Author Archives: Ruth Porat

Our 2020 environmental report

Today, we released our 2020 Environmental Report that outlines how we’re reducing the environmental footprint of our operations and working to help people everywhere live more sustainably. 

This work has been part of Google’s DNA since our founding in 1998. Part of our culture after we’ve hit a milestone is to ask ourselves “what more can we do?”, and we are applying that to our climate objectives. So for example, after becoming carbon neutral in 2007 — the first major company to do so — we later set a goal to match 100% of our electricity consumption with renewable energy and accomplished that for the first time in 2017. 

We’re proud of the environmental work we’ve done. Our recent achievements include: 

We’re in the early innings of this fight. That’s why we’ve committed to building upon this solid foundation with our most audacious set of goals yet, which we announced in September. By 2030, we’re aiming to operate on 24/7 carbon-free energy and add 5 GW of carbon-free energy through investments across key manufacturing regions. We’re also keenly focused on empowering people and communities to take action. By 2022, we aim to help 1 billion people make more sustainable choices through our products (think bike shares and electric charging stations listed on Google Maps), and by 2030 we plan to help more than 500 cities and local governments reduce a total of 1 gigaton of carbon emissions annually.

It’s critical to regularly track our environmental commitments and share updates with stakeholders. Data and transparency are important markers of the progress we’re all making to protect our planet, so we’ll continue to publish reports like this one and our Supplier Responsibility Report.

We are committed to leading the fight against climate change and will keep working to help people, cities and governments make important choices that will result in positive change. 

Our 2020 environmental report

Today, we released our 2020 Environmental Report that outlines how we’re reducing the environmental footprint of our operations and working to help people everywhere live more sustainably. 

This work has been part of Google’s DNA since our founding in 1998. Part of our culture after we’ve hit a milestone is to ask ourselves “what more can we do?”, and we are applying that to our climate objectives. So for example, after becoming carbon neutral in 2007 — the first major company to do so — we later set a goal to match 100% of our electricity consumption with renewable energy and accomplished that for the first time in 2017. 

We’re proud of the environmental work we’ve done. Our recent achievements include: 

We’re in the early innings of this fight. That’s why we’ve committed to building upon this solid foundation with our most audacious set of goals yet, which we announced in September. By 2030, we’re aiming to operate on 24/7 carbon-free energy and add 5 GW of carbon-free energy through investments across key manufacturing regions. We’re also keenly focused on empowering people and communities to take action. By 2022, we aim to help 1 billion people make more sustainable choices through our products (think bike shares and electric charging stations listed on Google Maps), and by 2030 we plan to help more than 500 cities and local governments reduce a total of 1 gigaton of carbon emissions annually.

It’s critical to regularly track our environmental commitments and share updates with stakeholders. Data and transparency are important markers of the progress we’re all making to protect our planet, so we’ll continue to publish reports like this one and our Supplier Responsibility Report.

We are committed to leading the fight against climate change and will keep working to help people, cities and governments make important choices that will result in positive change. 

An update on our efforts to help Americans navigate COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges and emphasized how important it is for each of us to do our part to help find solutions. I’m sharing an update here on how Google is contributing to keep people safe and helping to get American businesses back up and running.

Contributing to economic recovery efforts

As I’ve written earlier, to help small businesses gain easier access to badly-needed capital, we founded the $170 million Grow with Google Small Business Fund alongside $10 million in Google.org grants, with an aim to help the most underserved small businesses, particularly those owned by women and minorities. In collaboration with Opportunity Finance Network, more than $53 million dollars of loans and Google.org grants have been allocated to community partners who are focused on serving rural, women, Black, Latino and Native borrowers, which helps American communities start to get back on their feet. Tires by Papi and Bailiwick Clothing Company are two such examples.


Of course, our greatest contribution continues to be developing products to help people stay informed, adapt and get through this pandemic. 

According to the Connected Commerce Council, nearly one in three small business owners report that without digital tools they would close all or parts of their business. To help small businesses, we rolled out many new, free product features earlier this year, so that they can inform their customers about things like takeout, delivery, no-contact delivery, or curbside pickup. Today, people can now find this information on Search and Maps for more than 2 million restaurants and retailers in the U.S.


Using Search and Maps, you can find information about businesses.

We’ve used Google’s Duplex technology to make calls to businesses and confirm things like temporary closures. This has enabled us to make 3 million updates to business information globally, which have been seen by people over 20 billion times in Search and Maps. 


To help people searching for jobs, we have stepped up to help in many ways. We added new relevant features in the U.S. like showing jobs that can be done remotely. Google Cloud has partnered with different states to help jobseekers: we assisted Rhode Island’s Virtual Career Center, a new platform that  connects thousands of jobseekers with jobs and employment services; worked with the State of Illinois to develop a 24/7 Virtual Intelligent Agent on the IDES website; developed a chatbot, in partnership with the New Jersey Office of Innovation to provide real-time answers to the 20 most popular unemployment questions. These are just some of the examples. 


We also transformed our free Grow with Google training to virtual formats and have already trained more than 1 million Americans on digital skills this year. The Google IT Support Professional Certificate—which takes beginner learners to entry-level jobs ready in under six months—has become the most popular certificate on Coursera during COVID-19.

Grow with Google digital skills training

Providing trusted information

Questions related to the pandemic are more searched than sports or music (and even elections) in every state. 

Top coronavirus related searches in the U.S. this month:

  1. Coronavirus symptoms

  2. Coronavirus update

  3. Coronavirus vaccine

Across the U.S. people are searching on Google to stay informed and adapt. In 47 states, the top coronavirus-related question during the last six months has been “How many cases of coronavirus in [my state].” Search interest for “online courses” reached an all-time high in April this year, as did searches for “unemployment,”compared to search trends over the last 15 years. 


During this time, we’ve also seen people seek out information to help them navigate their daily lives. For example, since the pandemic began, searches for “curbside pickup” have increased 13-fold compared to this time last year, while searches for “contact tracing” spiked 1,000 percent  in April and then reached an all-time high in May. 


In March, we launched Search Knowledge Panels so when people search for information related to COVID-19, they immediately see local guidance, information about symptoms, prevention and treatments. We’ve committed $250 million in Ad Grants to help government agencies provide critical information related to COVID-19. As of today we’ve served more than 100 million PSAs from local public health agencies, which have been seen by tens of millions of people across the U.S.


We also launched the Journalism Emergency Relief Fund to provide emergency funding for small and medium sized news organizations covering the pandemic. To date, we’ve distributed $9 million to U.S. newsrooms across all 50 states. 

Helping people make safe choices 

To help people make informed decisions about where to go, the COVID layer in Google Maps shows critical information about new cases in an area and how they’re trending. As of this month, our COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports, which are used by public health agencies and researchers around the globe, have been downloaded more than 16 million times. 

In May, we partnered with Apple to launch the Exposure Notifications System (ENS) and made it available to public health authorities around the world in their fight against COVID-19. Designed specifically and carefully to protect users’ privacy while helping public health authorities and governments manage countries’ re-opening, today 13 states and U.S. territories have built apps based on this ENS technology.

In a short time, COVID-19 has changed how people live their lives. We’ll continue to update our products and roll out initiatives to help people and American businesses find trusted information, adapt and manage economic uncertainty.  

Source: Google LatLong


Alphabet issues sustainability bonds to support environmental and social initiatives

For more than 20 years, Google's products have improved the lives of people all over the world. Operating our business in an environmentally and socially responsible way has been a core value since our founding in 1998. Google has been carbon neutral since 2007 and we’ve matched our entire electricity consumption with renewables for the past three years. We continue to make major investments in affordable housing and have made a number of significant commitments to promote racial equity

Today, as part of a $10 billion debt offering, we have issued $5.75 billion in sustainability bonds, the largest sustainability or green bond by any company in history. Although a number of companies have issued green bonds (directed solely to environmental uses), sustainability bonds differ in that their proceeds support investment in both environmental and social initiatives. Such bonds are an emerging asset class and we hope this transaction will help develop this new market. We’re encouraged that there was such strong demand for these bonds from investors—they were significantly oversubscribed.


The proceeds from these sustainability bonds will fund ongoing and new projects that are environmentally or socially responsible and enable investors to join us in tackling critical issues. We believe that these investments benefit our communities, employees and stakeholders, and are an important part of fulfilling Google’s  mission and goal of creating value over the long term. 


Consistent with the Green Bond Principles and the Social Bond Principles, eligible projects for use of proceeds are within the following eight areas that build on significant investments we have previously made and will not be allocated to any Google.org activities.

Energy efficiency

For more than a decade, we’ve worked to make Google data centers some of the most efficient in the world by optimizing our use of energy, water, and materials. Today, on average, a Google data center is twice as energy efficient as a typical enterprise data center. Compared with five years ago, we now deliver around seven times as much computing power with the same amount of electricity.  

Clean energy

Combating climate change requires transitioning to a clean energy economy. To date, we have committed approximately $4 billion to purchase clean energy from more than 50 wind and solar projects globally through 2034. Next, we are focused on our longer term vision to source carbon-free energy for our operations 24 hours a day, seven days a week; this means matching our energy consumption with clean energy for each of our data centers around the world on an hour-by-hour basis.

Green buildings

Since the beginning, we've focused on the impact of our workplaces: from how we build our offices to preventing food waste in our cafes. Today, more than 13 million square feet of Google offices are LEED certified.

Clean transportation 

We’re working to mitigate carbon emissions and take cars off the road by promoting the use of EVs and bicycles. By using Google shuttles in the Bay Area, we saved 40,000+ metric tons of CO2 emissions—equivalent to taking 8,760 cars off the road every work day. 

Circular economy and design

We are committed to maximizing the reuse of finite resources across our operations, products, and supply chains and to enable others to do the same. To date, we’ve shipped millions of devices made with post-consumer recycled plastic and 100% of Nest products launched in 2019 include recycled plastics.

Affordable housing

We strive to be a good neighbor in the places we call home. To address the lack of affordable housing in the Bay Area, we made a $1 billion commitment to invest in housing and expect to help build 20,000 residential units, of which at least 5,000 will be affordable. 

Commitment to racial equity 

Because racial equity is inextricably linked to economic opportunity, we will continue to support Black businesses. Recent efforts include a $175+ million economic opportunity initiative, including financing for small businesses in Black communities, and a $100 million YouTube fund to amplify the voices of Black creators and artists.

Support for small business and COVID-19 response

COVID-19 has taken a devastating toll on many businesses. To help we made an $800+ million commitment to small- and medium-sized businesses, health organizations, governments, and health workers on the frontlines. We’ve also partnered with Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) to provide low-interest loans to community development financial institutions, who in turn provide loans to small businesses in underserved communities in the U.S., and are working with the American Library Association to create entrepreneurship centers across the U.S. 

Our Sustainability Bond Framework will guide our investments. To ensure transparency and alignment with the framework, we'll report back annually on which projects have been funded from the bonds' proceeds and their expected impact.

This is the next chapter in our commitment to a more sustainable future for everyone. 

Helping small businesses get access to capital

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been actively working on ways to support communities and small businesses in the United States and around the world. In March, we announced the $125 million Grow with Google Small Business Fund as one way to offer support. Through a partnership with Opportunity Finance Network (OFN), the fund provides low-interest loans to community development financial institutions (CDFI), who in turn provide loans to small businesses in underserved communities in the U.S. Google.org also made a $5 million grant to OFN to further support CDFIs as they grow their capital and build their capacity during this time of crisis. 

Earlier today, as part of our effort to support the Black community, our CEO Sundar Pichai announced that we are expanding the program by adding $45 million in loans to the fund and $5 million in Google.org grants to OFN, with a specific focus on Black communities. This brings Google’s total support for CDFIs and the small businesses they serve to $170 million in loans and $10 million in Google.org grants.

Today we’re announcing the first five CDFIs, which will receive a total of $15.5 million in financing from OFN. They will provide loans to small businesses to help them make rent, pay their employees and continue to serve their customers. This financing will enable OFN’s member CDFIs to improve access to capital for some of the most underserved small businesses: those owned by women and minorities. In addition, six CDFIs will each receive a $125,000 from OFN, made from the grant funds provided by Google.org.

Here are the CDFIs which will receive the first round of funding.

  • Grameen America ($5 million loan, $125,000 grant): With 23 branches across 15 cities, Grameen America focuses exclusively on providing loans to U.S. microenterprises owned by low-income women.

  • MoFi ($3 million loan): By providing financing and consulting, MoFi reaches small business owners across Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. 

  • Opportunity Fund($5 million loan, $125,000 grant): Based in California, Opportunity Fund provides loans to small businesses throughout the U.S., focusing on minority-, women- and immigrant-owned businesses.

  • PeopleFund ($1.5 million loan, $125,000 grant): Operating across Texas, PeopleFund provides small-business loans, as well as business assistance and education, to people with otherwise limited access to such resources. 

  • Citizens Potawatomi Community Development Corporation (CPCDC)($1 million loan, $125,000 grant): One of the largest Native-owned CDFIs in the nation, CPCDC provides financial education, access to capital, business development services and community development initiatives to the Citizen Potawatomi National Tribal Community and other underserved Native populations. 

  • Pacific Community Ventures (PCV) ($125,000 grant): Based in California and supporting small businesses throughout the U.S., PCV’s integrated model provides diverse small businesses with affordable capital, free mentoring, impact evaluation and research.

  • Washington Area Community Investment Fund (Wacif) ($125,000 grant): Wacif increases equity and economic opportunity in underserved communities by investing in low- and moderate-income entrepreneurs with a focus on minority- and women-owned businesses in financially underserved communities east of the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C. and in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Although most CDFIs are not household names, they play a vital role for small businesses throughout the U.S., many of whom are overlooked by traditional lenders. According to OFN’s 2018 Member Survey, their over 300 member CDFIs serve 58 percent people of color, 85 percent people with low incomes, 26 percent people who live in rural areas, and 48 percent women. 

Since announcing the Grow with Google Small Business Fund, we’ve worked hand-in-hand with OFN to create a holistic program that includes low-interest loans, funding for cash grants, Ad Grants and digital skills training through Grow with Google, our economic opportunity initiative. Over the next year, Google and OFN will continue to work together to underwrite and fund loans to additional CDFIs, which will then lend to thousands of small businesses. Through this partnership and program, we hope we can do our part to make sure small businesses remain the heart of the U.S. economy.

Making an impact in Canada

Aamir Baig was an entrepreneur with a big idea—to build a company that reimagines how customers furnish their homes and workplaces. With Fraser Hall and brothers Sam and Andy Prochazka, Baig co-founded the furniture retailerArticle. They then turned to digital advertising services to find new customers across Canada and the U.S. and drive growth. Thanks to digital technologies, the Vancouver-based company has built a rapidly expanding business in just six years, and is now Canada’s fastest growing company according to Canadian Business.

Google has helped Canadian enterprises of all sizes to unlock the prosperity of the internet. According to new research from Public First, last year Google’s search and advertising products helped generate an estimated $23 billion CAD in annual economic activity for more than 500,000 businesses in Canada—a total impact equivalent to approximately 1.1 percent of Canada’s entire GDP. 

Why digital matters for Canada

The transition to digital reflects incredible momentum for Canadian businesses leveraging data and online technologies. Canada’s digital economy generates some $100 billion CAD in annual revenues, more than the forestry, mining and gas industries combined. The internet addresses many of the traditional economic challenges that a country of Canada’s vast size once faced—a population the size of California, spread over a land mass roughly the size of Russia. The open web helps solve for distance and lack of population density, and allows any size company or individual creator in Canada to become a global business and reach customers across the planet. Google’s products alone support $1.7 billion CAD annually in incremental exports for Canadian businesses. And 160,000 Canadian YouTube creators see 90 percent of their views come from outside Canada’s borders. 

Sustaining this kind of economic growth hinges on building a smart and adaptable workforce. Canada’s investments in first-rate education and technological research--spearheaded by facilities like MILA in Montreal and Toronto’s Vector Institute-coupled with its consistent welcoming of global talent, reflect a commitment to a labor force designed to seize the opportunities of the digital economy.

Growing Google in Canada

Google began its business in Canada in 2001, when our office in Toronto was opened with one salesperson. Nineteen years later, we employ more than 1,500 people—including engineers, sales leaders and AI researchers—across three offices in Waterloo, Toronto and Montreal.

Today we’re pleased to announce that we’re expanding our presence in Canada and building three new offices, one in each of these cities. By 2022, these offices will accommodate up to 5,000 employees. 

Investing in Canada’s future workforce

Our investment in Canada extends beyond our facilities—we also aim to support the communities in which we live and work. Just in the last five years Google has invested $17 million CAD in Canadian nonprofits, specifically to help Canadians learn essential digital skills training with programs like the Google IT Support Professional Certificate program

Programs like these have helped people like Jean Claude Kamov transform Canada. Jean Claude was a refugee from the Congo who moved to Canada to escape violence and build a better life for his family. He always dreamed of a career in technology, but the cost of training held him back. Jean Claude heard about our program, which offers people with no previous tech experience the training to become certified in IT support. He applied at the Edmonton Public Library and became the first graduate to be hired into a new high tech career. 

Stories like Jean Claude’s are why we’re continuing to invest in skills training programs. Today Google.org is announcing an additional $2.5 million grant for NPower Canada, a charitable organization that launches underserved young adults into meaningful and sustainable careers. 

Helping Canadians benefit from digital opportunities

Google is pleased to play a part in Canada’s ongoing digital transformation. We’re helping Canadian businesses grow, we’re investing directly in programs to support Canadians learning new skills and we’re expanding our offices to accommodate for long-term growth. When Google looks to Canada, we see the potential of technology to drive business and change lives. We’re committed to helping Canadians deliver on that potential.


It should be the goal of every business to protect our planet

Today, at the start of the 25th annualUnited Nations Climate Change Conference, Google is joining 70 other companies and union leaders to call for the United States to stay in the Paris Agreement. We’re also sharing what Google is doing as a global innovator in renewable energy markets, and to build responsible supply chains and products that use AI to drive sustainability. 

We firmly believe that every business has the opportunity and obligation to protect our planet. To that end, we’re focused on building sustainability into everything that we do—from designing efficient data centers to creating sustainable workplaces to manufacturing better devices and creating more efficient supply chains. But our goal is much bigger: to enable everyone—businesses, policy makers and consumers—to create and live in a more sustainable world. 

Catalyzing the market for renewable energy

Google has been a carbon-neutral company since 2007 and we’ve matched our entire annual electricity consumption with renewable energy since 2017. Purchasing at Google’s scale helps grow the market for renewable energy, makes it easier for other corporate buyers to follow suit and supports a future where everyone has access to 24x7 carbon-free energy.  

  • Following Sundar’s September announcement of our biggest renewable energy purchase to date, we now have a portfolio of 52 wind and solar projects totaling more than 5 gigawatts, driving some $7 billion in expected new investments and thousands of related jobs around the world. Once these projects come online, they will produce more electricity than cities the size of Washington, D.C. or countries such as Lithuania or Uruguay use each year—all with renewable energy. 

  • We insist that all projects add new renewable energy sources to the grid—which catalyzes new  wind and solar projects. This approach also drives economic growth in the regions where we operate. For example, in Europe alone, Google’s purchases of renewable energy have generated €2.3 billion in capital investment in new renewable projects.

  • Google’s renewable energy purchases have helped make significant progress towards our long-term aspiration to power our operations with carbon-free energy in all places, at all times. Reaching 24x7 carbon-free energy will require innovations across policy, technology and business models and we are working hard to advance progress in these areas. For example, we recently signed a hybrid solar-wind agreement in Chile, which will increase our hourly carbon-free energy match from 75 percent to more than 95 percent.

  • As a founding member of the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), we are leading an effort to bring together more than 300 renewable energy buyers, developers, and service providers to pave the way for any company to access and purchase renewable energy. Collectively this group has committed to purchasing 60 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2025; that’s more than six times the amount of solar and wind installed in the U.S. in 2018. 

  • We’re also partnering with businesses to drive policy change to create broad access to renewable energy purchasing for everyone. For example, in the state of Georgia, we worked with Walmart, Target and Johnson & Johnson to establish the first corporate renewable energy purchasing program with Georgia Power, the local utility.

Building responsible supply chains and products

In areas where we manufacture hardware products, we view it as our responsibility to make sure our suppliers and the surrounding communities have access to clean energy. We’re also committed to integrating sustainability into every step of our hardware process, from design to manufacturing to shipping: 

  • In October, we committed to invest approximately $150 million into renewable energy projects in key regions where our Made by Google products are manufactured. Our investment commitment, alongside partners, aims to catalyze roughly $1.5 billion of capital into renewable energy. With these investments, we expect to help generate renewable energy that is equivalent to the amount of electricity used to manufacture Google consumer hardware products. 

  • One-hundred percent of this year’s Nest products include recycled content plastic. 

  • One-hundred percent of all shipments to and from customers of Made by Google products are carbon neutral. 

  • On an individual level, our products and services help consumers reduce their own environmental impact on the planet. For example, the Nest Learning Thermostats have helped people save more than 41 billion kilowatt hours of energy—enough to power all of Estonia's electricity needs for six years.

  • We’re also making it easier for people to give their old devices a second life. Customers can responsibly recycle devices for free—whether made by Google or not—via our take-back program for all products, available in 16 countries, and via our U.S. Pixel trade-in program.

Using AI to build a more sustainable world

Google’s expertise in AI is a key part of how we think about sustainability. Here are just a few of the ways AI is helping to tackle some of the world’s most challenging environmental problems:

  • We built an AI-powered efficiency recommendation system that directly controls data center cooling. This first-of-its-kind cloud-based system is delivering energy savings of roughly 30 percent. We’re now working to give our Cloud customers access to this same technology.

  • We’re using AI to optimize wind farms in our global fleet of renewable energy projects. After DeepMind and Google started applying machine learning algorithms to 700 megawatts of wind power in the central U.S., the value of that wind energy has been boosted by roughly 20 percent.

  • AI powers Global Fishing Watch, a platform we launched in partnership with Oceana and SkyTruth that promotes ocean sustainability by visualizing, tracking and sharing data about global fishing activity in near real-time and for free.

  • We’re also working to reduce the impact of our changing climate on vulnerable people. It’s estimated that every year, 250 million people around the world are affected by flooding. Our flood forecasting initiative in the Patna region of India is aimed at providing accurate real-time flood forecasting information and alerts to those in affected regions.

Providing resources to accelerate action beyond Google

Many organizations doing the most important work to address environmental challenges lack the funding and internal expertise to achieve their goals. That’s why we’re committed to empowering businesses, nonprofits, researchers and policy makers to take action:

  • Our first-ever Google AI Impact Challenge awarded $25 million in Google.org funding, product credits and mentorship from Google experts. Winners include organizations that are driving critical work in climate, conservation and energy. For example, WattTime is working to replace expensive, on-site power plant emissions monitors with a globally accessible, open-source monitoring platform. This will help make critical emissions reduction initiatives more accessible to communities that might not otherwise be able to afford them. 

  • The Google for Startups Accelerator will support social impact startups addressing climate, poverty and inequality. It gives startups access to expertise on technology, monetization of a social impact business and capital. 

  • More than 70 percent of global emissions are generated by cities. Our Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE) makes it easier for cities to access and act upon new climate-relevant datasets. 

Climate change is one of the most significant global challenges of our time and Google is committed to doing its part. We’re aggressively building sustainability into our operations and supply chains—efforts that are detailed in our annual Environmental Report andResponsible Supply Chain Report. We’ll continue to lead and encourage others to join us in improving the health of our planet. 

Breast cancer and tech…a reason for optimism

I was diagnosed with breast cancer twice, in 2001 and again in 2004. Thanks to early detection and access to extraordinary care—including multiple rounds of chemo, radiation and more surgery than any one person should ever have in a lifetime—I’m still here and able to write this piece. In fact, I’ve probably never been healthier. 

I remember receiving the news. I was initially terrified. Our three kids were only five, seven, and nine at the time of my first diagnosis, and all I wanted was to live to see them grow up. I’m grateful I had options and access to treatments, but no aspect of it was pleasant. Last year, I had the joy of seeing our youngest son graduate from college. In the years since I first learned of my cancer, there’s been remarkable progress in global health care, augmented with pioneering work from medical researchers and technology companies. I know how incredibly fortunate I am, but I also know that for far too many, a diagnosis comes too late and the best care is beyond reach. 

And that’s where Google has focused its work: to bring healthcare innovations to everyone.Working at Google, I have had a front-row seat to these technological breakthroughs. 

During the past few years, teams at Google have applied artificial intelligence (AI) to problems in healthcare—from predicting patient outcomes in medical records to helping detect diseases like lung cancer. We’re still early on in developing these technologies, but the results are promising. 

When it comes to breast cancer, Google is looking at how AI can help specialists improve detection and diagnosis. Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women worldwide, taking the lives of more than 600,000 people each year. Thankfully, that number is on the decline because of huge advances in care. However, that number could be even lower if we continue to accelerate progress and make sure that progress reaches as many people as possible. Google hopes AI research will further fuel progress on both detection and diagnosis. 

Early detection depends on patients and technologies, such as mammography. Currently, we rely on mammograms to screen for cancer in otherwise healthy women, but thousands of cases go undiagnosed each year and thousands more result in  confusing or worrying findings that are not cancer or are low risk. Today we can’t easily distinguish the cancers we need to find from those that are unlikely to cause further harm. We believe that technology can help with detection, and thus improve the experience for both patients and doctors.  

Just as important as detecting cancer is determining how advanced and aggressive the cancer is. A process called staging helps determine how far the cancer has spread, which impacts the course of treatment. Staging largely depends on clinicians and radiologists looking at patient histories, physical examinations and images. In addition, pathologists examine tissue samples obtained from a biopsy to assess the microscopic appearance and biological properties of each individual patient’s cancer and judge aggressiveness. However, pathologic assessment is a laborious and costly process that--incredibly--continues to rely on an individual evaluating microscopic features in biological tissue with the human eye and microscope!

Last year, Google created a deep learning algorithm that could help pathologists assess tissue and detect the spread and extent of disease better in virtually every case. By pinpointing the location of the cancer more accurately, quickly and at a lower cost, care providers might be able to deliver better treatment for more patients. But doing this will require that these insights be paired with human intelligence and placed in the hands of skilled researchers, surgeons, oncologists, radiologists and others. Google’s research showed that the best results come when medical professionals and technology work together, rather than either working alone. 

During my treatment, I was taken care of by extraordinary teams at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York where they had access to the latest developments in breast cancer care. My oncologist (and now good friend), Dr. Clifford Hudis, is now CEO of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), which has developed a nonprofit big data initiative, CancerLinQ, to give oncologists and researchers access to health information to inform better care for everyone. He told me: “CancerLinQ seeks to identify hidden signals in the routine record of care from millions of de-identified patients so that doctors have deeper and faster insights into their own practices and opportunities for improvement.” He and his colleagues don't think they’ll be able to deliver optimally without robust AI. 

What medical professionals, like Dr. Hudis and his colleagues across ASCO and CancerLinQ, and engineers at companies like Google have accomplished since the time I joined the Club in 2001 is remarkable. 

I will always remember words passed on to me by another cancer survivor, which helped me throughout my treatment. He said when you’re having a good day and you’ve temporarily pushed the disease out of your mind, a little bird might land on your shoulder to remind you that you have cancer. Eventually, that bird comes around less and less. It took many years but I am relieved to say that I haven’t seen that bird in a long time, and I am incredibly grateful for that. I am optimistic that the combination of great doctors and technology could allow us to get rid of those birds for so many more people. 

Breast cancer and tech…a reason for optimism

I was diagnosed with breast cancer twice, in 2001 and again in 2004. Thanks to early detection and access to extraordinary care—including multiple rounds of chemo, radiation and more surgery than any one person should ever have in a lifetime—I’m still here and able to write this piece. In fact, I’ve probably never been healthier. 

I remember receiving the news. I was initially terrified. Our three kids were only five, seven, and nine at the time of my first diagnosis, and all I wanted was to live to see them grow up. I’m grateful I had options and access to treatments, but no aspect of it was pleasant. Last year, I had the joy of seeing our youngest son graduate from college. In the years since I first learned of my cancer, there’s been remarkable progress in global health care, augmented with pioneering work from medical researchers and technology companies. I know how incredibly fortunate I am, but I also know that for far too many, a diagnosis comes too late and the best care is beyond reach. 

And that’s where Google has focused its work: to bring healthcare innovations to everyone.Working at Google, I have had a front-row seat to these technological breakthroughs. 

During the past few years, teams at Google have applied artificial intelligence (AI) to problems in healthcare—from predicting patient outcomes in medical records to helping detect diseases like lung cancer. We’re still early on in developing these technologies, but the results are promising. 

When it comes to breast cancer, Google is looking at how AI can help specialists improve detection and diagnosis. Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women worldwide, taking the lives of more than 600,000 people each year. Thankfully, that number is on the decline because of huge advances in care. However, that number could be even lower if we continue to accelerate progress and make sure that progress reaches as many people as possible. Google hopes AI research will further fuel progress on both detection and diagnosis. 

Early detection depends on patients and technologies, such as mammography. Currently, we rely on mammograms to screen for cancer in otherwise healthy women, but thousands of cases go undiagnosed each year and thousands more result in  confusing or worrying findings that are not cancer or are low risk. Today we can’t easily distinguish the cancers we need to find from those that are unlikely to cause further harm. We believe that technology can help with detection, and thus improve the experience for both patients and doctors.  

Just as important as detecting cancer is determining how advanced and aggressive the cancer is. A process called staging helps determine how far the cancer has spread, which impacts the course of treatment. Staging largely depends on clinicians and radiologists looking at patient histories, physical examinations and images. In addition, pathologists examine tissue samples obtained from a biopsy to assess the microscopic appearance and biological properties of each individual patient’s cancer and judge aggressiveness. However, pathologic assessment is a laborious and costly process that--incredibly--continues to rely on an individual evaluating microscopic features in biological tissue with the human eye and microscope!

Last year, Google created a deep learning algorithm that could help pathologists assess tissue and detect the spread and extent of disease better in virtually every case. By pinpointing the location of the cancer more accurately, quickly and at a lower cost, care providers might be able to deliver better treatment for more patients. But doing this will require that these insights be paired with human intelligence and placed in the hands of skilled researchers, surgeons, oncologists, radiologists and others. Google’s research showed that the best results come when medical professionals and technology work together, rather than either working alone. 

During my treatment, I was taken care of by extraordinary teams at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York where they had access to the latest developments in breast cancer care. My oncologist (and now good friend), Dr. Clifford Hudis, is now CEO of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), which has developed a nonprofit big data initiative, CancerLinQ, to give oncologists and researchers access to health information to inform better care for everyone. He told me: “CancerLinQ seeks to identify hidden signals in the routine record of care from millions of de-identified patients so that doctors have deeper and faster insights into their own practices and opportunities for improvement.” He and his colleagues don't think they’ll be able to deliver optimally without robust AI. 

What medical professionals, like Dr. Hudis and his colleagues across ASCO and CancerLinQ, and engineers at companies like Google have accomplished since the time I joined the Club in 2001 is remarkable. 

I will always remember words passed on to me by another cancer survivor, which helped me throughout my treatment. He said when you’re having a good day and you’ve temporarily pushed the disease out of your mind, a little bird might land on your shoulder to remind you that you have cancer. Eventually, that bird comes around less and less. It took many years but I am relieved to say that I haven’t seen that bird in a long time, and I am incredibly grateful for that. I am optimistic that the combination of great doctors and technology could allow us to get rid of those birds for so many more people.