Public Alerts for Google Search, Google Now and Google Maps available in Japan

With nearly 5,000 earthquakes a year, it’s important for people in Japan to have crisis preparedness and response information available at their fingertips. And from our own research, we know that when a disaster strikes, people turn to the Internet for more information about what is happening.

With this in mind, we’re launching Google Public Alerts today in Japan—the first international expansion of a service we debuted last year in the United States. Google Public Alerts is a platform designed to provide accurate and relevant emergency alerts when and where you’re searching for them online.

Relevant earthquake and tsunami warnings for Japan will now appear on Google Search, Google Maps and Google Now when you search online during a time of crisis. If a major earthquake alert is issued in Kanagawa Prefecture, for example, the alert information will appear on your desktop and mobile screens when you search for relevant information on Google Search and Google Maps.

Example of a Google Search result on a tablet showing a tsunami warning

Example of a tsunami warning on Google Maps

If you click “詳細” (“More info”) right under the alert, you’ll see more details about the announcement, including the full description from the Japan Meteorological Agency, a link to their site, and other useful information like observed arrival times and wave heights for tsunamis.

Example of how a tsunami alert would work in Fukushima

And when you open Google Now on your Android device, recommended actions and information will be tailored to where you are. For example, if you happen to be in Tokyo at a time when a tsunami alert is issued, Google Now will show you a card containing information about the tsunami alert, as well as any available evacuation instructions:

Example of a tsunami warning card on Google Now

We’re able to provide Public Alerts in Japan thanks to the Japan Meteorological Agency, whose publication of data enables Google and others to make critical and life-saving information more widely available.

We hope our technology, including Public Alerts, will help people better prepare for future crises and create more far-reaching support for crisis recovery. This is why in Japan, Google has newly partnered with 14 Japanese prefectures and cities, including seven from the Tōhoku region, to make their government data available online and more easily accessible to users, both during a time of crisis and after. The devastating Tōhoku Earthquake struck Japan only two years ago, and the region is still slowly recovering from the tragedy.

We look forward to expanding Google Public Alerts to more countries and working with more warning providers soon. We also encourage potential partners to read our FAQ and to consider putting data in an open format, such as the Common Alerting Protocol. To learn more about Public Alerts, visit our Public Alerts homepage.

Responding to the severe flooding in Jakarta, Indonesia

The Google Crisis Response team has assembled a resource page to help track affected areas and provide updated emergency information for the millions affected by flooding in Jakarta. We also have a mobile page with emergency contact numbers and lists of shelters, and enhanced search results on to provide information directly when people search. We’ve also included this information in our FreeZone service to reach affected users on feature phones.

On both the page and map, which are available in English and Bahasa Indonesia, you'll see an update on flood locations and related data such as traffic conditions in areas affected by the flooding.

To share the page or embed these maps on your own site, click "Share" at the top of the page.

We’ll update the content as more information becomes available.

Japan’s political candidates hang out with voters on Google+

Yesterday, the heads of Japan’s eight most popular political parties held eight consecutive Google+ Hangouts to engage with citizens across the country ahead of Sunday’s general election—arguably the largest (and longest) series of Hangouts with politicians ever! Each of the leaders held a Hangout, including incumbent Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda from the Democratic Party Japan and Shinzo Abe from the Liberal Democratic Party.

Voters asked questions that reflected the most pressing issues on the Japanese people’s minds: the ailing economy, social security and the future of energy programs. For instance, one 21-year old student asked a politician about welfare and economic self-reliance, in response to which the politician explained his vision to create more opportunities for young people.

After announcing these Hangouts on November 29, we invited citizens to upload their questions on to Google+ using the hashtag #政治家と話そう (“talk to politicians”). Ten participants representing a cross-section of voters across Japanese society—including a college student from Tokyo, a housewife from Mie prefecture, and a businessman from Shizuoka prefecture—were chosen to join the Hangouts. People who tuned in said that it gave them a chance to witness an in-depth conversation between politicians and voters up close, which is rare in Japan’s incredibly short and intense campaign season of 12 days.

These Hangouts are part of Google Japan’s effort to help voters get information about the candidates before they head to the polls on December 16. To help voters get access to information about more than 1,000 candidates and 12 political parties, we launched our Japan elections site, called Erabou 2012 (“Choose 2012”), at This site serves as a hub for all latest elections-related information, pulling together candidate profiles and party platforms. If you missed the Hangouts live, you can also watch the recordings there and on the Japan Politics YouTube Channel.

The Seoul of a startup

Entrepreneurship is alive in South Korea. Their tradition of outstanding math and science education has fostered a strong developer culture as well as a thriving design community.

Over the past year, the Google for Entrepreneurs team has partnered with Global K-Startup, a competition aimed at finding and supporting the next generation of international-ready startups. The competition received 246 applications, and the 30 top teams were incubated and mentored. In October, venture capitalists from around the world gathered to hear pitches from the top teams and select six to go on a trip to Silicon Valley and London. The Google for Entrepreneurs team helped select the finalists, and was thrilled to host the winners at Google Headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. and at Campus London. Check out the winners:

  • BrainGarden - vocabulary learning mobile application with social game feature
  • Whatugot - social networking mobile application for collection and sharing favorites
  • WATCHA - movie recommendation application with personal collection gallery features
  • KnowRe - innovative adaptive learning solution focused on math education
  • Alarmmon - mobile gaming alarm application with various character branding
  • Classting - web/mobile application for classroom management and inter-class connection and collaboration

2012 Global K-startup winners visiting Google campus in November

Starting in 2013, we’re growing our support of South Korean startups with the help of the technology innovation hub AppCenter, the Kstartup accelerator program, and the Korean Communications Commission. Together, we’ll bring tech entrepreneurs more community events, workshops, and contests. We’re also improving the Android and Google TV device testing library. To kick things off, Kstartup is opening applications for its new class of startups. Apply today or find out more about upcoming events and opportunities with AppCenter and Google for Entrepreneurs.

Explore digital archives of buildings in Japan affected by the 2011 tsunami

A year ago we released Street View imagery of areas in Northeastern Japan that were affected by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Our hope was that the 360-degree panoramas would provide a comprehensive, accurate and easy-to-use way for people around the world to view the damage to the region by enabling a virtual walk through of the disaster zones.

The panoramas were only the start of our digital archiving project. Last month we took the next step—using the technology behind Business Photos to photograph the inside of buildings in Northeastern Japan that were heavily damaged but still standing. We worked with four city governments in the Tōhoku area to photograph more than 30 buildings, and today we’re bringing this imagery to Google Maps and our Memories for the Future site. The new imagery enables you to walk through the buildings and switch between floors to get a first-hand glimpse at the extent of the destruction caused by the earthquake and tsunami.

The timing of the project was critical. There has been a strong debate in these areas whether to keep the buildings up as a permanent reminder of the tragedy or to tear them down to allow emotional wounds to heal. After long consultations with their citizens, many local governments have decided to move forward with demolishing the buildings. Knowing this, we quickly moved to photograph the buildings before they started to be dismantled.

The panorama below shows an elementary school very close to the ocean. Thankfully, all the students survived the disaster as they had been well drilled to rush to escape at the sound of tsunami warnings.

Other sites include Rikuzentakata city public housing, a building that physically demonstrates the heights of the tsunami wave. Everything up to the fourth floor is completely ruined, but the fifth floor remains mostly unscathed.

Panorama of Rikuzentakata City Public Housing

We’ve also captured imagery of Ukedo Elementary School and a few other buildings in Namie Town—located in the restricted area (PDF) within 20km of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In the elementary school, you can see holes in the gym floor, where a graduation banner still hangs in the gym, though the ceremony never took place.

Panorama of Ukedo Elementary School

We’ll continue to photograph more buildings in two Iwate Prefecture cities, Ōfunato and Kamaishi, over the coming weeks. By the end of the year, we also hope to complete the collection of imagery from five new cities in the Miyagi prefecture. We look forward to making this new imagery available as soon as it’s ready to pay tribute to both the tragedy of the disaster and the current efforts to rebuild. City governments in Northeastern Japan that are interested in this digital archiving project are welcome to contact us through this form.

Jagriti Yatra: a journey of entrepreneurship through India

As part of our ongoing commitment to entrepreneurship around the world, we recently took part in a worthy experiment crisscrossing India. Jagriti Yatra is an annual train journey that takes more than 400 of India's highly motivated youth (ages 20-26) on an 15-day trip to introduce them to India’s challenges, and to the individuals and institutions that are developing unique solutions to those challenges. The goal is to inspire these young people to develop and lead social and economic entrepreneurship in their own communities. Each year, around 50 experienced professionals also join the Yatra to serve as mentors, and this year, I—along with four other Googlers—went along for the ride.

This year’s “yatris” (participants) came from all four corners of the country—rich states and poor states, urban, semi-urban and rural. A large portion came from low-income rural families, and many of them (especially the women) had fought great odds to get a good education. Now, they wanted to give back to their communities.

The trip, which began in Mumbai on December 25 and returned on January 8, covered 8,500 kilometers and made 12 stops in a route that circumnavigated the entire country. Our days began at 5:30am and ended at 11:30pm, and the majority of time was spent pounding the pavement, from villages in Orissa and Uttar Pradesh to the suburbs of Madurai and Patna.

These visits brought us face-to-face with India’s major challenges. Confronted with the stark reality of youth abandoning their farming traditions, vast open-air garbage dumps in town centers, girls dropping out of school after eighth grade and unemployed undergraduates scrounging money to bribe their way into government jobs, the yatris were even more motivated to become agents of change in their country. The Yatra has led to a diverse range of startups, both planned and pre-existing—for example, I spoke with participants taking up organic farming in their villages, and to others who were inspired to establish career mentoring programs in their communities.

As first-time sponsors of this year's Yatra (which focused specifically on issues in healthcare, agribusiness, water and energy) we provided not only financial support, but also WiFi for the train journey and an SMS channel for Jagriti Yatra followers to get updates on the Yatra over SMS. We also helped set up the organization with a YouTube channel and a Google+ page so they could chronicle and share their journey with the wider world.

Throughout, the energy of the group was incredible; everyone was infused with the feeling that all things are possible if you persist. Jagriti Yatra has become the event for college students and would-be young entrepreneurs to participate in (this year, the organization received 3,200 applications for less than 500 spots). It was great to see so many young people focused on making a positive impact on society through entrepreneurship.

For more personal stories from the journey, visit the Jagriti Yatra Google+ page. To register for next year’s journey, visit Jagriti Yatra’s registration page.

Celebrating innovation in digital journalism

Journalism is changing fast as media businesses adapt and experiment with ways of gathering and reporting the news in the digital age. Here’s news of two contests we’re sponsoring to help stimulate innovation in digital reporting.

IPI News Innovation Contest
We’re pleased to congratulate the first three winners selected by the Vienna-based International Press Institute in its News Innovation Contest. The prizes are part of a $5 million global contest launched by Google last year.

Today’s winners, who will receive grants totalling $600,000, are:
  • World Wide Web Foundation for its Voice-based Citizen Journalism project in France, the Netherlands and Mali. The project will enable voice-based citizen journalists to gather and deliver news in rural areas through community radio and mobile phones.
  • Internews Europe for its crowd-sourced journalism project in five African countries. The project aims to promote expertise in crowd-sourced journalism techniques to contribute to press freedom.
  • Journalism Leaders Programme at the University of Central Lancashire, for its digital media training programme for the U.K. and Turkey. The project will focus on training in data journalism skills and the fundamentals of digital business aimed at disseminating learning to the wider news industry.
This is just the first round of the contest. In 2012, the IPI will consider a new set of proposals and award the remainder of the grant. More details are available at

GEN Data Journalism Awards
In Hong Kong, at the News World Summit hosted by the Global Editors Network, we're announcing a partnership on a new data journalism contest. GEN’s Data Journalism Awards will celebrate the best examples of this new form of journalism from established news organisations and newcomers.

The winners will be chosen by an international jury and prizes awarded at the next GEN conference in Paris next year. Details on how to take part are at

We look forward to seeing the impact these initiatives will have on digital journalism and hope they will encourage continued experimentation at every level of the media.

(Cross-posted from the European Public Policy Blog)