Google is bringing its Google Impact Challenge program to Australia, offering four local not-for-profits the chance to create innovative tools to help their cause.
To date the Google Impact Challenge has backed dozens of projects internationally, including one delivering solar-powered lights in rural regions of Africa, one enabling electronic donation of small change in the UK, and another using apps to connect citizens to elected officials in India.
Under the Challenge program, Google offers US$500,000 and engineering support to each of the four organisations that come up with a winning proposal.
Google Australia director of engineering Alan Noble said the Challenge is all about coming up with new ways to use technology to address problems not-for profit groups encounter in their work.
"We acknowledge the fantastic work a lot of not-for-profits are doing — we want to look at how they can deal with problems through a technology lens," Mr Noble said.
"Too often we've seen a lot of not-for-profits that have great ideas but they're not really leveraging technology sufficiently well."
While Google's domain is the online world, projects backed by the Challenge can be hardware or software; a winning UK project from 2013 is rolling out remote cameras to monitor threatened wildlife in Africa and Antarctica.
Google Impact Challenges have run so far in the UK, Brazil, India, and the United States.
Mr Noble said Google Australia has been growing its local presence and now, with more than 900 employees now in Sydney, it was the right time to introduce the program.
The demand is already apparent, with Google receiving numerous unsolicited proposals before now.
While the US$500,000 cash is important, Google's mentoring and engineering backing, whereby it makes its tech expertise available to turn an idea into reality, is the real catalyst for the program.
"The engineering contribution to this is a big part of what makes it successful," Mr Noble said.
To that end, for any group to be successful it needs to demonstrate a bit of technical know-how itself — at least enough to know that its big idea can work.
"You don't expect them to be technology experts but we do expect them to demonstrate enough tech capability to demonstrate that what they are proposing is feasible," Mr Noble said.
One winner is chosen by popular vote and the remaining three by a judging panel featuring three prominent Australians — cricketer Glenn McGrath, former News Corp chief executive Kim Williams, and photographer Anne Geddes, as well as two Google executives — Google Australia managing director Maile Carnegie and Google.org director Jacquelline Fuller.
Applications open on July 1, and are open to organisations registered for tax-deductible gifts and contributions. They close on July 29.