Connecting across continents

There’s only so much students can learn about the world from the static pages of a textbook. Meeting people from other countries face-to-face provides unique insight into the world’s varied cultures, and the Internet is making this possible in unprecedented ways. To increase global connections, we’re working with First Lady Michelle Obama, the State Department and the Global Nomads Group, to connect students across continents over Google+ Hangouts.

As a keystone event in The White House’s Africa Tour, the First Lady will host a Google+ Hangout On Air from the SciBono Discovery Center in Johannesburg this Saturday at 9:30 a.m. EDT. After Mrs. Obama shares her thoughts on the importance of education, students in Johannesburg, L.A., Houston, New York, and Kansas City will get the chance to talk with one another directly, sharing ideas about education in their countries face-to-face-to-face—it’s a 21st-Century pen pal program, hosted by the First Lady. (RSVP to watch.)

The discussion won’t stop there. This Hangout On Air kick-starts a series of global exchanges on Google+, organized by the State Department and the Global Nomads Group, a nonprofit organization that facilitates cultural exchanges, launching early in the new school year. During the summer, students are encouraged to join the Global Nomads Group’s Google+ Community, “Connecting Continents,” to discover and connect with peers around the world. We look forward to announcing the next hangouts in the near future—stay tuned to the Global Nomads Community for details.

Secretary of State John Kerry kicks off “Hangouts at State” series on Google+

Over the past year, Google+ has been used across the globe to connect people and enable free expression—from Syria Deeply, an independent news site which regularly uses Google+ and Hangouts to report about the crisis in Syria to Tom Fletcher, the British Ambassador to Lebanon, who issues dispatches from one country to another via Hangout.

Today, the U.S. Department of State is building on this trend by announcing a new series of discussions called “Hangouts at State.” Each month, these conversations will bring people together across global boundaries to discuss the most pressing U.S. foreign policy issues, like democracy promotion, human rights, counterterrorism efforts, economic development, climate change and drug interdiction.

The series kicks off on Friday, April 19 with a Hangout with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, entitled “The U.S. in the World: What’s In It for Us” and moderated by NBC’s Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell. The Secretary will be joined by a group of Americans to discuss the impact of U.S. foreign policy on people at home.

Tune in on Friday at 1 p.m. E.T. to watch the conversation unfold, and keep your eye on the Google Politics and Elections page for news about the next “Hangout at State.”

Fireside Hangouts: Join First Lady Michelle Obama in a Google+ Hangout to discuss Let’s Move!

In the past month, both the President and Vice President of the United States have come to Google+ to participate in "Fireside Hangouts" to discuss the challenges the country faces and answer people's questions. On March 4, it's First Lady Michelle Obama's turn as she joins her first-ever Fireside Hangout to discuss Let’s Move!, her initiative to ensure that all our children grow up healthy and reach their full potential. The First Lady will be joined by Kelly Ripa, Emmy award-winning co-host of popular daytime talk show "LIVE with Kelly and Michael," and families from around the country.

Three years ago, the First Lady launched the Let's Move! initiative to unite the country around our kids' health and create real support for families to live healthier lives. Since then communities across the United States have worked together to share, collaborate on and create ways to improve the health of our nation's children. This year, the First Lady is using Google+ to celebrate the anniversary of Let's Move! and to connect with communities on Google+ who are passionate about healthy eating, fitness and parenting.

For a chance to join the Google+ Hangout with First Lady Michelle Obama, share your thoughts and questions on raising healthier families and communities on the Let's Move YouTube channel. Submit a video or text entry (video is preferred) telling us a bit about yourself, what your family does to stay healthy and a question for the First Lady by Thursday, February 28, 2013.

Then tune in to the First Lady's Fireside Hangout live on the White House Google+ Page or Let's Move YouTube channel at 11:10 am ET on March 4.

Fireside Hangouts: Join President Obama on Google+ after the State of the Union

When President Obama heads to a joint session of Congress tomorrow night, he’ll be honoring the 200-year old tradition of delivering the State of the Union to Congress and the American people. Two days later, the President will turn to Google+ to continue a more recent tradition, by taking questions online after his speech. You can tune in to the Hangout this Thursday at 4:50 p.m. ET.

Much like the Fireside Hangouts held by Vice President Biden and Domestic Policy Director Cecilia Munoz over the past few weeks, the President’s Fireside Hangout will include a group of people who regularly discuss important issues of the day online. During the conversation, the selected participants will ask the President their own questions—but we’d also like to hear from you before the Hangout. To let the President know what’s on your mind, head to the White House YouTube channel and submit a video or text question. You can submit or vote on questions you’d like to hear him address until 11:59 p.m. ET on Wednesday, February 13.

Looking for inspiration for your question? Watch the President’s State of the Union speech on YouTube tomorrow night at 9 p.m. ET, as well as the Republican response from Senator Marco Rubio directly afterwards.

Then tune in to Thursday’s Fireside Hangout on the White House Google+ page or YouTube channel for a unique online discussion between the President and the American people on Google+.

Fireside Hangouts: Join Vice President Biden in a discussion about gun violence

As President Obama and his cabinet begin their second term in the White House, they’re renewing a series of conversations on Google+ with top administration officials. These “Fireside Hangouts," a 21st-century spin on FDR’s famous radio addresses, bring top Administration officials to Google+ to discuss the most important issues in the country, face-to-face-to-face with fellow citizens in a hangout. The next hangout will take place Thursday, January 24 at 1:45 pm ET with Vice President Joe Biden on a topic that’s on everyone’s mind: reducing gun violence.

During his 30-minute hangout, Vice President Biden will discuss the White House policy recommendations on reducing gun violence with participants including Guy Kawasaki, Phil DeFranco and moderator Hari Sreenivasan from PBS NewsHour. If you'd like to suggest a question, just follow the participants on Google+, and look for posts about tomorrow's Hangout. To view the broadcast live, just tune in to the White House's Google+ page or YouTube channel on Thursday afternoon.

The White House will continue to host Hangouts with key members of the President’s cabinet on a range of second term priorities. Follow the White House on Google+ for more information about how you can join the conversation... or an upcoming Hangout.

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.

Get Ready to Vote with Google

Every four years in the United States, people prepare to head to the polls and increasingly search for information about how to register to vote, where to vote and who is on their ballot. Even though it is 2012, important voting information is disorganized and hard to find on the Internet. To help voters research candidates and successfully cast their ballot on Election Day, we’ve launched our new Voter Information Tool.

You can enter your address to find information on your polling place, early vote locations, ballot information with links to candidates’ social media sites and voting rules and requirements. The tool is easy to embed on any website and is open source so developers can modify it to create custom versions. We're working with a number of media partners to ensure the tool is accessible across the web, and partners like Foursquare and AT&T are doing great work building apps on our Civic Information API.

We hope this tool will help make getting to the polls and casting your ballot as simple as possible.

(Cross-posted on the Politics and Elections blog)

Making it easier to cast your ballot

The first presidential nominating convention, held in 1832, was meant to give Americans a voice in the selection of the presidential nominee. Fast forward to 2012 and these conventions still represent a major moment in American politics—and we’re helping the conventions reach a larger audience by being the official live stream provider and social networking platform for the Republican National Convention in Tampa and the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.

In conjunction with our on-the-ground efforts, we’re making a number of online tools available to help you get organized and informed as Election Day approaches.

Get informed
Our Google Politics & Elections site enables you to see the latest Google News, YouTube videos, search and video trends, and Google+ content about the election in one place. You can also visit our live Elections Hub to watch the national political conventions, debates and even election night LIVE right from your mobile phone or laptop.

Register to vote
To make it easy to navigate the rules and deadlines about registering to vote and how to vote by mail, we put together an online voter guide. We’ve also added a special section to make it easier for military and overseas voters to find information about their different rules and deadlines.

As we approach the final days of the election, we’ll continue to develop useful ways for voters and campaigns to engage one another around the important issues in 2012.

We hope these tools will help you stay informed and participate in the election!

The U.S. election, live on YouTube

Today we’re introducing the YouTube Elections Hub, a one-stop channel for key political moments from now through the upcoming U.S. election day on November 6. You can watch all of the live speeches from the floor of the upcoming Republican and Democratic National Conventions, see Google+ Hangouts with power brokers behind the scenes, and watch a live stream of the official Presidential and Vice Presidential debates. You won’t need to go anywhere else for the must-watch moments of this election cycle...they’re all happening on the Hub live.

In addition to videos from politicians and parties, a diverse range of news organizations—both established names in media and sought-after new voices—are sharing their coverage of the political process on the new hub. You’ll find live and on-demand reporting and analysis from ABC News, Al Jazeera English, BuzzFeed, Larry King, The New York Times, Phil DeFranco, Univision and the Wall Street Journal. Each will put their own stamp on the Presidential race—from the conventions to the debates to election night.

Of course, we’ll have special live coverage around the Republican National Convention from August 27 to 30, the Democratic National Convention from September 4-6, the Presidential and Vice Presidential debates in October, and election night. Bookmark the Elections Hub now for a front row seat along the road to the White House.

(Cross-posted from the YouTube Blog)

Versus: liberating opinion with Google+ Hangouts

Whether enabling voters to interview their President, or connect underwater in a project to photograph the ocean floor, Google+ Hangouts are being used in amazing ways. Not only do Hangouts have the ability to connect people on opposite sides of the planet, they can also connect people on opposing sides of the social and political spectrum. We’re delighted to announce that a new series of global debates, that will be live streamed on YouTube, will do exactly that.

Versus, from Intelligence2—an organization committed to revitalizing the art of live debate—will give you the chance to question people who are close to the decisions being made on topical issues, on both sides of the debate. Real-time voting on the channel will also let the speakers know how their arguments are resonating with viewers.

The first motion to be debated is “It’s time to end the War on Drugs.” The debate will air diverse opinions from the likes of +Richard Branson, +Russell Brand, +Julian Assange, and experts such as the former Presidents from Mexico and Brazil, among others. BBC newsreader and presenter +Emily Maitlis will chair the debate.

The debate will be streamed live on the Versus YouTube channel on March 13 at 7pm GMT. From now until then, we invite you to discuss the issues and join the debate on the Versus page, where you’ll also find out how you could have the chance to secure a place in the live debate hangout.

Keeping up with the 2012 U.S. election with

From the nineteenth century’s pamphlets to the twentieth century’s TV ad revolution, our elections have always been shaped by how we communicate and consume information. There’s no question that the Internet is set to deliver more political information, opinion and news than any other medium throughout the 2012 U.S. elections. The web offers candidate and issue info to voters; networking and fundraising platforms for campaigns; and research and productivity tools for journalists.

Today, just in time for the Iowa Caucuses, we’re launching, an election hub where citizens can study, watch, discuss, learn about, participate in and perhaps even make an impact on the digital campaign trail as it blazes forward to Tuesday, November 6, 2012.

The site enables voters, journalists and campaigns to quickly sort through election info by popularity, race or issues. People can also check out the Trends Dashboard to take the web’s real-time political pulse by comparing candidates’ YouTube video views, search traffic and Google News mentions. Campaign staffers, advocates and everyday citizens can utilize our tools and features to reach, engage and inspire voters.

There are a lot of miles to cover and coffee to be consumed before Election Day. We hope you’ll make one of your regular online stops along the way.

(Cross-posted from the Politics & Elections Blog)

Magic moments in Egypt’s parliamentary elections, thanks to the web

Today more than 50 million Egyptians started heading to the polls to cast their votes for an independent Parliament, many for the first time in their lives. The revolution in Egypt, which captured the attention of the world beginning in Tahrir Square on January 25, 2011, made this possible by opening the floodgates of political participation.

With the free flow of information online, people can connect and engage in a open dialogue about the future of Egypt. The web is enabling many new voters to become better informed on their choice of candidates, and letting politicians reach electors in new and exciting ways.

Getting information about the new rules and the new players is no small feat for Egyptians: there are nearly 11,000 candidates vying for 498 seats across 27 governorates nationwide during a multi-stage election that started today and lasts until March 2012. We’re doing our best to organize information to make it easier for voters to find everything they need in one place. For example, millions of Egyptians have learned where they can vote through our landing page,

We’ve also worked to give a voice to thousands of candidates to reach voters through interactive video. The YouTube Townhall includes nearly 400 videos posted by candidates and political parties explaining where they stand on issues from education and the economy to health care and political reform, sparking vibrant conversations in cafés from Alexandria to Aswan.

We’re helping voters and politicians connect not just in Egypt, but throughout the entire Middle East and the world. For Tunisia’s recent parliamentary elections, we partnered with startup news portal Tunisia Live to offer a training workshop in Tunis on Google tools and social media for politicians. In France, we set up a special YouTube site for the upcoming parliamentary elections.

The Internet is playing an increasingly significant role in Egypt. It’s bolstering civic engagement and becoming a powerful mechanism for information sharing—crucial to helping the nation make the tough transition to democracy.