’ve taken actions like developing Speak-to-Tweet to keep communication flowing.

It is heartwarming to be associated with a courageous figure such as Andrei Sakharov. We will work every day, as best as possible, to uphold his memory.

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A hackathon is not about breaking into IT systems. It’s about bringing together the talent and creativity of coders in one place to solve tough problems in a short time – in this case 24 hours.

The EU Hack4Transparency brought together 54 participants representing 17 nationalities with the goal increasing transparency on the Internet. A Google team led by engineer Brian Fitzpatrick travelled from the United States to participate.

The Hackathon was launched at the European Parliament - perhaps the first time hackers ever had been officially invited into a legislative institutiion. Christian Democrat MEP Petru Luhan wished participants well and European Commission Vice President and Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes offered support with a taped message.



Hackers then retired to Google’s Brussels office and worked overnight and through the following day. (Transparency: our sponsorship also included food, drinks and some of the awards. Skype and some 18 NGOs also sponsored the event. )


The coders worked on one of two challenges. First, they aimed to give consumers greater knowledge about the quality and speed of their Internet connections by updating M-Lab code. M-Lab, short for Measurement Lab, is an open platform for researchers. Second, the coders promoted transparency by attempting to improve our Transparency Report by visualizing the number of times governments have asked to remove content from Google servers.

After 23 hours of intense (and for some teams – all-night) coding during which Google’s Chief Internet evangelist Vint Cerf joined the fun through a Google+ Hangout.



The jury chose the following winners:

For the Internet Quality Track measuring network speeds:
  • First Prize: Team Ferioli (Federica Cau, Pasquale De Luna and Nicola Ferioli) – Italy
  • Second Prize: Team Maggi (Federico Maggi, Roman Kochanek, Francesco Roveta, Alessandro Frossi, Alberto Volpato) – Italy
  • Third Prize: Team Artimon (Alexandru Artimon, Ionut Dobre, Florin Barhala, Walter Schneider) – Romania
For the Global Transparency Track:
  • First Prize: UN-Team (Sven Clement, Hauke Gierow, Stefan Wehrmeyer) – Luxembourg And Germany - with their game: ‘Beat the Censor‘
  • Second Prize: Niels Rasmussen – Denmark
  • Third Prize: Team Indigeni Digitali (Giuliano Iacobelli, Alessandro Manfredi, Claudio Squarcella, David Funaro, Matteo Collina) – Italy

Congratulations!

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Transparency is a core value at Google and we’ve created a Transparency Report to inform our users in a candid way about the requests for information that we receive from governments around the world. We believe this information represents an essential building block for user trust online.

We are keen to see transparency take off around the world, and for this reason, the Google Transparency team is making its first trip ever this month to Europe. Europe has longer traditions of open, democratic governments than almost anywhere in the world, so we knew it would be useful to meet with officials from both national governments and European Union. During our trip, which started in Amsterdam last week, we’re also talking non-profit groups and think tanks, and evangelizing with the press. Our goal is to invite governments and companies to join us in providing more data about when and why information is suppressed or subpoenaed.

We’re showing our European interlocateurs our Government Requests tool, which records the number of government inquiries for information about users and requests to remove content from our services. Our interactive Traffic graphs also provide information about traffic to Google services from around the world. By illustrating outages, this tool visualizes disruptions in the free flow of information, whether it's a government blocking information or a cable being cut.

In Brussels, we joined the EU Hackathon. This project is designed is to encourage European participation in initiatives such as the OpenNet Transparency Project. It also demonstrate show different sources of data can be used collectively to give a picture of how governments affect access to information.

Our next stop is Stockholm, followed by Warsaw and London. We’re huge fans of Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and we often look to his advocacy on behalf of the open Internet for inspiration as we keep working toward greater transparency.

Posted by Dorothy Chou, Senior Policy Analyst and Transparency Policy Lead

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A few weeks ago we told you about the Hack4Transparancy event, bringing techies together November 8th and 9th in the European Parliament for an all-expenses-paid good time eating, talking, and making important data


Well, now we’ve got more exciting news. We’ve broadened the scope of the event and extended the application deadline for those wishing to make data on Internet performance visible and meaningful.

What’s changed?

• The application deadline for the Internet Quality track has been extended through noon, CET, Friday October 21st (that's this coming Friday).
• To diversify the skill-set of interested hackers, we’ve added a data visualization option to the Internet Quality track.
• We’ve expanded the criteria -- now, eligible hackers from anywhere in the world can apply.
• And, we’ve increased the prize money. One winning team or individual on each track will now receive €5.000,00.

Now, sharpen your coding and data visualization skills, and send in your application! Winners will be notified the week of October 24.

Posted by Marco Pancini, Google Sr. Policy Counsel, Brussels

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What do you call a group of talented hackers in the European Parliament for a 24-hour window, enjoying free food while improving data transparency? We call it Hack4Transparency, and it’s not your everyday hackathon. Google is proud to be one of the sponsors of this upcoming event, a code sprint this November 8-9 that, literally, brings code to law. This is the first ever hacking event within the premises of European government, taking place in the heart of Brussels and giving dedicated hackers an opportunity to bring the power of good code to the place where it can matter most.


Over the course of 24 hours, hackers will work to make data more accessible and intelligible to consumers, to government, and to anyone who’s interested in the state of Internet access and information availability around the world.

Hackers will work along two tracks. The Internet Quality track focuses on making broadband performance data meaningful to the average consumer by improving the user interfaces of existing broadband measurement tools. The Global Transparency track asks hackers to take data from existing sources including Google’s Transparency Report, the Open Net Initiative, and Herdict, and using these sources to create compelling visualizations showing what type of Internet content is available or unavailable to users.

There will be free food, free WiFi, and the opportunity to win prizes while working with a lot of cool people dedicated to making big improvements.

Applicants that are selected to attend will have their travel and accommodations covered, and winning hackers on each track will receive €3.000.

If you're an EU-based hacker and you want fun, food, a free vacation, and the opportunity to make a big impact, we invite you to apply.

The deadline for applications is Monday, October 10, noon CET.

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Everyone loves a good statistic. And if you’re a policymaker, parliamentary assistant or academic, statistics - vital for evidence-based policy-making - are your bread and butter.

Over the last two years, we’ve made it easier to find, explore and understand more than 27 datasets through search and via clear, colourful visualisations using the Google Public Data Explorer. You can find and analyse over 300 data metrics provided by public institutions such as Eurostat (eg: EU inflation rates), the OECD (labour productivity), the IMF (government debt levels), UNECE (gender balance in parliaments) and many others.

Yesterday, we made the Public Data Explorer even more useful by enabling you to visualise your data. If your organisation produces statistical reports on its key performance indicators, tracks financial or societal trends or conducts large-scale surveys, you can now benefit from the same sort of powerful, animated visualisations that we provide today with our existing datasets.

To make this possible, we’ve developed a new data format that makes visualisation easy, and have provided an interface for anyone to upload their datasets. Once imported, a dataset can be visualized in the Public Data Explorer, embedded in external websites, and shared with others. This does of course require some technical skills, but we’ve built upon existing open standards and a simple user interface to make things as easy as possible.



Our hope is that even more useful statistics can come to life through Public Data Explorer visualisations - and that we can help you realise the value of data in making informed, data-driven decisions.

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As voters began to go to the polls to elect a new European Parliament, we thought it would be interesting to use some of advanced tools to capture the vote's trends. By deploying our public tool Insights for Search, we wer, we were able to compare the searching patterns of millions of Brits, French, German, Italians and Poles and compute how interest in a topic changes over time. In each country, we looked at the search for political parties in the run up to the election.

The results were fascinating. While many ruling parties showed surprising resilience, the searches underlined how non-traditional and often anti-European parties have gained ground. The UK presents a striking example. Interest in both Labour and the Conservatives stagnated, while smaller parties like the Greens and UK Independence party surged ahead in the wake of the MPs expenses scandal.

A word of caution is in order. It is possible to slice these data in multiple ways. People use a variety of different forms of shorthand when they search, and political parties are no different. The search queries compared here represent the least ambiguous versions of searching for a given party--BNP is a bank in addition to a party, of course, but the Greens share their name with a color and both Labour and Conservative are likewise words in their own right. In addition, there is nothing exhaustive or completely conclusive about these queries. Searches don't necessarily translate into votes.

Even so, we believe that large amounts of anonymous data provides a powerful tool for making important insights. Our Google Flu Trends allows us to predict the spread of the disease faster than public authorities and could end up saving lives. So take a moment to ruminate over the following search results taking the political pulse in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Poland.

United Kingdom


FRANCE

In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling UMP dominated searches and the Socialist Party continued to stagnate. But in the final days before the vote, the left-wing "Front de Gauche" and the right-wing "Front National" gained traction. The Greens, meanwhile, failed to gain real momentum.



GERMANY

In Germany, searches veered left. While the ruling coalition continued to dominate, junior left wing partner SPD rose faster than the Chancellor Angela Merkel's center right CDU. Centrist Free Democrats scored a strong showing and the radical left-wing Die Linke looked poised to surprise and the Greens showing a strong performance.


Italy

Italians seemed to favor the left wing PD and IDV formations over Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's ruling PDL People of Freedom. Little change was visible over the final month of campaigning.


POLAND

Poles turned first to Prime Minister Donald Tusk's Civic Platform. But a surprising number searched for anti-European, nationalist party Libertas, which was born out of the Irish No vote against the Lisbon Treaty.


Posted by Bill Echikson, Senior Manager, Communications

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Europe's parliamentarians leave Strasbourg today to start their intensive final campaigning for the elections on June 4-7. Some 375 million eligible voters across 27 countries will elect 736 European Members of Parliament. This is the first major vote in Europe since Barack Obama captured the American presidency, in large part because of his success in leveraging the Internet.

In an effort to boost interest and participation, YouTube this week launched Questions for Europe in partnership with the broadcaster Euronews. So far, we have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of interest this venture has generated. In just two days the Questions for Europe YouTube channel has become the third Most Subscribed Reporter Channel in France.



Many prospective members of the European Parliament are seeking to learn some of the lessons from (and use some of the tools deployed on) the other side of the Atlantic. Already last October, the European Internet Foundation - a platform of discussion between MEPs and tech companies - discussed lessons from America for European politics.

Politics on the video sharing website no longer is limited to 'gotcha' moments of exposing politicians' slip-ups. Now it has become a much more proactive, powerful medium. Seven of the 16 US presidential candidates used it to announce their campaign, and Obama deployed the site as a cornerstone for building his "Yes We Can" campaign online. For voters, YouTube helps shrink distances and lower language barriers empowering people to communicate with one another and politicians. The U.S. presidential debate YouTube hosted with CNN provided some moving examples.

Outside the United States, YouTube has also been a part of political campaigns in Spain, Poland, Israel and New Zealand. More and more world leaders are launching their own YouTube Channels, from Gordon Brown in the UK to Queen Rania in Jordan - and most recently, the Pope.

In our Euronews project, questions are posted via videos on the specially created channel and will be answered either by Euronews journalists themselves, analysts or politicians - on prime time broadcasts. We're curious what will be asked, so tune in for updates as the election approaches.

Posted by Bill Echikson, Senior Manager, Communications, Brussels and Aaron Ferstman, YouTube Director of Political Communications, EMEA