Author Archives: Matt Brittin

Supporting inclusive recovery in Central & Eastern Europe

In January, we opened the call for applications for the Google.org Impact Challenge for Central and Eastern Europe (CEE).

Thankfully, the region is in a different place now than it was then. As vaccine rollout progresses across Europe, people are thinking about how to reopen businesses and develop careers. But there’s still a long journey ahead, particularly when it comes to building a sustainable, inclusive economic recovery for the region.

We need to make sure no one is left behind as we build back the economy. To help, today we’re announcing 13 brilliant organizations across Central and Eastern Europe that will receive Google.org funding to support their work on digital inclusion across the region.

Together with our partner INCO and our panel of experts, we’ve selected ambitious and wide-ranging projects from organizations working in each of the 11 countries of the CEE region that put digital innovation and inclusion at the heart of economic recovery. Each organization will receive between €50,000-€250,000 in funding from Google.org and mentoring from Google to help make their project proposals a reality. You can read more about the projects here.  

Supporting these incredible organizations is just one way that we plan to help Central and Eastern European economies on their path to a digital-led recovery. Last year alone, through our Grow with Google programs, we helped 250,000 people in the region grow their digital skills or transition to a digital-focused career — and we look forward to doing even more in the coming months.

  • Listen Up Foundation (Bulgaria) is helping infants, children and adults who are deaf and hard of hearing achieve equality through improved educational systems and empowerment practices.

  • Tuk-Tam (Bulgaria) provides a network of social, educational and career opportunities to disadvantaged students, connecting them with Bulgarians living around the world who serve as role models. 

  • Green Energy Cooperative (Croatia) is building an application to educate 10,000 people on photovoltaic panels and prepare them for green jobs in Croatia.

  • Lean Startup (Czechia) is setting up a program to help create equal opportunities for rural startup founders.

  • Startup Wise Guys Foundation (Estonia) is creating a social and digital startup incubation program to create 1000+ jobs in 11 countries in CEE.

  • Maker’s Red Box (Hungary) is providing hands-on digital skills learning methodologies for children from disadvantaged families and in foster care.

  • Riga TechGirls (Latvia) is promoting digital skills among female artists, healthcare professionals and teachers.

  • Lithuanian Gay League (Lithuania) promotes an inclusive social environment for all within the LGBTQ+ community through education and support. The organization offers digital marketing and programming courses to a diverse group of underprivileged individuals.

  • Fundacja Studio M6 (Poland) is rehabilitating disadvantaged areas in Poland through joint housing and employment support via an internet-based platform. 

  • Digital Nation (Romania) is creating a job matchmaking program that connects young people with digital skills in need of employment with small and medium-sized businesses that need hands-on expertise to grow their business.

  • Touch&Speech n.o. (Slovakia) is developing a more effective approach to navigating touch smartphones for people who are blind — regardless of their digital skills or access to assistive services.

  • AmCham(Slovenia) is creating a program to raise the profile of the teaching profession, recognise teachers’ work and support peer-to-peer skills development.

  • University of Primorska, Faculty of Tourism Studies - Turistica (Slovenia) is designing a platform to support local entrepreneurs and enhance rural tourism.

The new WWW: Helping accelerate the retail recovery

The web has been a lifeline during lockdown. Digital tools have helped us stay connected — families with each other, teachers with students and businesses with customers. There has never been a time when technology could be more helpful to people, communities and countries.

Unsurprisingly, as a result of the pandemic, our use of technology has leapt forward five to ten years in as many months — accelerating trends that we were already experiencing in the retail sector and beyond.

Trends: the new WWW

When browsing in a store became impossible, people didn’t stop looking for inspiration. Instead, window shopping went virtual. Searches for “ideas” surged on both Google Search and Google Images, with shoppers seeking inspiration when they didn’t have a specific product in mind. For retailers to capture those customers, visibility is crucial: More than 60% of shoppers we surveyed said they ordered from a brand after seeing it on YouTube.

The increased need for online shopping has led to a final convergence of online and offline shopping. Customers like to have the same inspiration and advice that they could get in store — but now, they want it from home. And those same customers are demanding more when they do shop. Searches for terms like “best” and “promo code” continue to rise, and customers expect doorstep delivery service across more and more categories. “WWW” no longer only stands for the worldwide web: it’s now what we want, when and where we want it. 

Finally, we know that today’s shoppers value their privacy. They want to have control of their data, they need to give permission for it, and they deserve to know how it is being used.

At Google, we’re working with retailers to ensure that every online interaction is an opportunity. Online can be just as valuable as in-person for building direct relationships with customers, strengthening trust and building loyalty. Retailers just need to use the right insights and tools to get them there.

Trainings: Using digital tools and skills to weather the pandemic 

Even before the pandemic, many retailers — large and small — had been embracing digital to find new opportunities. Those who went into the pandemic behind found themselves quickly learning new skills — so much so that the Connected Commerce Council found that 75% of European small businesses in the retail industry increased their use of digital tools during the pandemic, building a “digital safety net” for their businesses.

Take Maison des Sœurs Macarons, a famed dessert shop in Nancy, France. The owner Nicolas saw store sales drop by 90%, and decided to attend our Google Digital Workshop training program. After learning how to reach customers online with Google Ads and e-commerce, he saw the volume of online orders and customers double.

Since the start of the pandemic, our Grow with Google programme has trained more than three million individuals and businesses like Nicolas’ across Europe, equipping them with the digital skills they need to recover from the pandemic. And to help turn those newfound skills into action, we’ve launched more than 200 features since March 2020, helping businesses connect with their customers in this shifting landscape. With the holiday season ahead, we now have the pleasure of announcing a few more.

This was a group effort and digital tools made it all so much easier and more affordable than any of us were expecting. Ahmet Taskan, Honingwinkel. Utrecht, Netherlands.

Tools: What you need to give your customers the experience they deserve

More than ever, businesses need to be discoverable in more places than the high street. To help retailers stand out, we’re launching tailored recommendations for every business with our new tool, Local Opportunity Finder. Retailers can simply enter the name of their business into the easy-to-use tool, and we’ll provide customised solutions on how to improve their presence on Google Search and Maps — all in under five minutes. The impact can be huge: in Germany, for example, complete Business Profiles receive an average of over five times more calls compared to an incomplete profile.

In June, we’ll be rolling this tool out in the U.K., France, Germany, Italy and Spain with more countries across Europe, the Middle East and Africa to follow in the coming months. 

To make it even easier for retailers to manage their online presence, we’re also simplifying the process, allowing businesses to directly manage their contact information, opening hours and updates from Search and Maps.

Local opportunity finder screenshot

In addition, we help retailers with their existing e-commerce providers. We’ve built new, simplified integrations with Shopify and WooCommerce, helping retailers quickly get their product inventory live on Google — making sure more customers know what they sell and where to reach them.

Doing our part

We know that the tech-celeration we’ve seen can be tricky to keep up with. None of us know exactly how the next six months will unfold, but the resilience and creativity of small and medium-sized businesses over the last year deserves celebrating.

We’ll work hard  to help support the retail industry recover in the region — delivering the digital tools and skills you need, the insights you want, and the partnership you deserve.

Everyone needs a holiday – but when and where?

Every day, millions of people around the world turn to Google to search for travel related information. These searches help connect businesses and customers — but they also help us understand people’s enthusiasm when it comes to their travel and holiday plans.

The message we’re seeing is clear: people are eager to travel, so long as they can do so safely.

Trending questions people ask about travel in January vs. May 2021

Trending questions people ask about travel in January vs. May 2021

For the travel industry — an industry that is made up of millions of small and medium businesses that supports many millions of jobs — this will of course be welcome news. But it comes with unique challenges.

Getting online to be in line - for bookings, customers and reviews

Over the past year, we’ve all spent a lot of time online — more time than ever before. So the travel industry, like many others, will need to get online in order to be in line for bookings, customers and reviews.

Anew report by the Connected Commerce Council, funded by Google, shows that digital tools created a "safety net" for small and medium travel businesses in Europe during the pandemic:  86% increased digital tool use during the pandemic and over half of these businesses said they are planning to increase their use of digital tools post-pandemic.

We’re proud to have built tools to help. Since last year, Google has been collaborating with individual businesses, tourism ministries and experts all over the world to build the digital skills needed for a more digital post-pandemic travel sector.

Our partnership with the UN World Tourism Organisation has built acceleration programs in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Southern Europe — helping participants from across the travel industry to understand trends and plan ahead at a very unpredictable time.

We recently announced our plans to take this regional partnership global — helping tourism officials and destination marketers all over the world make strategic decisions for better tourism planning.

We’re also working with the industry at a local level. In France, our partnership with Atout France, the French tourism agency, has helped create a platform for industry professionals to monitor travel trends. In Spain, our Travel Analytics Center — available to Google’s commercial partners in the travel sector — helped Spanish airline Vueling to get a clear picture of the changing demand for flights during the pandemic, adapting their digital market strategy to reach customers who were likely to buy airline tickets. Using the tool, they managed to increase their flight sales and build a 31% return on their advertising investment.

Pull-quote from Caroline Leboucher on Google Hotel and Destination Insights tool

Finally, our work with Ministries of Tourism, Tourism Boards and cultural institutions has helped to promote travel to cultural destinations, including a virtual exploration of Lagos' Afrobeats and Alte music scene and seven places not to miss when visiting the city.

Google Arts & Culture: Eko for Show: Explore Lagos

Google Arts & Culture - Eko for Show: Explore Lagos

Predicting the future of travel

While tourist destinations and travelers are beginning to regain confidence after months of standstill from the pandemic, there’s no one-size-fits-all way to predict what future demand will look like.

Traditionally, tourist destinations would use historical data — but no former seasons can accurately predict when and where people will want to travel now, and what the ‘new normal’ that businesses will be operating in will look like.

That’s why we launched Travel Insights with Google, a website that features real time local data insights, helping the travel industry to understand demand and make better-informed decisions.

The website has two powerful tools. The first — the Destination Insights tool — helps governments and travel organisations better understand the destinations people are searching for, whether abroad or within their own countries. For example, we might see that German or Austrian travelers are most interested in visiting Croatia, and particularly places like Zagreb or larger coastal destinations. This insight helps businesses, destination marketers and Governments to map the return of travel — and make clear, informed choices about where to communicate with potential future visitors.

Our second tool, Hotel Insights with Google helps hotels of all sizes to understand where demand for their property may be coming from, so that they can better target and attract new guests. It also provides valuable tips on creating a strong digital presence — helping travel businesses to get online and attract bookings, customers and reviews.

Both tools are available globally for free in English with local versions in Europe in Spain, Greece, France, Italy and Croatia — with more languages to come very soon.

Search trends show that as vaccines roll out, travel interest appears to be on the rebound. People want to travel as they feel more confident to book a trip. Since mid-May, search interest has grown over 50% for flights across Europe with Spain, Italy and France topping the list of desirable destinations.

Top 10 trending vacation destinations in Europe

Top 10 trending vacation destinations in Europe

Search trends also show us that outdoor trips are still in style. In the summer of 2020, searches for outdoor recreation reached a 10-year high point, and this trend continues, with theme parks and RV rentals proving particularly popular.

Our commitment to the travel industry

There’s no denying that operating a business in a post-pandemic world can be a little uncertain. But at Google, we want to do our bit — delivering the insights and tools that the industry needs to give customers the travel experience they deserve.

We’ll be working even more closely with the industry as borders begin to open up, domestic travel increases, and international travel restarts.

No matter how quickly or slowly that recovery takes place, we’re committed to supporting travel and tourism - and the many people and businesses that depend on it.

Searching for the way forward

I can’t think of a time when technology has been able to be more helpful to more people, families, communities, companies and countries than today. At the same time, the ways that people are using technology are more dynamic than ever. Technology has been a lifeline in lockdown, and it will be an important catalyst in a sustainable and accelerated recovery that works for everyone.

As we strive to emerge from the narrow canyon of restrictions on our lives into a more familiar world of wider horizons, we’re all keen to understand which changes in habits and behaviors will stay with us. What will stick and what will fade? For businesses, the impact of this crisis has varied enormously. Some have seen acceleration, more have had to fight for survival as physical channels to customers were impacted. Whatever the situation, we’re all searching through a fog of uncertainty for the way forward.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we saw how changes were driving businesses to innovate — with many, like Lynsey Pollard’s Little Box of Books, using digital tools to quickly identify and respond to rising consumer demand — in her case for home education resources, tripling website visits in the very first month of the pandemic.

Now, a year later, we can see three big trends emerging that businesses should address to accelerate recovery.

Three lasting consumer trends, as
companies get ready for what’s next

The pandemic has accelerated existing shifts in behavior.

Firstly, we’ve seen that the pandemic has accelerated behaviors which were already underway. Consumers went digital across all aspects of their lives — searches for "delivery," "discount codes" and even "how to" grew significantly compared to the previous years. However, it’s worth noting that some behavior changes remain unpredictable. For example, people’s preference for shopping online over shopping in-store has fluctuated fast and often since May of last year.   

People need more help than ever navigating choice complexity.

Secondly, we’ve seen the value of being fast and helpful for customers. Consumer decision-making is increasingly complex, with more options and considerations than ever. So consumers need more help than ever in making those decisions, giving businesses a huge opportunity to introduce themselves and be helpful at the right moment. 

People want an open and affordable digital world, and that requires relevant ads that respect their privacy.

The increasing importance of technology in our lives has heightened expectations for an open and affordable digital world, underpinned by safety and privacy online. People understand the value of advertising to support that experience and they want to see relevant, timely ads that respect their privacy. 

A Google/Euroconsumers study found that nearly 70% of respondents believe the amount of personal data collected online makes it difficult for them to protect their privacy. Search interest for "online privacy" has grown globally by more than 50% year over year. 

We all have to build trust every time there’s an interaction. People deserve to know how their data is being used so that they can choose to give informed permission.  

More insights and tools for companies to help recovery

So what can we do to help companies face the uncertainty and such dynamic consumer trends? At Google, we’re developing new tools to help businesses understand and respond better to shifting needs. 

Firstly, we’re launching the new Insights Page within Google Ads. It is a new destination in Google Ads where marketers can see contextual and automated insights to help them adapt their business faster in a more dynamic world.

For instance, Body&Fit, an Irish company offering sports nutrition, food supplements and dietary products, was affected by a decline in in-store sales and international shipment delays during local lockdowns. By using health and fitness insights across a number of countries, the brand was able to find new opportunities for growth and even expanded into new markets. As a result, by the end of last year, it saw a 90% year-over-year increase in revenue.

Secondly, we’ve been looking at ways for businesses to move faster — by quickly taking action based on recommendations from our real-time insights, powered by machine learning. To achieve this, we’re taking automation one step further, giving marketers an option to "opt-in" to automatically apply certain campaign and performance recommendations. This means that every time our algorithms detect an opportunity to improve a campaign, brands can implement these recommendations instantly, enabling them to be fast and helpful for their consumers and save time. 

The Netherlands-based agency Dept has been automatically applying recommendations across its client portfolio, and it’s worked — the agency has saved 20% of the time it previously spent on repetitive tasks, while increasing Google ads optimization scores by 18 points on average. Dept has also seen a positive impact on their clients’ performance — construction company BAM saw a 10% increase in conversion volume and a 20% increase in conversion rate.

Finally, as we have seen a decline in trust in online advertising, we’ve been working with the advertising ecosystem on new privacy-preserving proposals open to the industry within the Privacy Sandbox. We’ve also confirmed that once third-party cookies are phased out, we will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will we use them in our products. Now is the time for marketers to focus on building strong first-party relationships and the expertise they need to build trust sustainably.

The insights businesses want, the tools they need, the partnership they deserve

As we search for the way forward, businesses need to be even closer to their consumers and respond to their needs faster than ever before. 

Google is here to help turn this challenge into a new opportunity for future growth, by providing the insights businesses want, the tools they need, and the partnership they deserve to help them find the way.

These 11 organizations are building a greener Europe

The science is clear: the world must act now to avert the worst consequences of climate change. In September we laid out what our next decade of climate action will look like. It’s clear that the scale and complexity of the battle to combat climate change will require everybody to work together, that’s why we continue to advocate for strong climate action.  

We launched a €10m Google.org Impact Challenge on Climate to fund bold ideas that aim to use technology to accelerate Europe’s progress toward a greener, more resilient future. Together with our partners at Climate-KIC, we’ve uncovered impactful and ambitious projects.

Here are the 11 organizations working on urgent climate-related issues across Europe that will receive Google.org funding. 

Meet the funding recipients

What’s ahead

Starting this week, the funding recipients of the Google Impact Challenge on Climate will receive mentoring and workshops from Google and external experts on topics like technology, growth, product, design, people, and more. 

Image that says Planet Progress

You can learn more about these organizations in a new podcast series called Planet Progress. In each 25-minute episode our host, mathematician and broadcaster Dr Hannah Fry, talks to organizations about their big ideas and the challenges they’re attempting to solve. 

These incredible organizations are paving the way for sustainable changes at the local and global level. We’re proud to do our part in helping them move the world closer to a carbon-free future. 

Google’s €25 million contribution to media literacy

While navigating the uncertainty and challenges of the last year, it has proven more important than ever for people to access accurate information, and sort facts from fiction. That’s why Google is contributing €25 million to help launch the European Media and Information Fund to strengthen media literacy skills, fight misinformation and support fact checking. Our goal is to ensure that you and your family get the information you want, the answers you need and the accuracy you deserve.

Our five-year commitment will support the work of the European University Institute, the European Digital Media Observatory and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation to fund organizations seeking to address key challenges:

  • Help adults and young people strengthen their media literacy skills
  • Support and scale the critical work of fact-checkers 
  • Strengthen the expertise, research and resources to help fight misinformation

As the first to contribute to the European Media and Information Fund, we welcome and encourage other organizations to follow our lead and support this important work. It is clear there is an unmet demand for funding and research, with fewer than one in 10 Europeans having participated in any form of online media literacy training, according to a recent report.  

In the coming weeks, the Fund will open for proposals from academics, nonprofits and publishers based in the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Independent committees made up of industry experts will select the winning ideas and Google won't be involved in any decision making related to the Fund. 

Our commitment today builds on our previous grants to fact checkers and nonprofits, including those related to the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines, and our work to tackle misinformation in the run up to other major events, such as elections. Since 2015, we’ve provided funding and technical support to organizations focused on misinformation, including innovative new models like CrossCheck in France, and provided digital verification training to 90,000 European journalists, receiving over 400,000 visits to our training website

And we’re of course continuing our other efforts to support media literacy for young people, with Be Internet Legends and Be Internet Citizens providing digital skills to help schoolchildren and teenagers verify and fact-check. Through our philanthropic arm, Google.org, we’ve provided €3.2 million in funding since 2018 to programs like Newswise, The Student View and Weitklick, and through the Google News Initiative additional funding to support Students for President and Zeit für Lehrer.

If you represent an organization with an idea, you can learn more about the Fund and find out when applications open by registering on this website.

Digital tools create a safety net for European businesses

Alongside the public health crisis, the economic impact of the pandemic is being felt heavily around the world. As entrepreneurs, business leaders and Governments work to protect jobs and accelerate a return to prosperity in the long term, it's clear that digital tools and skills are going to be more important than ever. That’s why Google is investing in new tools and training to ensure all businesses can build resilience and recover quickly. These are helping companies such as handmade accessories retailer MoonDot in Poland who used digital tools to improve online sales by 70%, and La Maison Des Soeurs Macarons in France who gained 200 new customers after its team took online training courses in digital skills. 

A new report released today by the Connected Commerce Council, funded by Google, shows how a “digital safety net” can serve as a support system for small businesses. The survey of more than 5,000 small businesses across Europe found that businesses that used digital tools to rapidly change how they find customers, sell products and operate reported 80 percent better sales during COVID-19 than those who didn’t, and hired three times as many people. And without such tools, many would have gone out of business.


Digital drives jobs and sales for small businesses

Whilst almost all (80 percent) of European small businesses increased their use of digital tools during the pandemic, the report identified three different types of small businesses based on their adoption of digital tools, and how this impacts their business:

  • Digitally Advanced small businesses (42 percent of small businesses in Europe) use more than 10 digital tools and prioritize their importance, leading to better business outcomes such as higher revenue and jobs 

  • Digitally Evolving small businesses (40 percent) viewed tools as supporting or essential for their business, but were deploying an average of six 

  • Digitally Uncertain small businesses (18 percent) use less digital tools and don’t prioritize their importance, leading to worse business outcomes

Digital drives jobs and sales for small businesses

There is clear untapped potential for European businesses to benefit from digital tools 

From consulting with small businesses, the researchers identified a “stack” of digital tools —  e-commerce, data analytics and talent management, cloud services and collaboration tools — that created significant revenue advantages for small businesses if they were being used prior to the pandemic. This ultimately showed that not only is digital driving revenue and jobs for these businesses, but also that Europe is missing out on significant untapped growth from businesses who are not yet convinced about the usefulness of digital tools. 

The pandemic had a dramatic, and uneven, impact on small businesses

The impact on small businesses was, and continues to be, extreme, with 90 percent saying they were negatively impacted and 44 percent having to adjust their business models. And certain industries and groups faced greater challenges than others, particularly female, older and solo-operator business owners. 

Impact of digital tools on different business owners

What’s next 

It’s clear from this research that there is an opportunity to drive jobs and revenue for European small businesses. However, the research shows that governments and companies need to narrow the gap between the digitally advanced and uncertain, particularly for underrepresented groups. As new digital habits like online shopping and remote working are here to stay even after the pandemic, the research also highlights the risk of some small businesses falling further behind their competitors if they don’t increase their use of digital tools. The barriers those businesses face include being unsure of the return on investment and also a lack of skills and knowledge about digital tools. 

This is why new skills are such an important part of economic recovery efforts across Europe. It’s also why we are committed to investing in research like this to inform and build on the tools and training we already provide. Google is joining policy makers, public agencies, training partners and others to develop products and partnerships to help tackle these barriers, like ourZukunftHandel program, in partnership with HDE, the German Retail Association, to help German retail businesses or Ma Vitrine En Ligne, in partnership with the French Federation of Trade Associations, to connect artisans and traders with digital experts for remote support courses, and providing personalized product recommendations for small business owners on our Google for Small Business hub

By removing these barriers, we can achieve an accelerated, sustainable recovery which works for everyone. 

Read the full report and methodology from the Connected Commerce Council.


Key stats at a glance:

  • Key stats at a glance:

    • The impact: 

      • 80% of small businesses increased their use of digital tools during the pandemic

      • 44% had to to adjust their business models

      • Small businesses with a sophisticated use of digital tools fared nearly twice as better financially (80% better sales; 60% better revenue) during COVID-19, and hired over three times as many people

    • The challenge: 

      • 90% of small businesses were negatively impacted by the pandemic 

      • Digitally advanced small businesses are about 2.5X more likely to be led by someone under 45 years old versus a leader over 45. 

      • Female small business leaders face more than 10% greater revenue challenges than men if they don’t use digital tools, but conversely these tools help women more when deployed successfully

    • The future

      • 62% of small businesses believe they will fully recover to pre-pandemic levels during the next year

      • 50% of small businesses plan to increase their use of digital tools

Job-training solutions in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

As the pandemic accelerates changes in how and where we work, many of us will need to upgrade our skills or even change careers. Today we’re announcing more help, in partnership with expert organizations and with the public sector, building on our experience in training over 17 million people in Europe, the Middle East and Africa over the last six years through Grow with Google.

Even before COVID-19, research by Google and McKinsey showed that more than 90 million European workers may need to develop significant new skills within their current roles, while up to 21 million may have to leave occupations with declining labor needs like agriculture or in-person retail. The global crisis has sped up many of these predicted changes: McKinsey now estimates that 25% more people in Europe may need to transition to new jobs after the pandemic. Many people will need to learn new skills, as almost all growth in labor demand will continue to be for higher skill, higher wage jobs. 

Today, we are announcing three new Google Career Certificates available online on Coursera, which enable people to become job-ready for growing career areas such as IT Support, Project Management, UX Design and Data Analytics. These low-cost programs help people who want to learn online at their own pace, or who may want to change careers and don't have the time or means to access traditional education. They can be completed in under six months, do not require relevant experience or a degree, and are recognized by industry experts and employers. 

These certificates help meet surging demand by workers to get the skills they need to secure good jobs. At the start of the lockdowns, we saw atripling of demandfor online learning, and the interest has been mostly sustained throughout the year, as people need to find new jobs or learn new skills that employers are looking for today — and in the years ahead.

These certificates help meet surging demand by workers to get the skills they need to secure good jobs. In the last year, we've seen increased interest in online learning as more workers lose their jobs or as they seek the skills employers are looking for today — and in the years ahead.

Addressing the challenges of the future of work requires collaboration between governments, companies and community organizations. We are proud to support the European Commission’s Pact for Skills, and, as part of our commitment to help people overcome barriers to learning, we will provide scholarships for the certificates for 100,000 people in EMEA. Scholarships will be distributed through local organizations like Fundae and SEPE in Spain, APDC and IEFP in Portugal, the London Borough of Camden in the UK, OAED in Greece, Czechitas in Czech Republic and Slovakia, the Agency for Digital Development (ADD) in Morocco and RootHub in Nigeria. Additional local collaborations will be announced soon. 

We’re also focused on ways to address gender and economic inequalities, which have been further widened by the pandemic. Underrepresented groups, low-income workers and women are more exposed to hard-hit sectors, like food service or hospitality, and are therefore more at risk of losing their jobs. Older workers without computer experience also face unique challenges as they struggle more to get back into work. Google.org will allocate 50,000 of these scholarships for people from underserved communities, providing access to people from all backgrounds.

Google.org through an initial €5 million grant to INCO, a global nonprofit organisation, will work with over 50 local nonprofits to provide services like career advice, interview preparation, childcare vouchers and language support. These organisations include Riga Tech Girls, a woman-led nonprofit in Latvia that will distribute scholarships to underprivileged women to help get more women into tech jobs.

While there are people that cannot find a job because they don't have the right skills, 40% of employers in Europe also struggled to find qualified people. Joining policy efforts led by the European Commission and others to help bridge the skills gap between employers and workers, we’re committed to gathering companies and organizations who, like us, recognize the Google Career Certificates and openly express their interest in receiving applications from graduates. Certificate graduates can also apply for our apprenticeship programs

Technology must help everyone, no matter their location, race, age or education level. Governments and companies must rethink how we equip people with new skills by removing barriers to learning and investing in innovative partnerships — otherwise these inequalities will only grow.  We hope that with these new efforts and the support of our public sector partners, even more people can develop the skills to thrive and continue growing their careers through technology.

Help build a digital future in Central & Eastern Europe

Technology has been a lifeline for many European businesses and communities throughout the pandemic—from helping people find accurate health information and buy groceries online to finding new ways to learn and stay connected with loved ones. But equally, the pandemic has also widened the social divide, putting disadvantaged groups at risk of being further left behind. As economies embark on a path to recovery, creating an accessible digital future for everyone will be vital.  

To help fill that need, today we are launching our first Google.org Impact Challenge dedicated to Central and Eastern Europe. With this initiative we are further committing to the region, and we will be distributing €2 million in grants to organizations that are working to bridge the social and digital divide to promote inclusive economic growth and recovery. (For those who are interested, applications are open now until March 1, 2021.) 

Make sure everyone in CEE has access to digital opportunities

This work is particularly important for Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), where governments, businesses and communities have outlined their ambition to make digital a driver of economic prosperity for the more than 100 million people who live in the region. The CEE countries are working together as part of the Three Seas Initiative to make that vision a reality, and we are doing our part to help.

Last year Google pledged to help 10 million people and businesses across Europe, Middle East and Africa digitize, grow and find new careers. In the CEE region specifically, we helped 250,000 people grow their digital skills or transition to a digital-focused career in 2020 alone.  

Similarly, just in the past year Google.org has also given more than €1.5 million in individual grant funding to several charitable organisations in Central and Eastern Europe that are working to improve digital-enabled education and economic opportunity. We’ve been inspired by how these organizations give back to their communities. Digital Nation helps facilitate remote employment in disadvantaged areas across Romania through offering a virtual training program tailored to IT jobs and supporting small businesses through digital upskilling. And other organizations, like the Czechitas initiative in Czechia, Women Go Tech in Lithuania and Riga Tech Girls in Latvia, are all working to build a digital future for all and helping connect women to professional opportunities in tech. 

With this Google.org Impact Challenge, we’re excited to see all the new ways organizations can positively impact their communities and build an inclusive digital future for all.  

Apply with your bold ideas by March 1, 2021

Applications for the Google.org Impact Challenge for Central and Eastern Europe are now open. We’re looking for initiatives that aim to rebuild the economy with social inclusion at its core. The ideas can be big or small and at any level of maturity—whether it’s a new idea or a well-established effort poised to scale. Applicants must apply with projects that are charitable in nature, meet the application criteria, and be based in one of the following countries: Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Eligible organizations (including nonprofit organizations, for-profit companies and academic institutions) can apply for support for their charitable projects until March 1, 2021 at g.co/ceechallenge

We’ve asked a distinguished panel of experts to advise on the selection of the boldest and brightest project ideas. More than a dozen academics, leaders and civil society activists from across the region will help decide which applicants will receive between €50,000-€250,000 in grant funding and possible support from Google to help with their initiatives.

We hope this support will encourage social innovators across the region to think big about how they can use technology to help individuals and communities in Central and Eastern Europe thrive in a digitized economy. 

Our data centers support Europe’s green economic recovery

In 2020, families, schools and businesses moved online more than ever due to the pandemic. All the Google services you rely on are powered by our data centres, and we’ve had to ensure this infrastructure works for everyone as demand increased—for businesses using Google Cloud and Google Meet, and for anyone who asks a question on Search, watches a YouTube video, or uses Google Maps to get from A to B. 

In the last few weeks, we’ve added new infrastructure to Europe that supports the continent’s digital growth. Last month in Hamina, Finland, we were delighted to welcome Prime Minister Sanna Marin as she visited the construction site of our sixth data center building. Last week, we opened a new data center in Denmark in Fredericia. And just this week in the Netherlands, our second Dutch data center started its operation in Middenmeer.

A European green transition, powered by sustainable infrastructure

We’re proud that our data centers operate the cleanest cloud in the industry. They are on average twice as energy efficient as a typical enterprise data center. Compared to five years ago, we now deliver around seven times as much computing power with the same amount of electrical power. 

Last week Europe announced its ambitious55 percent reduction target for CO2 emissions by 2030, in addition to its 32 percent renewable energy target. Google is helping to accelerate this transition, having supported nearly 1,700 megawatts of new renewable energy projects in Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands. And we are committed to supporting the EU Climate Pact, as technology will have a critical role to play in making the EU Green Deal vision a reality.

Taking the world’s greenest data center fleet to the next level

Our AI technology helps reduce the energy we use to cool our data centers by 30 percent, and we make it available for use by airports, shopping malls, hospitals, data centers and other commercial buildings and industrial facilities. 
But we’re not stopping there. A few months ago, we announced our Third Decade of Climate Action: an ambitious plan to help build a carbon-free future and operate on clean energy around the clock. This is far more challenging than the traditional approach of matching energy usage with renewable energy, but we’re working to get this done in the next nine years.

Contributing to European growth with our (new) data centers

In addition to enabling the greenest, cleanest cloud, all these sites bring economic growth and employment to local communities and to Europe. In Finland, our data center has brought €1.2 billion in investment and supported 1700 jobs every year since 2009. During construction of our Denmark data center, we spent over €600 million and supported 2600 jobs. And in the Netherlands, we’ve directly invested €2.5 billion since 2014.

In the next five years, we expect to anchor €2 billion in new carbon-free energy generation projects and green infrastructure in Europe, helping to develop new technologies to make round-the-clock carbon-free energy cheaper and more widely available. 

Investing in our local communities

Partnerships at the local level make all the difference to communities. We have long worked with local NGOs in our data center communities and have donated millions to important initiatives in Europe, including skills training in cooperation with local colleges and universities. 

We have supported multiple education programmes focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths), as well as environmental and cultural projects. For example, in Denmark we recently supported two projects with the Museum Fredericia that will promote local history through virtual experiences. In the Netherlands, we’ve helped with the preservation of local bee and butterfly populations. And in Ireland, during COVID-19, we’ve assisted vulnerable communities, and have given grants to local schools to provide students with laptops and enable home schooling.

We are proud to invest in Europe’s digital infrastructure, contribute to the local communities we operate in and support Europe’s green transition. This will be a decisive decade, and we are committed to leading by example.