Posted:
Editors note: This post comes from Michelle Sun, Founder of First Code Academy A digital divide can exist even in places like Hong Kong, which has a household broadband penetration rate of over 80%. Ethnic divisions can quite often leave minorities, many of them children of immigrants, disconnected from the digital growth around them.

To begin to address this, our Hong Kong-based First Code Academy organized with Google and US Consulate General HK a series of five “AppJamming” workshops for 32 ethnic minority students from CMA Choi Cheung Kok Secondary School. The students learned to create applications using App Inventor, a blocks-based programming tool originally developed at Google Education.

While the five classes can’t be considered enough to make someone a professional coder, it encourages people to pursue a career path they might never have considered. Satara Ilyas, a Form 5 student, thinks of herself an “arts person.” Nevertheless, “We use so many apps everyday and it would be really interesting to actually program them ourselves,” she said before the class. The workshops sparked her curiosity and five sessions of AppJamming “went by too quickly.” 
Code Academy (2).jpg
During the course, students also learned to patiently identify, debug and solve problems one-by-one. Building a functional app to solve real-world problems was a major theme of the workshops. In the third session, students programmed a calculator; for their final project, they brainstormed ideas to solve the biggest problems in their lives.
Code Academy 2.jpg
Anas, a soft-spoken Form 3 student, came to the workshop with a specific goal, wanting “to build an app to help my classmates remember their homework assignments.” For his final project, he ended up building a sophisticated calculator with his teammate, Suleman, but he continues to explore ways to accomplish his homework assignment app outside the workshops.

These workshops are designed to help students begin to understand the possibilities of using technology in everyday applications. By partnering with Google and the US Consulate General Hong Kong for these workshops, we hope to empower students with basic computer programming skills to help them think creatively about addressing social issues with technology.

Posted by Michelle Sun, Founder of First Code Academy

Posted:
Forty years before Banksy tagged London and 25 years before Dondi “burned” New York’s subway trains, Tsang Tsou-choi brought Chinese calligraphy to the streets of Hong Kong as the “King of Kowloon.” Today the vast majority of his 55,000 works survive only as photographs; the originals destroyed by time, weather and Hong Kong’s perpetual redevelopment.

You can now explore this cultural icon’s work through the Google Cultural Institute’s new King of Kowloon collection covering Tsang’s life, times and art through 170 works and a virtual tour of the electrical boxes, pillars, scaffolding poles, and walls that Tsang literally claimed as his domain. Here’s how Jehan Chu, director and founder of Art Research Institute describes Tsang’s writing:
Described as an “urban poet” by curator Hans Ulrich-Obrist, Tsang writing includes dates, locations, family’s ancestry, curses, and most often, his claim as the King of Kowloon. The language is fragmented, omits punctuation, and typically repeats the same themes and phrases across writings.
Sai Wan, Hong Kong (1996-1997) by Tsang Tsou Choi, Art Research Institute
Connaught Road, Central (1996-1997) by Tsang Tsou Choi, Art Research Instititute
There are some traces of the king left. Here's a pillar at Star Ferry Pier in Tsim Sha Tsui with Tsang’s artwork still preserved:

Street artists have always made a tough trade. What they gain in high exposure, often comes at the expense of their legacy, as their art gets washed away by city councils or the natural elements. We hope that this collection preserves the legacy of a Hong Kong icon, and gives the people of Hong Kong and around the world a way to explore and appreciate this pioneer’s work with a sense of its original context away from pristine and quiet gallery walls.

Posted by Lauren Nemroff, Program Manager, Google Cultural Institute

Posted:
In the hectic few months since we announced the Google Impact Challenge for Japan in November, hundreds of nonprofits submitted ideas, 10 finalists were selected and hundreds of thousands of people voted on which projects Japan needs most.

Today, a panel of judges — including First Lady Akie Abe, astronaut Soichi Noguchi and Change.org Japan Director Emmy Suzuki Harris, as well as Miki Iwamura from Google Japan and myself — watched the top 10 teams pitch and chose the winners of a 50 million yen grant, program-management and consulting support from ETIC and mentoring from Google.

So, without further ado, here are the ideas we hope to help turn into realities:
Winner of the Public Vote
Nobel - Online network to support single-parent households with a single location to access basic resources such as childcare and affordable housing
GIC_480_278-04.jpg
Women Will Award
Madre Bonita - App to provide postpartum care for new mothers and to enable friends and family to give postpartum classes as a gift
GIC_480_278-01.jpg
Judges Award
Homedoor - App and data analytics to reduce crime and employ the homeless as night-safety patrols in high-crime areas
GIC_480_278-09 (2).jpg
Judges Award
PADM - Crowdsourced accessibility map for Japan to help individuals in wheelchairs more easily navigate their communities by documenting barrier-free locations
GIC_480_278-08.jpg
From the start we knew that any meaningful Impact Challenge in Japan should address some of the challenges faced by women, considering just 38% of women who work, and 28% of those who don’t, believe that society supports them working once they are mothers. We reserved one of the awards specifically for this issue and are delighted that the public seems to agree with us and voted in such a way that we ended up awarding grants to two great ideas for helping women in Japan.

But, well, why stop there? We’re on a roll.

We were so impressed by all the ideas pitched today, that we couldn’t let the other organizations go home empty handed. We told each of the remaining six finalists they’d also get a grant of 25 million yen and the same support from ETIC and mentoring from Google. These include:

  • Mission ARM Japan - Low-cost 3D printed prosthetic limbs
  • Sodate-Age Net - Digital skills training for disadvantaged youth to increase their employment opportunities
  • Fukushima Internet Television - SMS outreach to provide mental-health peer support and improve the accessibility of suicide counseling
  • Nijiiro Diversity - Digital outreach campaign to build tolerance for sexual minorities and education on LGBT issues in the workplace through training courses and certification
  • Smile Club - Mobile gym and data-driven health coaching for the elderly to encourage active lifestyles and healthy living
  • Dot JP - Data analysis and visualization to make political funding flows transparent by leveraging a cloud-information system

Excited to see what they accomplish in the years ahead.

Posted by Jacquelline Fuller, Director of Google.org

Posted:
This post is part of our regular series of interviews with people across Asia-Pacific who’ve caught our eye, using the Internet to create, connect and grow. 

This week we interviewed Sangwon Park, Founder of Retrica in Korea.


What is Retrica?
Retrica is a camera app that lets you filter photos in real-time. With this app, you can set a filter before taking a photo and then the filter is immediately reflected in the photo. This app was the first successful product made by Venticake, a company I helped to establish in October 2011.
Retrica is a camera app that lets you filter photos in real-time.


What motivated you to develop Retrica and to target the global market?
When I started the business I set myself the goal of entering the global market. I chose to make a photo app because it’s not really affected by language. Back then, most of the photo apps allowed users to edit photos after taking them, so I decided to develop a real-time camera filter app, combining the camera features and editing features.



When did it launch, and how many users are there now?
When I first launched this app, in November 2012, we only supported iOS. Then I discovered that people had made a Twitter community named “We Want Retrica on Android.” I felt proud that users really wanted this app. In response, I launched Retrica for Android in Google Play in April 2014 after four months of development. Downloads exploded after the Android launch — monthly downloads increased more than 11-fold for the first two months. I was very surprised by this rapid growth. This was a miracle: there seems to be no other way to describe this.


What is the share of downloads from Korean users and global users? Are there any countries where the app is particularly popular?
About 98.5% of all downloads in Google Play come from outside of Korea. This clearly shows that Retrica is a global service. This app is performing well in South America in particular. For example, our analytics show that about 21 million smartphone users have our app in Brazil, which is about 40% of everyone with a smartphone in that country.

Did you expect that global success?
I had the global market in mind when I developed and launched this app, but I never thought that it would have such great performance overseas. If somebody asked me to share the secret to success in the global market, I would say that it’s Google Play’s global coverage. Google Play is a platform that reaches 1 billion users in more than 190 countries. Without Google Play, I would not have known that there was an opportunity in the South American market.

Based on your experience, what is your advice for Korean startups dreaming of the global market?
Your product is the most important thing. I made sure to create a simple UI which allows users to open the app and take a photo right away, on any device. Besides that, I listened to user feedback including emails and user reviews. With the help of Google Translate, I can even read and reply to emails from overseas users. Google Play provides simple distribution and updates (it allows over four times more updates compared to other app stores) so I can easily reflect feedback from users. I also use Google Play statistics and Google Analytics to analyze user behavior to find out what to improve.

What are your future plans and goals for Retrica?
My goals are to maintain user growth and increase user return visits. After taking a photo with Retrica, you can choose to include the Retrica logo in your photo, what we call the “Retrica Watermark.” We are planning to take this one step further, by providing users with more options to edit the photos after taking them, such as recording the date, time, or place where the photo was taken.

Posted by Sangwon Park, Founder of Retrica in Korea

Posted:
This post is part of our regular series of interviews with people across Asia-Pacific who’ve caught our eye, using the Internet to create, connect and grow. This week, we’re featuring IISuperwomanII, a YouTube creator based in Canada who will be going on a world tour for the first time, starting with India

How would you describe your YouTube channel in one sentence?
Positive, feel-good comedy created for humans and unicorns alike.

How did it all start? Why did you choose YouTube as a medium?
I spontaneously posted my first YouTube video in 2010. Prior to YouTube I used to record funny audio skits but the thought of also recording my weird face excited me. I had no plans of becoming a ‘YouTuber’ when I uploaded for the first time. It was as simple as having an idea, recording myself and throwing it up on the internet.

How was the response back then?
The initial response to my videos was mixed. There was a group of people who were supportive and, of course, there was a group of people that disliked the idea of an outspoken Indian girl. Today I can confidently say that both groups still exist BUT the lovers outnumber the haters by a landslide. Either that, or I’ve just learned to focus on the positive *eats popcorn*.

Which ones are your personal favorite videos?
My favourite videos are the ones in which I get to collaborate with people I’m a fan of. For example, my collaboration with Madhuri Dixit is definitely an all time favourite. I grew up watching all of her movies and idolized her as a child. To act next to her in one of my videos was a dream come true. I mean c’mon it’s Madhuri-freaking-Dixit! *breathe*




YouTube FanFest gives you a chance to get off-screen and on-stage. What did it feel like to be on stage in front of fans for the first time?
I. LOVED. IT. As someone who creates YouTube videos, I’ve gotten used to interacting with people through comments, likes and tweets. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that all of those numbers represent real people. When I’m on stage and I can physically see people interacting with what I’m saying, the feeling is surreal.

Tell us about your fans in India and Asia — what's different about them?
My Indian/Asian fans have shown me nothing but support from the beginning. I’ve performed in a lot of countries in my lifetime and I can confidently say that the energy I receive from Asian audiences is one of a kind. All of my fans across the world are amazing, but I always have a different feeling when I perform in Asia. It’s almost as if they’ve all welcomed me into their family and instead of fans, they’re all my brothers and sisters.

You have big plans to tour and meet fans worldwide this year. What inspired the world tour idea and what are you hoping to achieve through it?
I’ve been performing at various different shows for many years now and I think I reached a point where I didn’t want to be a guest act on someone else’s show anymore. I’ve been craving the opportunity to put on my own show and bring my YouTube channel to life on stage. I’m hoping to achieve two goals:
1) I want to put on a great show. I want them to watch the show and say ‘wow, this girl deserves 5 million subscribers.’
2) I want to stay true to why I started making YouTube videos — to make people laugh and smile. My show will be the ultimate reminder that life is and always will be beautiful if you simply decide to live it that way.


Posted:
This post is part of our regular series of interviews with people across Asia-Pacific who’ve caught our eye, using the Internet to create, connect and grow. This week, we’re featuring The Viral Fever and All India Bakchod, the first independent creator groups in India to get 1 million subscribers on their YouTube channels.

How would you describe your YouTube channel in one sentence
All India Bakchod (AIB): As India's largest comedy collective, All India Bakchod is irreverent, biting, goofy, filmy, sharp, super sexy and extremely modest.
The Viral Fever (TVF): Our flagship YouTube channel - TheViralFeverVideos - is dedicated to creating the content India’s youth want, but can’t find, on TV.

What was the breakthrough moment for you on YouTube?
AIB: That would have to be our video titled 'It's Your Fault', which satirized the culture of victim blaming in India. We didn't anticipate it then, but given the pervasive nature of rape culture globally, audiences across the world identified with the message. Given that it is an issue we feel strongly about, along with the fact that it was translated into 10 languages and even played at the UN, makes it one of our most significant efforts.


TVF: Our first video: Rowdies (on TheViralFeverVideos). We believe it was one of the first made-for-YouTube videos to go viral in India and that was when we realized we had something special to offer Indians - a fresh commentary.

TVF's "Barely Speaking With Arnub" gets amazing guests, and then ignores them.

India is home to Bollywood which produces more movies and sells more movie tickets than any other country. You, as online stars, have just crossed 1 million subscribers on YouTube. What do you think this means for entertainment and content creation in India?
AIB: We're all here to entertain and YouTube gives audiences so many more options, which means that traditional entertainment will have to eventually sit up and take notice. The silver screen is always going to hold a certain appeal, especially in a country like India, but there's more than enough scope for the two to play off each other and create opportunities that we are only just beginning to see.
TVF: Our flagship channel now reaches the same amount of people as some niche channels that run regularly on TV. If you create quality content, then the audience will follow. With YouTube, you can also engage with the people who watch you, and understand what it is that makes them stop and laugh.

Tell us about your fans: Are you reaching audiences outside of India? What do you think drives audiences in India and beyond to your content?
AIB: First up, our fans are ridiculously loyal and patient, which never ceases to amaze us. And yes, as it turns out, audiences from outside India are also watching us. What works is that a bunch of people who look like them and sound like them are saying things in an unexpected manner. We're a bunch of ordinary Indians creating content about the various aspects of Indianness — and we're making them laugh as hard as many of our western counterparts.
TVF: 20-25% of our audiences are in US, UK, UAE and Canada. What helped us reach millions of people was our sensitivity in creating content fans can relate to and also the fact that we work we hard on our craft — writing, directing, editing and acting.

Posted:
So much goes into the making of street art and then it often disappears before most people can see it — leaving the story of the artwork and the artist who created it, untold. With today’s addition of 260 new exhibits to the Google Art Project street-art collection, these ephemeral works are now digitally preserved for you to explore wherever you are.

To help you navigate the back alleys, and make sure you don’t trip over any paint cans along the way, we’ve selected highlights from across the region:

Watch the making of the largest mural in Indiaa smiling, 158 foot image of Mahatma Gandhi — at the Delhi Police Headquarters during the st+art Delhi festival.

Check out how Portuguese artist Akacorleone, transformed an abandoned wall in Bangkok into a gold-and-black mural inspired by Thailand's national epic the "Ramakhien," during the Bukruk Street Art Festival.
Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 2.27.02 PM.png
Bukruk International Street Art Festival, Akorleone
See how symbols of religion, wildlife and national pride have changed the face of Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu as lax laws about graffiti, and continuous construction has sparked an explosion in street art in recent years.
Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 3.18.30 PM.png
Kapilvastu, Nepal Children's Art Museum
Meander among the murals of Melbourne’s Hosier Lane, or see Perth transformed into an urban canvas following PUBLIC 2014.
Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 1.47.12 PM.png
Infinitas, ROA
Or dive right into Korea’s Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art, and see how local artists transformed the space for the Korean Graffiti Art exhibition.

Since bringing street art to the Art Project last year, there are now 10,000 high resolution images of public art from 34 countries and 86 art organizations to explore. We’ve also added more ways to experience street art in your daily life — bring the streets to your TV screen with Chromecast; discover a new artwork every time you open a Chrome tab; check out one of the new partner apps; or see the streets on your wrist with the new Android Wear Street Art Watch Faces. Visit the Google Cultural Institute to find out more.

Posted by Lucy Schwartz, Program Manager, Google Cultural Institute