Policy by the Numbers

Data for sound policymaking from Google and friends

International Broadband Pricing Study: Updated Dataset

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Fei Xue is a Staff Analyst at Google

For the last couple years, Google has worked with Communications Chambers to produce a dataset of retail broadband Internet service prices. We released the first dataset in August 2012 and updated it again in May 2013. This dataset enables international comparisons over time and can potentially be used to evaluate the efficacy of particular public policies on consumer prices.

Today, we’re happy to announce the 3rd edition of this dataset. This release expanded the coverage with improved quality: up to ~3000 mobile plans and 1800+ fixed from major ISPs over ~100 countries.

  • Price observations for fixed broadband plans can be found here.
  • Mobile broadband prices can be found here.
  • Explanatory notes here and ancillary data is here.

We received a lot of positive feedback after the first two releases, and we hope this dataset is useful for regulators, policy makers, academics and advocates in making informed, data-driven decisions.

Study Highlights: "High Tech Employment in the European Union"

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Joep Konings is a professor of economics at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Leuven, Belgium.

In "High Tech Employment in the European Union," a new report by Ian Hathaway (Engine Advocacy) in collaboration with Maarten Goos and me, Joep Konings, (KU Leuven), we analyze* two datasets of worker-level labor market data in the European Union in order to explore the impact of high-tech employment across the EU economy. Our findings show that the high-tech supports economic growth in the EU, creating benefits across the economy. More importantly, the creation of one high-tech job in a local economy creates more than four additional non-high tech jobs in the same region. This includes workers of a variety of occupations, including lawyers, physicians, wait staff, taxi drivers, and school teachers.

Our data also tell us that high-tech workers are a critical component of the European workforce. We found that in 2011, the 22 million high-tech workers employed in the EU-27 represented 10 percent of total employment. At 13.7 percent of total employment, Czech Republic had the highest concentration. Finland, Sweden, Denmark, France, and eight additional countries had high-tech employment shares above 10 percent of total employment.

The January 29 launch event, hosted by Bruegel, provided an important platform for a policy debate on the issue of employment, which recognized the contribution of high-tech employment to the European economy. The policy discussion focused on the fact that while technology outmodes some jobs, it also significantly increases productivity, and creates new and better jobs as well as new ways of working. We saw vibrant discussion about empowering people to acquire the right skills and approach learning as a lifelong endeavor to remain valuable employees in the new tech-driven economy.

*Methodology is outlined in the appendix on page 21.

White Spaces and Rural College Towns: the Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship

Monday, December 2, 2013

Michael Calabrese is Director of the Wireless Future Project at New America Foundation. Blair Levin is Executive Director of Gig.U

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler began his tenure by correctly noting, "Unlicensed spectrum has been and must continue to be the catalyst for innovation." With wireless traffic projected to increase 87 times in five years, we will increasingly depend on unlicensed spectrum to grow the mobile economy. Not only does unlicensed contain greater capacity—the capacity of Wi-Fi networks is 28 times greater than that of 3G and 4G networks—unlicensed enables huge savings. Wi-Fi off-load, projected to soon carry 60-80% of the traffic, will enable over 200 billion euros in annual savings for carriers in Europe alone.

One promising area for unlicensed services is unused television channels, known as "White Spaces." White Spaces development, however, has been hampered by a chicken and egg problem. Without clarity about demand, manufacturers won't devote the resources necessary to lower equipment costs; without costs coming down, demand will not be sufficient.

Several years ago we joined forces—Michael as an advocate for allocating White Spaces for unlicensed use, Blair from the direction of providing the high bandwidth networks rural college towns need and often don’t have—to create AIR.U, a project dedicated to using White Spaces to accelerate the deployment of next generation broadband networks in rural areas. AIR.U is a collaboration with the Declaration Networks Group and various Higher Education Groups, including the United Negro College Fund, the New England Board of Higher Education, the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California, the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education, and Gig.U, as well as Google, Microsoft and the Appalachian Regional Commission.

We've made progress in addressing the chicken and egg issue, including the first AIR.U network deployment on the West Virginia University (WVU) campus, providing wireless access to the Internet at WVU's Personal Rapid Transit platforms. Senator Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, noted, "The lessons learned from this pilot project will be important as Congress continues to look for ways to expand broadband."

Now it's time for another step forward. Last month, Declaration Networks Group announced a "Quick Start" Network Program tailored for Higher Education communities to evaluate, design, and deploy high capacity broadband networks leveraging White Spaces. The program includes an assessment of expansion approaches and a sustainable path to increase the coverage and capacity of high-speed wireless connectivity to the community.

The program is offered exclusively to the AIR.U institutions. It includes a network with a base configuration supporting multiple Wi-Fi hotspots, and a user group for AIR.U Quick Start participants to collaborate in developing White Space technology, establish best practices, and share approaches for community expansion activities.

We believe this partnership between rural college communities and white spaces networks is the beginning of beautiful friendship, catalyzing more extensive deployments, and accelerating economic and educational development throughout the United States.

Research explores how to lift barriers to Internet access in Africa

Monday, July 29, 2013

Jennifer Haroon is Access Principal at Google.

Without Internet access, how would life be different? We go online to find a new doctor, research the best schools, and find creative inspiration. In Africa today, less than 16% of the population has reliable connectivity. Google recently sponsored the Internet Society (ISOC) to commission a report that examines some of the roadblocks to Internet access in Africa, proposing ways to lift some of these barriers.

In the last five years, large investments have been made to improve access in Sub-Saharan Africa. Undersea cables have improved international connectivity. However, there is still a lag in terrestrial connectivity—whether national, cross-border, or local—that is needed to connect users to those undersea cables.

The report highlights the need for terrestrial connectivity and recommends that policymakers remove barriers to its growth, including bureaucracy, limited cross-border permits, and stringent permit requirements. The report also highlights the need for governments to promote private-sector investment in extending terrestrial connectivity, such as allowing for infrastructure sharing, which can lower costs. Lastly, it highlights the need for agencies with the authority to make these regulatory changes and promote the growth of access.

Although connectivity has improved, more can be done. The suggested policy changes and investments can lead to better infrastructure and increased competition, which can encourage lower prices and higher quality access for users.

Visualizing Online Takedown Requests: Challenge Winners!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Alexandra Pappas is Community and Events Coordinator at Visualizing.org.

In our latest challenge, designers and creative coders visualized Google's Transparency Report with the aim of adding context or insight to our understanding of the openness of the internet. In the report, Google discloses the number of requests received from copyright owners and governments to remove information from their services. Of the fantastic projects that were submitted—check them all out in our gallery—judges selected projects that best made sense of the complexity of the data, offered innovation in approach and design, and compelled us to explore more.

Congratulations to Frontwise with their winning project Google Online Takedown Requests Browser. Judges appreciated its beautiful design and the ample functionality to discover patterns and trends, including filters by dataset, time period, copyright owner, and target domains. Additionally, the organization by time and volume and distribution between an outer ring and inner ring of the monthly overview of requests and targeted domains or products presented the data neatly and effectively.

Simon Schulz is awarded second place for Country Based Google Transparency Report. As the only project to offer a detailed breakdown of the data by country rather than a more summary approach, judges felt the project provided an important point of view, one that could be a nice complement to the Transparency Report itself.

Prism by Felix Gonda takes third place for its focus—breaking down the volume of the data by country of origin, reason of request, and Google's products—and fluid interactivity that allowed easy exploration and comparison. Judges also noted its polish and creative solution.

Frontwise, Simon, and Felix will receive $3250, $1250, and $500 respectively for their great work. Thank you to Google, our jurors, and all participants!

Want to try your hand at another project? Take a look at our Visualizing Hospital Price Data challenge, offering $30,000 in prizes. We look forward to seeing your work!

America’s businesses are growing. The web is helping.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A common theme of this blog is the economic impact of the Internet, particularly how independent entrepreneurs flourish using online tools. Today, Google released its Economic Impact Report for 2012, and we are cross-posting the announcement from the Official Google Blog. While it's not a typical Policy By the Numbers post, we do believe that information like this is relevant as we think about regulatory frameworks that may affect the web and, subsequently, the people who benefit from it.

Allan Thygesen is Vice President, Global SMB Sales, Google.

Michael Edlavitch was a middle school math teacher in Minnesota when he started a website with free math games to engage his students. With free online tools, a passion for math and an initial investment of just $10 to register his domain, www.hoodamath.com was born. Eventually Michael’s website became popular with more than just his students. So Michael gave Google AdSense a try as a way to earn money by placing ads next to his content. As word spread and traffic grew, the revenue generated from his site allowed Michael to devote himself full time to Hooda Math. Today, www.hoodamath.com has more than 350 educational games and has had more than 100 million unique visitors to the site. Beyond building a business for himself, Michael is helping students everywhere learn math while having fun.

Over in New York, Roberto Gil designs and builds children’s furniture—loft beds, bunk beds and entire custom rooms. Casa Kids’ furniture is custom designed for the family to grow along with the child. Roberto works out of his Brooklyn workshop and doesn’t sell to large furniture stores, which means the Casa Kids website is an essential tool for him to connect with potential customers.To grow even further, Roberto began using AdWords in 2010. In the first few months traffic to his site went up 30 percent. Today, two-thirds of his new customers come from Google. Meet Roberto and learn more about how he is making the web work for Casa Kids:

These are just two examples of how the web is working for American businesses. According to a McKinsey study, small businesses that make use of the web are growing twice as fast as those that are not on the web. That’s because the web is where we go for information and inspiration—from math games to practice over the summer to someone to design and build that perfect bunk bed for your kids. Ninety-seven percent of American Internet users look online for local products and services. Whether we’re on our smartphones, tablets or computers, the web helps us find what we are looking for.

Here at Google, we see firsthand how the web is helping American businesses grow and thrive. Through our search and advertising programs, businesses like Casa Kids find customers, publishers like Hooda Math earn money from their content, and nonprofits solicit donations and volunteers. These tools are how we make money, and they’re also how millions of other U.S. businesses do, too.

In 2012, Google's search and advertising tools helped provide $94 billion of economic activity for more than 1.9 million American businesses—advertisers, publishers and nonprofits. This represents a 17 percent increase from 2011. Check out the impact made in each state, along with stories of local businesses using the web to grow.

Whether it’s building skills or building furniture, Google helps to build businesses. We're thrilled to be part of such a vibrant industry and are committed to continuing to help make the web work for people and businesses everywhere.

Do We Count?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Daniel Miller is Professor of Anthropology at University College London.

This blog celebrates useful data on how people use new media or employing communications to support policy initiatives. But could research that is entirely qualitative contribute equally to these same goals? Our project, based at the Department of Anthropology, University College London and funded by the European Research Council, is aimed at exactly these goals.

But we don’t count things—so do we count? Our team consists of anthropologists. We have just begun eight simultaneous ethnographies, each of which will last 17 months. Two of our sites are in China, and we have one each in Brazil, India, Italy, Trinidad, Turkey and the UK. Every researcher, or participant, has taken up residence in a small town within that country. They will examine many forms of social media such as QQ, Google+ WhatApp and Facebook in contexts that range from religion and politics to parent-child relations. We will share certain foci across all regions, such as use by the elderly and impoverished, issues of privacy, diasporas, and the memorialisation of the dead. Each participant also has his or her own topic: One is looking at the world’s largest migration—rural workers to factory sites in China. Another is exploring how social media connects family and work in India, and a third participant is focused on the new middle class in Brazil.

The reason we don’t count things is that instead we hope to use ethnography—that is, living among people to gain unparalleled depth via countless stories and openness to entirely unexpected uses. It’s the sense of humanity and the poignancy of aspiration and frustration that means most to us. Much of the work is academic but we also want to create innovative forms of popular dissemination in local languages with strong visual elements. For example, my own volume, Tales from Facebook (Polity 2011), uses genres from short story writing to show the impact of social media on the lives of individuals.

At the same time, we feel such research can be just as valuable for practical and policy purposes. We were asked by a leading hospice near London to consider how they could improve their services to terminal cancer patients. Most of the hospice work is with people still living in their own homes so communications are a core issue. After a six-month investigation of both patients and staff we were able to identify many opportunities as well as bottlenecks. For example, we discovered that concerns about confidence had become a barrier to the exchange of medical information. The report and its twelve recommendations can be found here.

In the future we will look at other applied projects such as diabetes and e-education. Our project's blog is here, where you can see each of the contributors discussing their projects.