Google’s Project Loon is unique in the history of the internet. Using a grid of helium balloons, the project has brought the internet to around 100,000 people in Puerto Rico where a majority of the population still don’t have electricity. This isn’t the first time Project Loon has been used – it has provided the internet to isolated parts of the world and third world countries before, but this is the first time that Google has used the tool for emergency relief.
But why does this matter? After all, Puerto Rico is still struggling to recover after Hurricane Maria brought death and devastation, destroying homes and costing people their livelihoods and worse. Electricity and running water are both in short supply, and people are still trying to find their belongings and work out what the next stage of their lives looks like.
The thing is, Google isn’t trying to save the world, it’s just honouring a promise.
Google, like Microsoft committing to put a computer in every home, has committed as a business, to bring the internet to every human. And that’s a goal which Google, with a reach and resources that has never been rivalled in human history, is taking literally The business has decided that Puerto Rico’s population of 4million people need the internet because that’s what they said they would have. They saw the traditional connections were destroyed and so they sent the backup, what they consider to be the next most viable option. Already Google is working hard to give more access to the rest of the country, but in the meantime, the thought that the world’s most important business is honouring its commitment to ‘not be evil,’ by doing some mighty good, will warm the hearts of many.
Of course, there is also a by-product, with relatives now able to talk, and those in isolated areas being able to speak directly to humanitarian agencies. But that’s not the only headline that matters from a human perspective. This is about a business living up to its obligations at a commercial level and helping people as a result.