Category Archives: Official Google Blog

Insights from Googlers into our topics, technology, and the Google culture

CSquared gets new investors to expand internet access in Africa

Three billion people around the world are now online, but access remains critically low in Africa, where only 10 percent of households can connect to the internet.

In 2011, a team of Googlers identified a major barrier to affordable, reliable broadband in Africa: the lack of fiber optic networks in large cities. This led to Project Link, an initiative to build world-class, high-speed urban fiber networks in Africa’s metropolises. In 2013 we folded these efforts under a new Google brand called CSquared with the aim of bringing other companies into the market, expanding access and lowering costs. CSquared has built more than 800 km of fiber in the cities of Kampala and Entebbe; and 840 km of fiber in the Ghanaian cities of Accra, Tema, and Kumasi. In both Ghana and Uganda, more than 25 internet service providers (ISPs) and mobile network operators (MNOs) now use these metro fiber networks to offer broadband services and 4G data to end users, with more than 1,200 tower and commercial building sites connected directly to CSquared’s fiber.
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Suzan Kitariko, Country Manager for Uganda (fourth from left) with Uganda’s Minister of Communications, John Nasasira (fifth from left) along with partners and Googlers. 

CSquared’s network infrastructure supports the needs of entrepreneurs, innovators, and corporate offices. For example, in Uganda, CSquared’s fiber system provides the high-speed last-mile connections for higher education and health research institutions located in the Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area through the Research and Education Network for Uganda.

In the process of building these wholesale-only, carrier-neutral networks, we realized that CSquared could move even faster by bringing in new partners with strong backgrounds and experience in infrastructure in Africa. So today, CSquared is becoming a four-way partnership that combines the expertise and experience of four companies: Google, Convergence Partners, International Finance Corporation (IFC), and Mitsui & Co., Ltd. CSquared will benefit from Convergence Partners’ deep experience of  information and communication technology sector investing in sub-Saharan Africa, IFC's experience as the world’s largest global development finance institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets as well as Mitsui’s cross-industry capabilities, vast investment portfolio, global business presence, and experience as a strategic investor in the ICT segment. Together with our new partners, we believe CSquared can roll-out and operate affordable, high-speed, and reliable infrastructure to further expand internet access in Africa.

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Digging the trenches in Ghana

While CSquared will work to improve access, we’ll continue to give users, businesses and entrepreneurs in Africa a great experience online and help them make the most out of being connected to the internet. Our Digital Skills for Africa project, for example, has now trained more than 1 million people, and will look to provide offline versions of the training materials in local languages to reach individuals and businesses in low-access areas. 

This is on top of our Google.org education grant of $2 million to support Tangerine, which boosts curriculum development in Kenya and boosts teachers’ skills. Earlier this year, we launched Street View in Ghana, Senegal and Uganda to help people better navigate their cities. Meanwhile, the African content ecosystem is growing: In November 2016 we held the first-ever SSA YouTube Awards in Johannesburg to support video creators in Africa.

The internet is transforming Africa, both Google and CSquared are committed to ensuring that as many people as possible have access to the internet and all the opportunities it can bring.

Four ways the web supports small business growth—new research from Deloitte

Small businesses are the backbone of our local economy, and they make our communities special. Businesses are revitalizing their towns, creating jobs, and shaping their communities—one customer and employee at a time.

We wanted to better understand the web’s role in helping small businesses grow in today’s economy, so we recently commissioned new research with Deloitte. The study found that the use of digital tools (such as websites, analytics and online marketing) positively impacts small business growth in four key ways: reaching new customers, reaching new markets, growing faster and creating jobs.

Reaching more customers

Digital tools help small businesses reach more customers at every stage of the purchase process. In fact, Deloitte’s research found that small businesses using advanced digital tools such as web analytics and online video, were almost 3x as likely to have increased customer interest, like calls and leads. They were also more than 3x as likely to have seen more sales inquiries, like foot traffic and orders, in the last year. Wichita Furniture in Wichita, KS has experienced these highly qualified leads first-hand. Their website traffic increased almost 50 percent in 2016, and they attribute the lion’s share of this growth to online advertising.

KS-Wichita Furniture.jpg
“...[Online advertising] brings quality customers through our doors—people who have seen our products and know what they’re looking for.
As a result, we’ve seen a drastic increase in our sales per guest.”
- Jay Storey, President & Founder, Wichita Furniture

Reaching new markets

The web can open up new markets to small businesses, whether they’re across the country or across the world. Deloitte’s research found that digitally advanced small businesses are 3x as likely to have exported in the last year. That’s what Jim and Kelley Hobart discovered with their company Alpaca Direct, based in Hayden, ID. Digital resources like online video and cloud-based communication tools connect Alpaca Direct to customers across the globe.

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“There are a lot of people all over the world who don't have a local yarn shop. We want to become their local yarn shop even though
we’re all the way here in Idaho.”

- Kelley Hobart, Co-Owner, Alpaca Direct

Growing faster

Digitally advanced small businesses experienced revenue growth that was nearly 4x as high as the previous year. Businesses like Kaleidoscope Hair Products based in New Orleans, LA, are growing faster because of the web. In 2016, Kaleidoscope reached more than 43,000 customers and doubled their revenue from the previous year.

LA-Kaleidoscope Hair Products.jpg
“We went from selling no products to having a full warehouse, exponential growth, and distributors all around the world.”

- Jesseca Dupart, Owner and CEO, Kaleidoscope Hair Products

Creating jobs

Digitally advanced small businesses are job creators. In fact, they were nearly 3x as likely to have created new jobs in the last year. Dreamstyle Remodeling, based in Albuquerque, NM, is a job creator in their community. They have been growing 34 percent annually since 2013 and expect to reach $100 million in sales this year. Since developing their digital strategy, Dreamstyle has added 250 employees to keep pace with their growth. They plan on hiring another 500 people to support their expansion in two additional locations by 2020.

NM-Dreamstyle Remodeling.jpg
“We think [our 2020 plan] is possible… And the web and Google tools are going to be critical to that growth."

- Larry Chavez, CEO, Dreamstyle Remodeling

This is a glimpse into how small businesses are growing using digital tools. Read the full results from the Deloitte research study.

To learn how your business can get online and grow, check out new resources available through our Get Your Business Online program.

Inspiring the creative problem-solvers of the future

What's coming next in technology will shape our future. And because we can't predict what challenges the future will bring, we need to cultivate a new generation of problem-solvers, storytellers, and creative minds to tackle our next problems at scale. It’s not just about coding and programming computers, it’s about helping students learn skills they’ll need to approach problems in a fundamentally different way across every discipline from business to engineering to the arts.

Today, we hosted our fourth annual I/O Youth, part of a longstanding effort to get more students excited about where technology can take them. Nearly 150 5th-7th graders from schools around the Bay Area descended on Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, CA to explore activities focused on digital storytelling, inventing, science, and coding.

Ryan Germick, who leads our Doodle team, along with Krysia Olszewska of Technovation, emceed the day as kids delved into four activities:

  • Animating their very own cartoon with Toontastic
  • Building a wind spinner from craft supplies and analyzing its speed with the Science Journal app
  • Creating and programming a hot potato game using littleBits Code Kit, which uses drag-and-drop programming based on Google’s Blockly to help kids code
  • Coding an adventure on the high seas, programming the type of ship, height of waves, characters and dialogue, using Scratch with Google’s CS First curriculum

It wouldn’t be I/O without a Sandbox, so through “Toy Taxidermy,” an activity developed by Wonderful Idea Co, kids tinkered with mechanical toys to see how they work. The MIT Media Lab showed kids how to make their own game controllers with Play-Doh and tinfoil to control the games they created in Scratch. Kids also got to check out a virtual journey with Expeditions, learn about the Google Assistant and its sense of humor, and see examples of artificial intelligence through Google’s Quick, Draw! and Giorgio Cam AI Experiments.

Today was about opening a door to let kids see what’s possible. Mentors from littleBits, Scratch, and Technovation encouraged kids to get involved in local clubs and activities so that anyone who has a passion for technology has an outlet to keep going. And everyone went home with a littleBits Rule Your Room Kit, so they can continue creating and programming at home. We hope kids discover that a bright future isn’t some distant goal—it's something they have the power and skills to create right now.

Delivering on our partnership with SAP

At Next ‘17, we announced a new partnership with SAP, focused on integrating our industry-leading cloud solutions with SAP enterprise applications. This week we’re at the SAP SAPPHIRE NOW event in Orlando to talk about the significant progress we’ve made over the last two months. We’re collaborating with SAP to create solutions that can help accelerate the digital transformation for enterprises by combining the power of SAP applications like SAP S/4HANA and the cutting-edge innovation available on Google Cloud in the following areas.

SAP on GCP

SAP NetWeaver-based applications are now certified on GCP

We’re announcing the certification of SAP NetWeaver technology platform on Google Cloud Platform (GCP), which enables customers to run products like SAP S/4HANA, SAP BW/4HANA, SAP Business Suite and SAP Business Warehouse, on GCP.

sovanta, a German technology company, is one of the first customers to run SAP S/4HANA on GCP infrastructure to help transform their operations, grow quickly and transition from on-premises to cloud.

Expanding the certification of SAP HANA on Google Cloud Platform  

We’ve completed the SAP HANA certification for 416GB GCP VMs and another certification for scale-out SAP HANA with four VMs, which enables enterprise customers with ever-growing volumes of business data to scale SAP applications on our cloud infrastructure.

Smyths Toys, one of the fastest growing toy retailers in the U.K. and Ireland, depends on the reliability and performance of Google Cloud to run their ecommerce platform powered by SAP Hybris.

"We chose Google Cloud for the price and performance of the infrastructure and the future-proofing we get with its innovative capabilities, including machine learning and data analytics services. The partnership with Google Cloud and SAP will help us further integrate our business systems and drive efficiency and value for our company," says Rob Wilson, the CTO of Smyths Toys.

Availability of SAP Analytics Cloud connector for BigQuery

With the addition of a native connector to BigQuery, it’s easier than ever for joint customers to discover, predict and share meaningful business insights across data in SAP systems and Google BigQuery.

Machine learning, data custodian and G Suite

Data custodian demos  

Google and SAP have collaborated on an innovative approach to address enterprise concerns around data protection and privacy while continuing to offer enterprises the flexibility and power of Google’s cloud platform. In the Google booth, at SAPPHIRE NOW, we have demos showcasing our vision around how enterprises can leverage SAP’s expertise and partnership with Google to gain significantly greater visibility into how their data is managed, accessed and protected on GCP.

Machine learning innovation

We’re working together with SAP to build intelligent applications combining SAP’s business process expertise with our machine learning services, such as Google Translate API, Speech APIs, Cloud ML Engine and the open source machine learning framework TensorFlow. To spur innovation, we’ve jointly announced an Intelligent App Challenge. The competition invites SAP and Google ecosystem partners to build applications using SAP HANA, express edition on GCP.

G Suite integrations

We’re continuing to implement our joint vision with SAP around future integrations with key SAP solutions in addition to existing integrations between G Suite and SAP solutions like SAP Anywhere, Concur and BusinessObjects Lumira.

For those attending SAP’s SAPPHIRE NOW event, stop by the Google Cloud booth, #1153, for additional details and to see demos in action.

The grand tour of Italy: traveling through the past and present to define our future

Italian culture—art, architecture, music and food—have made Italy great in the eyes of the rest of the world. Have you ever wondered how these Italian masterpieces from the past have shaped today’s present, and how they can continue to be a source of inspiration in the future?

Three hundred years ago, Italy’s “Grand Tour” was a journey made mainly by wealthy young people from Venice to Sicily, going through Tuscany, Rome or Naples, to discover the legacy of classical art and Renaissance Masterpieces. Europe’s upper class families made a tradition of sending their sons and daughters to explore  the country’s artwork to inspire a love of culture and creativity. Today Google brings this journey back to life, but this time we’re making it available to everyone, everywhere.

We’ve  reinterpreted the The Grand Tour of Italy on Google Arts & Culture through vivid exhibits and storytelling from partners including the Comitato Giovani della Commissione Nazionale Italiana for UNESCO, Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia—Museo Correr and Cà RezzonicoAccademia dei Fisiocritici, Consorzio per la Tutela del Palio di Siena, Outdoor Project, and the Teatro Massimo in Palermo. Working together, and with a little help from Google’s technology, we’re proud to present The Grand Tour of Italy,  which explores four cities in five Cardboard tours, 25 videos, 21 Street View tours, 38 digital exhibitions and 1300+ images.

People everywhere can embark on a digital trip from Venice to Palermo, going through Siena and Rome to see some of the cultural treasures of Italy, experience timeless traditions, take a closer look at masterpieces in ultra-high resolution and discover Italian innovations that have changed the modern world.

Immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the Festa del Redentore, find out about its origins and history, or usingsimple Google Cardboard, you can experience the magic of the Redentore fireworks display with a 360° virtual tour. Enjoy the excitement of a tradition that shapes the life of an entire city, and experience the preparation for the Palio di Siena, as if you were right there. In one click, you can go to Pienza and discover how a small town with a population of around 3,000 created a new approach to town planning, later used in laying out larger modern cities. Take a virtual walk around Rome and stop to look at the statue of Pasquino, hear the story of the talking statues and the “Pasquinate”, the forerunner of today’s social media. Go into the Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele of Palermo, the largest opera theatre in Italy and one of the largest in Europe. It used to be exclusively for the city’s upper class, but now everyone can enjoy it.

Our digital journey continues to Venice (and in the coming months in Siena, Rome and Palermo), where we’ll help residents of the city prepare cities for a digital future. Free seminars and workshops organized with our partners will help spread digital skills among citizens and make sure the younger generations are ready to take advantage of the opportunities offered by technology.

If you’re in Venice, come and see us from May 19-21 at the Arsenale Nord, Tesa 94 (from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.) to discover how these fascinating stories come to life. If not, don’t miss the chance to discover more about the project and download Google Art & Culture app on Android and iOS!

Three years of striking the right (to be forgotten) balance

It is now three years since Europe’s highest court decided that EU citizens should have a ‘right to be forgotten’. Implementing that right has neither been simple nor without controversy, but in that time we have evaluated 720,000 delisting requests, ultimately removing around 43% of the more than 2 million links submitted to us.  

Over the three years, the way search engines delist, and national law, has continued to develop. Now, two fundamental issues are being considered by two of Europe’s highest courts.

Sensitive personal data and the public interest

Put simply, the first issue—due to be heard by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in the coming months—is whether people have an absolute right to request removal of lawfully published, but sensitive, personal data from search results.  Or whether, as is the case now, search engines should continue to balance the public interest in access to information with the individual’s right to privacy.   

The background to this CJEU case is that in 2016, four individuals were unhappy with our decision not to remove certain links to webpages about them. They appealed to the French data protection regulator, the CNIL, asking them to review our decisions, challenging the underlying principle that a public interest test should apply.

In its review, the CNIL agreed with our decisions. The individuals subsequently took their case to the French Supreme Administrative Court (the Conseil d’Etat). This court heard their arguments in February of this year, and referred the case to the European Court of Justice of the European Union (case number C-136/17).

The CJEU now has to decide whether ‘sensitive personal data’—such as the political allegiance of an individual, or a past criminal conviction reported in the press—should always outweigh the public interest.

The tricky thing with this kind of information is that it is often important for people to know and it is frequently reported in newspapers and elsewhere. Requiring automatic delisting from search engines, without any public interest balancing test, risks creating a dangerous loophole. Such a loophole would enable anyone to demand removal of links that should remain up in the public interest, simply by claiming they contain some element of sensitive personal data.

So when the CJEU confirms a date to hear this case, we will be advocating strongly for the public interest balancing test to apply to all types of delisting requests—including those containing sensitive personal data.

Where does the right to be forgotten apply?

There is another fundamental legal question due to be heard in coming months at the French Conseil d’Etat. At stake: whether Europe’s right to be forgotten should reach beyond the borders of Europe, whether delisting of links should also happen in other countries which have different ways of balancing privacy and access to information.

Enforcing the right to be forgotten beyond Europe would set a grave precedent. There would quickly be a race to the bottom as other countries, perhaps less open and democratic than France, ordered Google to remove search links for every citizen in every other country of the world.

We’ve written extensively on this topic in the past, as have a wide range of human rights and media organisations, and others. It’s possible that the Conseil d’Etat may also refer this geographical scope question to the CJEU.  But wherever this case is heard, our key assertion remains the same: no one country should be able to impose its rules on the citizens of other another country, especially when it comes to lawful content.

Fundamental questions

Google did not welcome the right to be forgotten, but we have worked hard to implement it in Europe over the last three years. Access to information in the public interest, and the right of of all countries to define the balance between privacy and free expression within their own borders, are important, fundamental issues. We look forward to presenting our arguments at both the CJEU and the Conseil d’Etat.


Smarter cars powered by Android

Remember paper maps? Long before GPS, in-car navigation systems, and smartphones, you may have kept stacks of them in your car. Or maybe you stopped by a gas station for directions or a pay phone to tell someone you were running late.

The world is pretty different today―we expect to be connected, no matter where we are. That’s why Android Auto is designed to give drivers an easy way to access the information they need―navigation, streaming audio, and communications—while minimizing the distractions they don’t need.

Since its launch three years ago, Android Auto has grown to be supported by 300 car models and aftermarket stereos. And thanks to the standalone Android Auto mobile app, millions more Android mobile users can now use Android Auto with the same large buttons and voice controls right on their phone screen, even if their car isn’t compatible.

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Android Auto

Today, Audi and Volvo announced they will build Android into their next generation of cars. That means your car’s built-in infotainment system could allow you to control your air conditioning, sunroof, and windows, find the nearest restaurant with Google Maps, listen to Spotify or NPR, or just ask your Google Assistant for help—even when you leave your phone behind.

A preview of their systems will be on display at Google I/O this week, from Wednesday May 17 through Friday May 19. If you are attending in person, see you there! If not, tune into the livestream of our session on May 17 at 2pm PT to learn more.

More ads transparency for publishers

Publishers are the backbone of the open web—the content creators, journalists, amateur videographers and our go-to guides for information. Fifteen years ago, we decided to help publishers make money from their content by starting AdSense, our first publisher platform. And today, our ad platforms are used by millions of publishers, large and small, as a way to grow their businesses. In 2016, we paid out more than $11 billion to our publisher partners from advertising.

Policies play an important role in protecting the open web. They ensure publishers have a sustainable way to make money through our ads platforms, setting rules about what we do and don’t allow. For example, publishers can’t just have a site full of ads. Our policies exist to balance publishers’ needs with those of our users, advertisers and all of the parties that depend on it to keep the open web going.

One of the top requests we hear from publishers is that they want more transparency about how we respond to policy violations on their content. They want more information about why we remove ads on their websites and more help to resolve issues quickly, minimizing the impact on their bottom line.

Today we’re announcing two updates, based on direct feedback from publishers, to how our policies are enforced and communicated to publishers.

Policy actions at the page level

We’re introducing a new technology for policy violations that allows us to act more quickly and more precisely when we need to remove ads from content that violates our policies. Historically, for most policy violations, we remove all ads from a publisher’s site. As we roll out page-level policy action as the new default for content violations, we’ll be able to stop showing ads on select pages, while leaving ads up on the rest of a site’s good content. We’ll still use site-level actions but only as needed. And when it's necessary, such as in the case of egregious or persistent violations, we'll still terminate publishers. Altogether, this means fewer disruptions for publishers. 

A new Policy Center for publishers that use AdSense

We’re also announcing a new Policy Center as a one-stop shop for everything a publisher needs to know about policy actions that affect their sites and pages. We have been piloting this Policy Center with thousands of AdSense publishers, who have been very positive about these changes—and provided great feedback and suggestions on how to make the Policy Center more useful.

In just a few weeks, all AdSense publishers will have more transparency about why policy actions were taken and the violations found, including page-level action data, so they can quickly resolve these issues across all their sites and pages using step-by-step instructions. The Policy Center also makes it easy for publishers to tell us when policy issues have been resolved and their pages are ready for review.  

Later this year, we’ll be adding policy centers in other publisher platforms in addition to AdSense.

With this launch, we’re moving two steps closer to our goal of making it easier to understand how our policies work so that publishers can drive their businesses forward, using Google ad platforms.  

Happy Mother’s Day – Here’s how your Google Assistant can help you celebrate

Mother’s Day is today and your Google Assistant is here to help you! So whether you need to pull together some last minute plans or just want to find the right way to make mom’s day, ask your Assistant and you’ll be on your way.

mother's day

  • Busy morning? Don’t forget the big day. Ask your Assistant on Android phones to “Remind me to call Mom”
  • Pulling together your last minute plans? Ask your Assistant on Google Home “What should I do for mom?
  • Looking for the perfect activity? Ask your Google Assistant on Android phones to “Find me nearby tea shops”
  • Pick her up some flowers on your way to celebrate. Ask your Assistant in Allo “Where's the nearest flower shop?”
  • If flowers at a park are more her style, ask your Assistant on Android phones “Where’s the nearest botanical garden?”
  • Who doesn’t love a homemade dinner? Just say to  your Assistant on Google Home -- “Let’s make lasagne”
  • The perfect addition? Ask your Assistant on Google Home to “Play my mother’s day playlist"
  • Celebrate Mother’s Day with a family game night. Ask your Assistant on Home to “Play a trivia game?”

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day – Here’s how your Google Assistant can help you celebrate

Mother’s Day is today and your Google Assistant is here to help you! So whether you need to pull together some last minute plans or just want to find the right way to make mom’s day, ask your Assistant and you’ll be on your way.

mother's day

  • Busy morning? Don’t forget the big day. Ask your Assistant on Android phones to “Remind me to call Mom”
  • Pulling together your last minute plans? Ask your Assistant on Google Home “What should I do for mom?
  • Looking for the perfect activity? Ask your Google Assistant on Android phones to “Find me nearby tea shops”
  • Pick her up some flowers on your way to celebrate. Ask your Assistant in Allo “Where's the nearest flower shop?”
  • If flowers at a park are more her style, ask your Assistant on Android phones “Where’s the nearest botanical garden?”
  • Who doesn’t love a homemade dinner? Just say to  your Assistant on Google Home -- “Let’s make lasagne”
  • The perfect addition? Ask your Assistant on Google Home to “Play my mother’s day playlist"
  • Celebrate Mother’s Day with a family game night. Ask your Assistant on Home to “Play a trivia game?”

Happy Mother’s Day!