Weekly Digital News Roundup: Feb 25 – Mar 2
Google Takes on Zika Virus With Mapping Project to Visualize Outbreaks
- According to ABC News, Google is leveraging its technological expertise in the hope it can help curb the spread of the Zika virus. The search engine giant announced several initiatives today to help combat the virus, including an open-source mapping platform and more detailed information for people searching about the mosquito-borne virus. “As a company whose mission is helping people find information, with a lot of experience in analyzing large sets of data, we’re in a good position to help — at scale and at speed. So today we have Google engineers working with UNICEF to analyze data to determine how to map and anticipate the virus,” a Google blog post announcing the initiatives said.
- Google reported a 3,000 percent spike in searches for Zika since last November. Since as many as four in five people don’t show symptoms of Zika, Google’s team said a data-driven solution was needed to help map the virus. Google’s volunteer engineers, designers and data scientists are joining UNICEF to build an open-source platform that can help visualize potential Zika outbreaks. The map will draw on data from various sources, including weather and travel patterns to help provide a visualization of potential outbreaks.
- Google also announced a $1 million grant for UNICEF to be used for mosquito eradication, vaccine development, and awareness campaigns. The Zika virus has been spreading throughout the Americas and the World Health Organization has deemed it a “global health threat.”
Uber and Ola launch motorbike taxi services in India
- According to the TechCrunch, Bangalore is the setting for the latest showdown between Uber and its fierce India-based rival Ola after both companies launched motorbike taxi on-demand services in the city. Ola, which is backed by Tiger Global and has an alliance with Lyft and other Uber rivals worldwide, rolled out its pilot service last night, while Uber announced the arrival of UberMoto, which debuted in Thailand last month, this morning.
- “A primary painpoint in India is congestion,” Anand Subramanian, director of marketing communication at Ola. “Bikes are a very popular mode of personal transportation, there are millions on the road in India, and they are a faster way to go from point A to B.” Grab, Ola’s partner in Southeast Asia, has operated motorbike taxis for more than a year and Subramanian said that it helped provide advice for Ola’s service, which has been “months” in the making.
- Subramanian didn’t reveal figures but he said demand is already high. Ola is aiming for a three- to five-minute pick-up time for passengers, each of whom will be given a helmet by their bike rider as standard. Ola is using registered and “trained” motorbike taxi drivers, but it plans to open the service up for others in the near future. Uber has already opened its service up to interested motorbike owners in Bangalore, potentially giving it an early advantage. Although Ola’s service is available across Bangalore, but Uber’s is initially operational in central parts of the city only. Speaking at last month’s launch in Bangkok, the company said it has also mandated helmets for passengers while, like Ola, insurance is held by the bike rider, much like the setup for its regular cars.
Jim Kimsey Dies at 76; AOL Co-Founder Influenced Generation of Net Providers
- According to New York Times, Jim Kimsey, a dot-com entrepreneur who helped turn a failed video game company into America Online, the giant dial-up service that helped bring the Internet to the masses, died on Tuesday at his home in McLean, Va. He was 76. The cause was cancer, his son Mark said.
- Long before Facebook or Twitter, Mr. Kimsey was a co-founder of AOL, connecting a nascent online audience with news and information as never before. Through its online chat rooms and email service, the company influenced a generation of Internet providers and left an imprint on popular American culture, the sound of a buzzing modem and its trademark “You’ve got mail!” entering the national lexicon. (It was the title of a 1998 Nora Ephron film with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.)
- Kimsey steered AOL through its early days as its founding chairman and chief executive, but he largely avoided the spotlight. In 1995, the year Mr. Kimsey stepped down as chairman,The Washington Post called him a “behind-the-scenes power broker” whose name might lead the average person to “draw a blank.”