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Flint gets a boost from Google to help with water crisis data

May 3, 2016

An internet giant is stepping in to help Flint with its water crisis.

Google is giving the University of Michigan and U of M-Flint $150,000, through its charitable arm, to develop technological solutions to help Flint deal with medium- and long-term issues tied to the water crisis.

Researchers in Flint and Ann Arbor will work with teams of students to develop smartphone apps and other digital tools that will, among other things, predict where lead levels will be the highest in the city’s water system. 

“There’s a lot of data on the water crisis, but it’s scattered over many different agencies and places,” said Jacob Abernethy, an assistant professor of computer science and engineering at U-M Ann Arbor and faculty advisor to the Michigan Data Science Team.

Google’s Mike Miller says they especially want to provide Flint residents with more information, which can be a problem in a city where many people are not connected to the web.

“That’s going to be a challenge for us … to figure out how to make this information useful and accessible to all the citizens of Flint,” says Miller.

Miller says the data should also be useful for decision-makers.

“This investment by Google … creates an ideal combination of an industry powerhouse with faculty expertise. It will create new opportunities for students and continue building community partnerships — all so that we can provide quick and critically important information and analysis for our community as we move forward," says U of M-Flint Chancellor Susan Borrego. 

Google has more than 500 employees in Michigan.