In a blog post today, Google Ideas head Jared Cohen described a new initiative to expose violent illicit networks.

  • Violent illicit networks represent a trillion-dollar problem that affects every society in the world and claims hundreds of thousands of lives each year. For example, more than 50,000 people have died in the past five years as a result of the ongoing war in Mexico between rival drug cartels. And although data on this subject is scarce and often unreliable, in 2003 the UN estimated the value of the illicit drug market to be nearly $320 billion, greater than the gross domestic product of 88 percent of countries in the world—and that was almost 10 years ago. It’s clear that illicit networks—particularly those that are violent and coercive like drug smugglers, arms dealers and human traffickers—have a devastating human and financial impact on every nation.
  • We think Google can help. Eighteen months ago we launched Google Ideas with the belief that Google is in the unique position to explore the role that technology can play in tackling some of the toughest human challenges in the world. Our first area of focus was counter-radicalization; last year we convened the Summit Against Violent Extremism with former gang members, right-wing extremists, jihadists and militants as well as survivors of violent extremism. Among the many outcomes of the summit was a platform that we established as a one-stop shop for tackling violent extremism through formers and survivors.

Google will upload videos from the summit to the YouTube channel and on Twitter via @googleideas and #infosummit2012.

This is an interesting wing of Google, where former CEO Eric Schmidt plays a big role (Cohen and Schmidt are co-authoring a book). Ideas has not yet bore any fruits other than goodwill, but it has some potential to create some real change.

For a profile on Cohen, check out a Fortune post I wrote a few years ago.

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