Tag Archives: Google in Europe

World Tourism Day: How digital skills can support recovery

After months of isolation while living in quarantine, travel is the leisure activity that I miss the most. And I’m not alone. Our research, conducted with the Boston Consulting Group, shows that 31 percent of people hope to plan leisure travel once they feel safe enough to do so. 

World Tourism day is coming up on September 27, and Search trends show that people have the travel bug: In June, the top three travel-related Search queries were: “When can we travel again?” “When will international travel resume?” and “When will it be safe to travel again?” In August, the top queries were related to where and when people can travel “right now.” In fact, 45 percent of the top 100 questions related to travel focused on the impact of COVID-19 and  the desire to travel as safely and as soon as possible.

Graph showing travel survey results

Where do travelers want to go right now? Heading to the beach and visiting rural areas or small towns are top of the list, particularly for Italians and the Dutch.

Adapting to the new normal of travel

The tourism industry relies on historical data to predict future demand. But in the current highly-volatile environment, this is no longer adequate. That's why we share high-level data and insights about fast-rising travel categories in Google Search like domestic vacations (with search terms like “country holiday” or “car hire near me”); where in the world searches are growing; and the queries associated with them. 

Our data and analyses, available on our Think with Google site, can help tourism businesses identify new trends in consumer preferences. For example, as people increasingly search for local and outdoor tourism, businesses can react to these changing needs by doing marketing campaigns that highlight nature destinations, and they can prepare for an uptick in last-minute bookings.

Partnering with tourism ministries, travel experts and the travel business sector 

We're partnering with government ministries, businesses and experts throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa to foster digital skills in the travel sector. For example, we’ve worked with the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to train tourism officials and businesses on a range of digital tools to engage travellers at home, and encourage future travel when possible. And our first UN & Google Tourism Acceleration Program will take place virtually this Wednesday, September 23, designed for UN member states' tourism ministers, top travel associations, tourism boards and destination marketing organizations. It will focus on travel and tourism insights from South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria so participants can better understand shifts in behavior and adapt their products and offerings to meet new demands.

To further support  new solutions in the sector, Google for Startups Spain is launching a Growth Academy for TravelTech startups. The eleven selected businesses will partner with experts from Google to develop tailored strategies for acquiring new customers and partnerships to grow their businesses.

We also partnered with Atout France, the France tourism development agency, to share demand and consumer trends with their members, and we co-conducted digital marketing webinars for more than 600 French travel businesses and organizations to support their recovery efforts.

And in Greece, we launched #greecefromhome, an at-home continuation of Grow Greek Tourism Online, a digital skills program in partnership with the Greek Ministry of Tourism. #greecefromhome gave virtual tours of Greece and provided free digital skills training for over 6,000 Greek tourism businesses during the lockdown. This builds on our efforts to support the tourism sector across the region, helping them grow with digital tools, get access to training and digitize their heritage

While this World Tourism Day marks a uniquely challenging period for tourism, it’s also an opportunity to prepare and find new ways to engage with would-be travellers. We remain optimistic about the travel industry’s future, and about the role that our tools can play to help it recover.

Travel to Croatia with Google Arts & Culture

Croatia, the country of a thousand islands, is well known for its spectacular beaches and national parks, and as one of the sunniest places in Europe. But it also has a rich cultural history, with one of the highest counts of items on UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Google Arts & Culture partnered with the Croatian National Tourist Board, the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb and the Museum Alka of Sinjto let the world experience the colors and sounds of Croatia. Learn about the local crafts, dance like there is no music, join best-in-class festivals or learn about the national delicacy strukli.

1. The Crafts

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Decorating licitars Photo: Luka Smuk / Croatian National Tourist Board

Toy making from the region of Hrvatsko Zagorje Photo: Julien Duval / Croatian National Tourist Board

It’s the little things that give a place a distinct personality. In virtually every gift shop and souvenir stand in Croatia, the sweet biscuits called licitars are ubiquitous. The bright red, decorated hearts, birds and other shapes aren’t just colorful mementos—they’re part of Croatia’s intangible cultural heritage and a symbol of the country itself. Another tradition that survived centuries is the skill of handcrafting wooden toys. They are ubiquitous to the region, so much that in 2009, the traditional manufacturing of children’s wooden toys in the Hrvatsko Zagorje region of Croatia was inscribed to the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Check out the whole toy-making process.

2. The Fashion

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Ljelja singing Photo: Ivo Biočina / Croatian National Tourist Board

Slavonika beret Photo: LFP Studio / Croatian National Tourist Board

When people think of the cultural heritage of Croatia, they often look to centuries-old traditions being kept alive by a small handful of practitioners. Croatia is vibrant with colors and traditional regional costumes, from Dalmatia’s floral handkerchiefs to Gorjani’s hats literally made out of flowers. Historical men’s fashion includes Alkar lancers, whose dark blue uniforms and plumes in their hats will take you back in time to the Ottoman Empire. And for an unforgettable celebration of color, there is nothing quite like the Rijeka Carnival.  A new wave of young Croatian designers is taking inspiration from the country’s rich history of folk arts and crafts and applying it to contemporary fashion and accessories. See herehow Croatian crafts are influencing today’s design and fashion.

3. The Festivals

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Lastovo Poklad festival with firecrackers: photographer: Stjepan Tafra / Croatian National Tourist Board

Bell ringers festival Photographer: Ivan Vranjić / Croatian National Tourist Board

Croatia is rich in music festivals, historic reenactments and religious festivities. Throughout the year, but especially in the spring and summer, annual festivities celebrate Croatia’s local, regional and national traditions. There is the loud and empowering Bell Ringers’ Pageant in Kastav, a historic Alka Tournament in Sinj, the beautifully costumed Spring Procession of Ljelje and the hilarious donkey race in Tribunj. On the opposite side of the country, on far-off Korčula Island, the locals cultivate the saber dance, a choreographed mock sword battle between two kings fighting for the love of a princess—quite a spectacle to see!

4. The Places

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Dry stone wall on Kaprije island Photo: Ivo Pervan

Though Croatia is full of beautiful beaches and vibrant cities, the country’s foundations rest on dry stonewalls, which dates as far back as the 9th century BCE. That was when the ancient Liburnians began to erect defensive hill forts and walls using stone but no mortar or other binding material. They were such good builders that remnants of these constructions remain even today. Bavljenac Island has the densest concentration of dry stone walls, and when viewed from above it looks like a giant fingertip

Curious to see more? Stroll around these top five locations and immerse yourself in the lush naturescapes of the country. Alternatively, check out g.co/travelcroatia, download the Android or iOS app or visit Google Arts & Culture. Uživaj!

Supporting a greener future in Europe

This week, Google announced that we’ve eliminated our entire carbon legacy since the company was founded, as well as our most ambitious sustainability goal yet—we aim to operate on 24/7 carbon-free energy in all our data centres and campuses worldwide by 2030. 

That means that every email you send through Gmail, every question you ask Google Search and every YouTube video you watch is already carbon neutral. In the future, our services will be supplied only by carbon-free energy every hour of every day.

Here in Europe, the European Commission has set its sights on another ambitious goal with the European Green deal: to make Europe the world’s first carbon-neutral continent, reduce emissions, drive clean growth and create green jobs. 

We applaud this vision. Dating back to the first energy-efficient data centre we built in Belgium in 2007, we've made many investments to support Europe's leadership in clean energy and climate policy. Today, at the GreenTech festival in Berlin, our CEO Sundar Pichai shared how we will support Europe’s green vision further, in three main ways:

  • We’ll drive billions of euros in investment and thousands of new green jobs in Europe
  • We’ll help European business and partners increase energy efficiency through AI
  • We’ll boost innovation in cities and support European nonprofits with a €10 million Google.org Impact Challenge 

We’ll also support public policies that strengthen global action on climate through the Paris Agreement, help create carbon-free electricity systems, and ensure that the clean energy transition provides economic opportunity for all. Indeed, we know that strong public policy action is critical to making carbon-free solutions available to everyone, helping all communities prosper equally.

Investing in green infrastructure and creating thousands of jobs

By 2025, we expect to anchor over €2 billion of investment 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. This will help create more than 2,000 new clean energy jobs in Europe by 2025. 

This comes on top of other investments we’ve made in Europe. Between 2007-2018, Google invested approximately €7 billion in constructing some of the world’s most energy-efficient data centres in Europe, supporting 9,600 full-time jobs across Europe each year on average. And last year, we announced we would purchase energy from 10 new renewable energy infrastructure projects, which spurred more than €1 billion of investment in renewable energy in Belgium, Denmark, Sweden and Finland, and created approximately 1,000 jobs in the process. 

In the coming decade we’ll invest in green skills training in Europe. For example, we’re partnering with SolarPower Europe to host introductory courses on careers in the solar industry, to support their goal of driving more than half a million solar jobs in Europe and power 20 percent of Europe's electricity demand with solar by 2030.

Helping other business and organisations increase energy efficiency with AI

We’re committed to creating tools, sharing expertise and investing in technologies that help others in the transition to a carbon-free world.  We’ll do even more to help our partners increase energy efficiency and reduce waste. 

Using machine learning, we’ve reduced by 30 percent the energy needed for cooling our data centres. Now, we’re making this proven cloud technology solution available for use by commercial buildings and industrial facilities around the world—such as airports, shopping malls and other data centres, helping them reduce their own carbon impact.

For example, by using Google AI to analyse large data sets and forecast demand, the French retailer Carrefour managed to drastically reduce food waste. The German electric utility company E.ON is using Cloud Data Analytics to help energy managers make decisions that reduce costs and CO2 footprint. 

Boosting innovation, helping cities and local governments, supporting reforestation

Nonprofits, civil society organisations, and universities play a critical role in mitigating the effects of climate change. We’ve seen the positive impact of funding innovative ideas and leaders, such as U.K.-based Carbon Tracker’s partnership with WattTime and others to track global carbon emissions from satellite imagery.

To help further support Europe’s green pioneers, we’re launching a new Google.org Impact Challenge. We’re making available €10 million for the most promising European ideas and projects that support increased access to, or use of, renewable energy, decarbonization of transportation, improved air quality, natural resource planning and protection, or circular economy and design. Applications are open today. Recipients will receive up to €2 million in funding and in some cases support from the Google.org Impact Challenge Accelerator. They will be selected by independent experts, including Greentech founder Nico Rosberg, scientist Dr. Maggie Adderin-Pocock, Director General of the Finnish Environment Institute Lea Kauppi, and Former Irish Minister for the Environment John Gormley. 

In addition, we’ve pledged to help 500 cities and local governments globally reduce an aggregate of one gigaton (that’s 1 billion tons) of carbon emissions per year by 2030—more than a country the size of Germany emits. This adds to the €2.7 million from Google.org we committed last year to support European cities in implementing climate action plans. For example, with funding from the Google.org ICLEI Action Fund, the Birmingham-based nonprofit Centre for Sustainable Energy is launching an open-source, city-wide data set, along with tools to model decarbonization options for buildings in the city and other interventions.

Finally, as part of our work to remove carbon from the atmosphere, we’re launching a science-based reforestation program and pledging $1 million in funding from Google.org to develop tools that will help increase the likelihood of success for ecosystem restoration projects around the world, including in Northern Spain.

We’re optimistic that this can be a decisive decade for climate action.  We’re committed to supporting Europe's ambition to become the first carbon-neutral continent and to playing our part to move the world closer to a carbon-free future.

Cities: where climate action can have the most impact

Cities bring people and ideas together. They increase living standards, spur innovation, increase opportunity, and encourage collaboration. Cities can also be the most environmentally sustainable way for people to inhabit our planet, if we can address the reality that cities are currently responsible for 70 percent of the world’s CO₂ emissions. While this may seem like an insurmountable challenge, it’s actually a tremendous opportunity. Cities can become centers of climate action, and lead the world in driving economic recovery and resilience. 

As part of Google's most ambitious decade of climate action, we’re making a commitment to help more than 500 cities and local governments reduce an aggregate of 1 gigaton (that’s one billion tons) of carbon emissions per year by 2030 and beyond.

To do this, we'll empower city planners and policymakers with the Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE), a platform we developed by analyzing Google’s comprehensive global mapping data together with standard greenhouse gas (GHG) emission factors. Today, we’re expanding access to EIE, going from 122 cities with access to more than 3,000 cities worldwide—a 25-fold increase. We’re also partnering with leading organizations, like ICLEI and Ironbark Sustainability, to support local climate action planning.

EIE platform

Request EIE data access for your city and learn more about Google’s other city climate action.

Turning climate insights into action

For cities to make a meaningful impact in reducing their carbon emissions tomorrow, they need to know where they stand today.

Yet according to the Global Covenant of Mayors, an international alliance of nearly 10,000 cities and local governments committed to fighting climate change, less than 20 percent of cities are able to execute on their commitments to climate action due to a lack of time, resources and data. And with COVID-19 leaving many localities with reduced budgets and limited resources, it’s even harder to build out a baseline emissions inventory or a robust climate plan.

With Environmental Insights Explorer, cities can leapfrog the constraints associated with lengthy climate studies. Cities can use EIE’s anonymized, aggregated mapping data and emissions insights to easily estimate the carbon footprint of their buildings and transportation activities, as well as discover their solar energy potential. Information that once required complicated onsite measurements and months to compile can now be assessed virtually, helping cities dedicate their energies toward action.

Cultivating partnerships with climate action leaders and cities worldwide

When it comes to climate change, we all need to work together. Nonprofits, businesses, universities and other leaders play an important role in testing new ideas and partnering with cities to implement the ones that work.

We’ve collaborated with partners to scale data access. Leading organizations like Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI ) and Ironbark Sustainability are integrating EIE data into their own tools, helping digitize emissions measurement and planning. With EIE data, Ironbark Sustainability is automating how they provide greenhouse gas emission information to local government councils across Australia so decision-makers can target their climate action activities.

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With the Insights Workspace dashboard in EIE, cities can review and evaluate emissions data. Data for more than 3,000 cities is freely available by registering for access at http://goo.gle/eie.

To help spark even more data-driven climate action, last year Google.org committed $4 million in funding to ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability to create the ICLEI Action Fund. The fund awards projects from local organizations in Europe, Mexico and South America focused on using environmental datasets to reduce citywide emissions.

Today, ICLEI is announcing the first two selected projects. In Hamburg, HafenCity University is creating a tool to help the city identify spaces and districts that can be used as urban testbeds for prototyping sustainable mobility, building efficiency and solar energy development projects. In Monterrey, Mexico, Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey received a grant to refine and amplify EIE data to help municipalities in the Monterrey region develop climate action plans. They’ll also use the data to run a model of traffic patterns in Monterrey to assess the electrification of a fleet of buses and how to optimize  transit routes.  

Supporting economic recovery and resilience with climate action

Efforts to combat climate change are both essential and a once-in-a-generation moment to create impactful jobs and modernize infrastructure. As communities are working to combat, and recover from, a global pandemic, reducing carbon emissions can and should support that recovery. 

Already, cities and local governments across the world are using EIE to set bold climate action plans and support economic development:

The opportunity in front of us all

We’ve always viewed challenges as opportunities to be helpful and make things better for everyone. To build a better future and protect our planet, we’ll continue focused efforts that help our partners take climate action and strengthen investments in technologies to make a carbon-free world a reality.

Google for Startups: Supporting underrepresented leaders

With 99 unicorns (startups valued at over $1B) and $34.3B of startup funding just last year, it’s clear that Europe is filled with talented entrepreneurs who can help solve some of the world’s biggest challenges. This autumn, Google for Startups welcomes two new cohorts of Black and Women founders from across Europe and Israel who are driving change in their industries. 

The founders of these 23 high-potential companies will spend 12 weeks in one of two Immersions: Black Founders or Women Founders, where they’ll have access to the best of Google’s people, products and connections.

If we want technology to work for everyone, it needs to be built by everyone—and that's why we're supporting founders from under-represented groups to help with a faster recovery and better technology and tools for all. Matt Brittin
President, Google Europe, Middle East and Africa
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Jewel Burks Solomon, Head of Google for Startups US and herself a former founder, opened for the Black Founders program

Immersion: Black Founders

The Black Founders Immersion is a 12-week program for high-potential startups with at least one Black founder. The twelve selected startups from the UK, France and the Netherlands will be partnering with experienced Google mentors, specialists and investors to help them grow and give them better access to fundraising opportunities while further advancing their leadership skills.

During the recent opening session, founders had the opportunity to hear from Jewel Burks, Head of Google for Startups US, former Founder & CEO of Partpic, and Managing Partner at Collab Capital.

The 2020 program cohort includes:

Rachael Corson, Co-Founder & Managing Director of Afrocenchix (UK):Vegan beauty brand changing the world of Black hair and beauty by putting the health of their community first.

Christian Facey, Co-Founder & CEO of AudioMob (UK): Enabling game developers to monetize games with non-intrusive audio ads.

Christina Caljé, Co-Founder & CEO of Autheos (NL):Using machine learning to help businesses improve and personalize video content for their consumers.

Tomide Adesanmi, Co-Founder & CEO of Circuit Mind (UK):Building AI software that designs electronics in minutes or even seconds.

Osamudiamen Omoigiade, Co-Founder & CEO of Deep.Meta (UK):Software harnessing production data to create products, limit wastage and cut CO2 emissions.

Shirley Billot, Founder & CEO of Kadalys (FR):Upcycling banana agri-waste into patented organic skincare that gives back to the local community and nature.

Jermaine Craig, Co-Founder & CEO of Kwanda (UK):A solution for nonprofits to finance the development of Black communities with accountability and transparency.

Elizabeth Nyeko, Founder & CEO of Modularity Grid (UK): Equipping low carbon electrical energy providers with AI that combines deep learning with bleeding-edge electronics. 

Charles Sekwalor, Co-Founder & CEO of MoveMeBack (UK):Enabling professionals and organizations to discover and access opportunities and talent anywhere, with a focus on Africa. 

Joel Akwenuke, Co-Founder & CEO of NewFade (UK): Direct-to-consumer hair loss solution, solving hair loss for men safely and effectively.

Richard Robinson, Founder & CEO of Robin AI (UK):Using machine learning and human intelligence to automate the reading and editing of legal contracts.

Ivan Beckley, Co-Founder & CEO of Suvera (UK):Creating a virtual healthcare experience that allows doctors to care for patients with long-term conditions with fewer appointments.

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Participants from the 2019 German edition of the Women Founders program

Immersion: Women Founders

This first pan-European Google for Startups cohort follows the success of Women Founders programs in Germany and the UK. Supported by findings of the Female Founders Monitor, which pointed out particular challenges encountered by women founders, this program will support the 11 companies with unparalleled access to Google specialists, products and connections.

The program kicked off on September 7th with an opening talk by Marta Krupinska, Head of Google for Startups UK, and former Co-Founder of Azimo and FreeUp, and a pitch session where all founders had the opportunity to learn more about each others’ businesses and challenges.

Get to know the cohort:

Blanca Vidal, Co-Founder & CMO of Deplace (Spain):Improving the homebuying and -selling experience, making it more transparent, safe and economical.

Lee Butz, Founder & CEO, District Technology (UK/Germany):Empowering workplaces with a digital platform where users can engage with and have access to the latest news, amenities, community features and more.

Nina Julie Lepique, Co-Founder & CEO, Femtasy (Germany): The first platform for sensual audio content for women, taking a mind-first approach to sexuality based on data-driven research.

Francesca Hodgson, Co-Founder & MD, GoodBox (UK):Changing the world of philanthropy by connecting donors with the causes they care about.

Pavlina Zychova, Co-Founder & CEO, MyStay (Czech Republic):Simplifying hotel management and improving guests’ experience with a digital platform that automates all the guest-hotel interactions, from check-in to customer review.

Sarah Henley, Co-Founder & COO, NextUpComedy (UK):Transforming the market of live comedy by bringing acts to a global audience of comedy fans via high-quality apps. 

Kinga Jentetics, Co-Founder & CEO, Publish Drive (Hungary):The best digital publishing platform to publish, market, and manage royalties for ebooks, print, and audiobooks.

Zahra Shah, Co-Founder & CEO, Seers (UK):The UK's leading privacy & consent management platform to help companies protect themselves and become compliant worldwide.

Maria-Liisa Bruckert, Co-Founder & CMO, SQIN (Germany):Beauty tech company changing the world of beauty retail by creating the world’s number 1 beauty community app.

Yael Shemer, Co-Founder & CEO, Tulu (Israel):Setting up smart rooms in apartment buildings that are filled with household and lifestyle products that can be rented by the hour, day or longer. 

Zuzanna Sielicka Kalczyńska, Co-Founder & CEO, Whisbear (Poland):Helping babies sleep healthier and better by introducing smart solutions and innovation to baby sleep aids. 

For updates on these cohorts and for other Google for Startups news (including applications for future programs), connect with us on social media: Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn.

A more responsible, innovative and helpful internet in Europe

Over the last 20 years, digital tools have played an increasingly important role in our everyday lives, in societal debate and in the economy. In 2020, many of us have found digital tools to be a real lifeline. We've used them to connect with loved ones and teach our children during lockdown. Governments have used them to share vital information with citizens. And businesses across Europe are using them to reach customers and recover more quickly and sustainably. As we look to the future, it's important that regulation keeps pace with change, and Google supports Europe's effort to create a more responsible, innovative and helpful internet for everyone.

That's why we are submitting our response today to the consultation for the European Digital Services Act (DSA), drawing on our 20+ years experience in building technology that both helps people and creates greater economic opportunity. Well-designed regulation gives consumers confidence that their interests are being protected as they shop, search and socialize online. It also provides businesses with protection from opaque or unfair practices.

Our response encourages European policymakers to build on the success of the e-Commerce Directive and focus on three key areas: 

  • A more responsible internet: Introducing clearer rules for notifying platforms of illegal content while protecting fundamental rights of expression and access to information 
  • A more innovative internet: Encouraging economic growth and innovation by enabling Europeans to build the next generation of apps, businesses and services, and exporting European creativity and culture around the world
  • A more helpful internet: Competition regulation which supports product innovations, helps people manage their data and provides businesses with the tools to grow 

A more responsible internet

Because of our commitment to safety, we invest heavily in technology and people to combat illegal content, and we welcome an updated legal framework. We would encourage legislators to  provide greater clarity on the rules, roles and responsibilities of online platforms. 

The e-Commerce Directive set vital ground rules for conduct and responsibility online, which helped online innovation thrive. Whether an individual is claiming defamation, a studio is claiming that a video infringes on copyright or a government is seeking to remove a terrorist video, it’s essential to provide clear notice about the specific piece of content to the online platform.  The platform then has a responsibility to take appropriate action on that content. This is especially important given the significant differences in what is considered illegal content across EU Member States. 

We are continually seeking to improve our technical systems and processes to identify illegal content. While breakthroughs in machine learning and other technology have significantly enhanced our ability to detect bad content, such technology is still unable to reliably understand context, which is often critical in determining whether or not content is legal, for example distinguishing violent content from a human rights organization documenting abuses. Mandated use of such technology would lead to overblocking of Europeans’ speech and access to information. This is why platforms should be encouraged to further invest in these innovations while retaining the invaluable nuance and judgment that comes with human input. 

Google's products are designed to encourage people to share their views safely and respectfully, and have been a force for creativity, learning and expression. In order to ensure that fundamental rights are respected, it's important for the DSA to focus on capturing illegal content, so lawful speech isn't caught in the net. However, this should not prevent further actions on lawful-but-harmful content, such as cyber-bullying, through self- and co-regulatory initiatives, such as the EU Code of Practice on Disinformation and the EU Code of Conduct on Hate Speech, both of which Google joined from the start. Google also invests in easy-to-use reporting processes and clear guidelines to help ensure a positive online experience.

We are committed to providing greater transparency for our users and governments so that they better understand the content they are seeing and how to notify us of concerns. The DSA should support these kinds of constructive transparency measures while ensuring that platforms can continue to protect user privacy, ensure commercially sensitive information is not revealed and prevent bad actors from gaming the system. Google has long been a leader in transparency, including disclosing data on content moderation, content removal requests and blocking bad ads.  

A more innovative internet

The e-Commerce Directive, which the DSA will update, has guided Internet services, users and European society through 20 years of economic growth fueled by innovation, including entirely new industries ranging from app developers to YouTube creators.  The next wave of online innovation will play a vital role in helping people, governments and businesses overcome the many challenges - medical, societal, economic - that come with a global pandemic.

To foster innovation, the DSA should reflect the wide range of services offered by the tech industry. No two services are the same and the new act should be rooted in objectives and principles that can be applied, as appropriate, across this broad, diverse ecosystem.  This will ensure that everyone - platforms regulators, people and businesses -  are responsible for the parts they play. 

A more helpful internet

People want to save time and get things done when they are online. Our testing has consistently shown that people want quick access to information, so over the years we’ve developed new ways to organize and display results. For example, when you are searching online for a restaurant, you can at the same time quickly access directions because a map has been integrated into Google’s Search results pages - saving you the time and effort of a second search through a map app or website. Integrations also help small businesses to be found more easily and to provide relevant information to their customers such as delivery, curbside pickup or takeaway options during lockdown periods, and can help people in times of emergency such as the Android Emergency location feature. New rules should encourage new and improved features and products which help European consumers get things done and access information quickly and easily.

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European startups and entrepreneurs also need online tools to help grow their businesses more easily and at a lower cost. For example, online ads help businesses of all sizes find new customers around the world, while cloud computing helps reduce operating costs and increase productivity. As the Commission updates its regulations, it should ensure new rules don't add undue cost and burden for European businesses in ways that make it harder to scale quickly and offer their services across the EU and around the world.

We agree that competition between digital platforms is strengthened by measures that allow people to move between platforms without losing access to their data, which also makes it easier for new players to enter or expand in digital markets. Google offers a wide range of tools that allow people to be in control of their online experience, such as Google “My Account”, which helps users choose the privacy settings that are right for them, or Google Takeout, which allows users to export their data. Similarly, providing access to aggregated datasets could benefit R&D in a range of industries while safeguarding user data privacy. As new rules are being evaluated, the question is not whether data mobility or data access should be facilitated, but how to achieve their benefits without sacrificing product quality or innovation incentives. 

Modernizing regulation

Creating a more responsible, innovative and helpful internet is a societal challenge, and we acknowledge the need for companies, governments and civil society to work together towards reaching our shared goals. That’s why we support modernizing rules for the digital age. 

Our response today is committed to creating a balanced regulatory framework that can adapt to future technological innovations so we can build on the momentum and benefits that online services have provided European citizens and businesses over the past two decades.

“Accelerating Retail” in Europe, Middle East and Africa

Online tools have been a lifeline for many in lockdown, helping people stay connected with loved ones, work remotely, access news and information, and shop for essentials. The use of technology by people and businesses leapt forward perhaps five years over a period of eight weeks, and internet usage increased by 60 percent. Changes in consumer behavior are driving businesses to adapt the way they communicate with customers, while retailers around the world have seen their business models turned upside down.

Because of this big shift, digital tools and skills will be a vital catalyst to accelerate an economic comeback. Earlier this summer we pledged to help 10 million people and businesses in Europe, the Middle East and Africa find jobs, digitize and grow over the next 18 months. Retail, which accounts for more than 9 percent of jobs in the EU alone, will play a pivotal role in the recovery.

Today we’re kicking off "Accelerating Retail," a month of activities dedicated to helping retailers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa accelerate their business recovery and growth to be ready for what comes next. We’re helping retailers of all sizes across the region be ready for the peak shopping season, and working in close partnership with local commerce and trade associations in many countries. Over the next month, we'll introduce new products, tools, free training, unique real time insights and other resources—what follows is a brief snapshot of some of this.

Consumer needs have changed, and retailers need to respond

As the world around us has changed, consumer online shopping has leapt forward and decision-making has become more complex. Our Decoding Decisions study identified a “messy middle,” the space between a consumer starting their research and making a purchase, where they navigate the explosion of choice and information available to them both online and offline. 

The messy middle has become even messier over the course of the pandemic—our needs changed, product and store availability became unpredictable. Shoppers have become more open to new brands and outlets, but they also need more help than ever to find the right product at the right price at the right time and place. This big shift is an opportunity for retail businesses large and small. 

We’re here to help retailers respond effectively—so they can quickly understand and act on consumer changes while building their brand both at store and online.

Recovery and growth through digital 

Online retail demand has grown exponentially, and businesses need a great customer experience to be competitive and build brand recognition. That’s why we’re rolling out a new version of Grow My Store in multiple countries, including Germany, France, Netherlands and Turkey. Grow My Store helps local businesses improve digital shopping, grow customer traffic and optimize online customer experience,  to successfully complete  transactions. Any business can enter their website URL into the tool to receive a customized report, industry benchmarks, digital traffic trends and actionable tips to improve. 

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We’re also making it easier for retailers to reach the right potential customers. We’ll be upgrading Smart Shopping campaigns to help with new customer acquisition and simplify advertiser onboarding. 

Meanwhile, for the first time we’ve released insights for specific fast-rising retail categories around the world via a new interactive tool in Google Search—including the queries associated with them.

What's next for online shopping

As online spend continues to grow, retail success will depend on delivering an integrated online/offline purchase experience. New research we’ve conducted in collaboration with Euromonitor found that in the next five years, most purchases will still be made in store—but retailers who bring together their digital and in-store offerings will make the biggest gains even if customers eventually choose to buy in store. Since consumers shop both online and offline, multichannel retailers and online marketplaces will drive 86 percent of the sales growth by 2024. The future of retail is not about either physical or online presence but an integrated consumer experience.

While there might be more change and uncertainty on the horizon, retail is critical to every region’s broader economic recovery. By embracing digital opportunities, retail businesses can drive resilience and growth. 

Look out for our "Accelerating Retail" updates through September—we're here to help retailers make the most of digital opportunities and prepare for what's next.

Portraits of healthcare heroes on Google Arts & Culture

In March, the UK locked down the country to contain the spread of COVID-19. For many this led to a heightened period of dread and anxiety, but also creativity and heroism. During lockdown artist Tom Croft created #portraitsforNHSheroes to galvanize artists across the country to celebrate workers on the frontline. Tom collaborated with the charity Paintings in Hospitals to give the collection a more permanent home, as it closely aligns with the values and ethos of their mission to improve health through art. As a result of the collaboration, Google Arts & Culture created anonline exhibition of over 700 contemporary portraits that were submitted as part of Tom’s #portraitsforNHSheroes initiative.

Sandra Bruce-Gordon, director of Paintings in Hospitals spoke to artist Tom Croft about the exhibition and their collaboration.

Sandra: We know that art can help meet challenges in health and social care around ageing, loneliness and mental health. What will be the main benefit of the exhibition for our audiences?   

Tom: I hope it gives the frontline workers a sense of how valued they are and how indebted we feel toward them. I wanted to raise their status through portraiture as this crisis has really highlighted and reminded everyone of their critical work. If the exhibition can help artists, healthcare workers or the audience process this appalling time, then that will be a good thing.

Sandra: You must be really proud of what you and the other artists have achieved. How do you think this exhibition will be received? 

Tom: Firstly, I am so grateful to Paintings in Hospitals and Google Arts & Culture for creating this space and a permanent record for these amazing NHS portraits. I hope everyone will take the time to view this virtual exhibition, which at the moment is the best way to get the widest and most inclusive audience for an exhibition. I am super excited for it to launch and proud of what everyone has achieved.  

Sandra: For me, the portraits get behind the anxiety and stress that the frontline workers must have been feeling. I hope the exhibition will help improve communication between patients and carers. What were the relationships between artists and frontline workers like?

Tom: Since we couldn’t meet up with our subjects, we based the portraits on images sent over social media. Some artists worked from video call sittings, so we all had to be flexible in our practices. I asked my subject Harriet lots of very direct questions about her experience on the frontline. She was so generous to share her thoughts and feelings with me and we got to know each other well pretty quickly. I know from hearing from other artists that the bond between artist and sitter, forged in this unusual and very emotional set of circumstances, was really strong. Tears were shed on both sides when the portraits were revealed.

Sandra: This exhibition will be a fitting record and snapshot of an unbelievably hard time for everyone, and how ordinary people in extraordinary times became heroes. What do you think, Tom?

Tom: Absolutely. I know that lots of healthcare workers are uncomfortable with the label of “hero.” We aren’t suggesting they are superhuman or haven’t been profoundly affected by this devastating global pandemic, but their selfless actions to risk their physical and mental health on a daily basis for our benefit is absolutely heroic. We need to now care for them and can’t thank them enough.

Discover the extraordinary collection of artworks at g.co/HealthcareHeroes and via the hashtag #portraitsforNHSheroes.

I’m using Google Maps to plan summer family fun

Due to COVID-19, this is the summer for staycations and local day trips. In London, where my family and I live, we’re trying to figure out what that looks like for us. We have a toddler, so our ideal day trip is somewhere she can run around and we can have a picnic—and where the public restrooms have reopened (or, failing that, a discreet wooded area…). 

So how do I find a destination that checks all our boxes? Here’s what’s worked.

Screenshot of Weald Country Park Google Maps listing

Meet at a fun halfway point

My cousin and her family live about a two-hour drive from us, and when lockdown lifted we were more than ready to meet up. But instead of driving all the way to them—a four-hour round trip is a struggle for even the most patient of toddlers—we had the idea to meet up at a halfway point. 

But how do you find that halfway point? That space between us was a no-man’s land where neither of us knew of any parks or nature reserves or anywhere that would be suitable for two energetic toddlers. So I used Google Maps to find the rough halfway point. Then I filtered by “Attractions” (you can also choose “Parks” or “Restaurants” or other categories) to see what came up. I quickly landed on Weald Country Park, which boasts a 4.5-star rating, almost a thousand reviews and a promising description: “Fallow deer, a visitor center & hiking.”

Screenshot of reviews of Weald Country Park.png

Read the reviews

Deer-watching had the potential to keep toddlers occupied for at least one minute. A visitor center indicated parking and bathrooms. And hiking probably meant that picnicking was easily an option. But to double-check these critical questions, I relied on the kindness of strangers who had posted recent reviews and ratings. Local Guides and other people who contribute to Google Maps are very helpful in offering information about how much they liked (or didn’t like) their trip, and many of them have the same topics on their mind that I do. Since you can sort reviews by date, it was easy to see the most relevant ones—i.e., those that have been filed since lockdown lifted—for current info on toilets (yes), parking (yes, but it’s expensive), and whether the playgrounds have reopened (yes, very recently). 

screenshot of photos from Weald Country Park.png

Browse the photos and Street View

To really get a feel for a place, sometimes there’s no replacement for a photo. Happily, many Google Maps contributors feel the same way, so it’s often very easy to find recent photos of the places you’re thinking of visiting. And for a 360-degree panorama, I can drop the pin and check out the scene on Street View. I soon discovered that, in addition to deer, Weald Country Park is home to cows and ducks, making it more or less heaven on earth for two two-year-olds.

Screenshot of list of saved places.png

Save places and make lists

I know that we’ll want to meet up with my cousin’s family again soon, and there were a few other nearby nature reserves that looked equally promising. So I tapped the “Save” button to start a list I could refer back to. I can even share it with my cousin so we can work on the list together. Google Maps puts a pin in them too, so the next time I’m scouting the area I’ll see little flags helpfully highlighting them for me.

Contribute your own review

If you found someone’s review or photos helpful, why not pay it forward by posting your own? If you’ve found information that needs updating, like a store’s opening hours, or if you want to let people know how your experience of a place matched up to expectations, click on the Contribute button at the bottom of the screen on the Google Maps app and share your knowledge.

An update on Fitbit

Last year, we announced that Google entered into an agreement to acquire Fitbit to help spur innovation in wearable devices and build products that help people lead healthier lives. As we continue to work with regulators to answer their questions, we wanted to share more about how we believe this deal will increase choice, and create engaging products and helpful experiences for consumers.

There's vibrant competition when it comes to smartwatches and fitness trackers, with Apple, Samsung, Garmin, Fossil, Huawei, Xiaomi and many others offering numerous products at a range of prices. We don’t currently make or sell wearable devices like these today. We believe the combination of Google and Fitbit's hardware efforts will increase competition in the sector, making the next generation of devices better and more affordable. 

This deal is about devices, not data. We’ve been clear from the beginning that we will not use Fitbit health and wellness data for Google ads. We recently offered to make a legally binding commitment to the European Commission regarding our use of Fitbit data. As we do with all our products, we will give Fitbit users the choice to review, move or delete their data. And we’ll continue to support wide connectivity and interoperability across our and other companies’ products. 

We appreciate the opportunity to work with the European Commission on an approach that addresses consumers' expectations of their wearable devices. We’re confident that by working closely with Fitbit’s team of experts, and bringing together our experience in AI, software and hardware, we can build compelling devices for people around the world.