Tag Archives: Middle East

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, www.google.com.eg/elections.

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.

Tunisia Talks on YouTube

The Arab Spring started in Tunisia, and it’s appropriate that Tunisia is now leading the way to a full democracy with their landmark free elections scheduled to take place on October 23. To help in this process, we recently partnered with startup news portal Tunisia Live to offer a training workshop in Tunis on Google tools and social media for politicians.

The turnout was fantastic; members from more than 40 parties and independent coalitions attended. The same day, Tunisia Live launched the Tunisia Talks channel on YouTube, channeling the enthusiasm of politicians to leverage social media and engage with voters. In this project, Tunisians are encouraged to submit and vote for top questions to the candidates, and many did so—for a flavor, see this example or this one. So far, more than 400 questions have been submitted.

This outreach is all the more exciting because YouTube was blocked for so many years in Tunisia. But when the regime collapsed last January, the site was unbanned and quickly became popular. Many Tunisian media outlets have set up channels to organize their video libraries on YouTube.

In this weekend’s elections, Tunisians will choose a constitutional council to write a new constitution for the country. Voters will select from lists of party members and independents. The Tunisian electoral committee has set up an official site www.isie.tn and is actively using social media to encourage voter registration—check their channel YouTube.com/isietn.

This is an exciting time in Tunisia. The media landscape—once limited and government-controlled—is now opening up to online platforms. Tunisians finally have access to a free Internet—and it’s playing a key role in building an encompassing political environment.

Food for (green) thought

This is the second in a short series of posts and videos spotlighting our efforts to make Google greener. In this post, we give you a glimpse at our sustainable food programs. -Ed.

When it comes to eating sustainably, it’s about more than being organic, grass-fed or cage-free. Through our food program, we delight and support Googlers as well as uphold our company’s health and environmental values. And it’s a job we relish, because food is such a defining part of our unique culture. Our cafes and microkitchens help spark greater innovation and collaboration, allowing different teams to come together to share ideas, problem-solve or just get to know each other better over lunch or a mid-morning snack.

As part of Google’s Food Team, we serve roughly 50,000 healthy and delicious meals every day at nearly 100 cafes around the world—and strive to apply sustainable food principles to all the cafes we operate. We aim to source food that’s as local, seasonal and organic as possible. This helps us prevent artificial additives, pesticides and hormones from entering Google’s food supply—whether that means sourcing our eggs from cage-free chickens or using steroid- and antibiotic-free poultry. It’s fresher, and it tastes better!

Through Google’s Green Seafood Policy, we’ve established guidelines to help ensure that (whenever and wherever possible) we purchase species caught locally from independently managed fisheries that use environmentally responsible catch practices. At our Mountain View headquarters, where we benefit from our proximity to the ocean and local agriculture, we’ve been able to establish close relationships with several local, independent farmers and fishermen. We see firsthand how they raise and harvest their stock, and what sustainable catch methods they use. Much of our Mountain View produce (nearly half of which is organic) comes from farms in California, and our seafood comes from within 200 miles. Many of our campuses also have edible gardens that empower green-thumbed Googlers to grow herbs for their own cooking.

Because optimal eating habits extend beyond the walls of our offices, we’re committed to helping Googlers make the most informed choices possible as part of a healthy lifestyle. We want to not only become the healthiest workforce, but also make it easier for employees to take Google’s sustainable food values home to share with friends and family. Many of our offices in the U.S. offer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs where Googlers can buy fresh, seasonal produce directly from local farms that’s delivered right to campus. In Mountain View, we also recently launched the Google Green Grocer program, where Googlers can order the same high-quality, sustainably sourced seafood, meat and eggs they already enjoy in our cafes, while supporting local community fisheries and farms.

We also pay very close attention to how we manage and reduce waste from our food program. Most employees use non-disposable dishware, and all of our grab-and-go containers are compostable. We have recycling and composting bins throughout many of our offices worldwide, and 20 percent of food waste from our cafes is recycled. In fact, organic food waste from our cafes in Europe, the Middle East and Africa is recycled to help produce bio-diesel or electricity. In some of our U.S. offices, any untouched, edible food is donated to local shelters, and the rest is put to use as compost.

Through our our cafes, microkitchens, edible gardens and community-supported food programs, we’re connecting Googlers to sustainable values on a daily basis. The more we care about what happens to the food on our plates and where it comes from, the more it can improve our health, our local economies and the environment.