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Lessons from helping 10 million during the pandemic

2022 marks the third year of the pain of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though we’ve yet to see the long-term impact it will have on how we live, work, study and grow, I’ve never seen a time where technology has been as helpful to as many people as it has been over these last three years.The…

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2022 marks the third year of the pain of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though we’ve yet to see the long-term impact it will have on how we live, work, study and grow, I’ve never seen a time where technology has been as helpful to as many people as it has been over these last three years.

The same technology that has kept so many going will be key to the economic recovery, but we must also make sure no one is left behind.

In 2015, when I first started this role at Google, the EU released a report highlighting a digital skills gap that threatened to leave a million jobs unfilled. Seeing a unique challenge and opportunity for Google to help, we launched Grow With Google, which aims to help accelerate economic recovery through our technology, tools and training. Through Grow with Google, we’ve trained 88 million people around the world in the skills they need to build their career, launch or grow their own business.

With the onset of the pandemic, we sought to build on these efforts. The acceleration of technology was keeping businesses afloat and helping communities connect — but it also risked leaving some people behind.

So in June 2020 we set ourselves a new target, pledging to help 10 million people and businesses in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) find jobs, digitize and grow by the end of 2021. This important milestone has now been reached, and surpassed.

We approached this challenge by:

Providing businesses with the tools they need to thrive

Research has found 80% of small businesses increased their use of digital tools during the pandemic. So we’ve launched more than 200 new features since March 2020.

For example, with Business Profiles, we made it easier for businesses to manage their presence directly on Google Search and the Google Maps app and connect with customers online. These tools have helped businesses and people adjust and thrive during the pandemic. In fact, boutique French retailer Indira de Paris now attributes 70% of their sales to digital, thanks to these features.

We have also launched new features on Search and Google Maps enabling restaurants to inform customers they now do delivery — or for local stores to say they offer curbside pick-up. People can now find this information on Search and Maps for more than six million restaurants and retailers in Europe. To help retailers to connect with more customers, we made it free for retailers to list their products on the Shopping tab throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa. To help retailers stand out online, in over 10 EMEA markets, we launched tailored recommendations for every business with our new tool, Local Opportunity Finder.

Supporting people and businesses to learn new digital skills

To make the most of the digital opportunities available to them, people and businesses need the right skills. Across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, as part of our Grow with Google efforts, we focused on providing digital skills training.

We have worked alongside partners to launch initiatives aimed at supporting local businesses and communities to make the digital transition. With the German Retail Association (HDE) we launched the ZukunftHandel initiative, which has provided over 70,000 retailers with coaching and other support.

Long before the coronavirus, it was clear the jobs of the future would require a new set of digital skills. McKinsey now estimates that more than 25% of people may need to transition new jobs because of the pandemic. In response, we launched new Google Career Certificates to help people reskill for roles in high-growth areas such as IT support, project management, data analytics or UX design. People like Jelena in the UK have also benefited from the 100,000 scholarships we are providing in partnership with local governmental and non-governmental organizations. Jelena participated in a Project Management course from the Google Career Certificate program and is now a digital project coordinator for various charitable initiatives.

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Step into the Meroë pyramids with Google

When you think of pyramids does your mind wander to the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt or the Mayan Temples of Guatemala? Great civilizations built each of these pyramids and inscribed their stories onto the walls of them, offering glimpses into their daily life.The Pyramids of Meroë in Sudan, while lesser known, are no different.…

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When you think of pyramids does your mind wander to the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt or the Mayan Temples of Guatemala? Great civilizations built each of these pyramids and inscribed their stories onto the walls of them, offering glimpses into their daily life.

The Pyramids of Meroë in Sudan, while lesser known, are no different. Today, you can explore these stunning pyramids, which are a UNESCO World Heritage site, on Google Arts & Culture.

Over 200 pyramids were constructed in Meroë, the third and final capital of the Kushite Kingdom, an ancient African civilization that ruled the lands of Nubia for over 3000 years. Now you can take a virtual walk through the Pyramids of Meroë and explore the inscriptions using Street View’s panoramic imagery. You can also learn more about the Kushite Kingdom, their royalty and the architecture behind the pyramids in an immersive web experience that’s available in a range of languages including Arabic, English, French, German and Spanish.

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Bay View is open — the first campus built by Google

Taking green building to a new scaleTo deliver on our commitment to operate every hour of every day on carbon-free energy by 2030, we prioritized renewable energy and maximized the solar potential of our buildings. Bay View’s first-of-its-kind dragonscale solar skin and nearby wind farms will power it on carbon-free energy 90% of the time.The…

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Taking green building to a new scale

To deliver on our commitment to operate every hour of every day on carbon-free energy by 2030, we prioritized renewable energy and maximized the solar potential of our buildings. Bay View’s first-of-its-kind dragonscale solar skin and nearby wind farms will power it on carbon-free energy 90% of the time.

The campus is also on track to be the largest project certified by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) under any of their programs, at any certification level. As part of ILFI’s Living Building Challenge, we’re targeting a Water Petal certification, meaning the site is net-positive with all non-potable water demands being met using the recycled water generated on site. Above-ground ponds that gather rainwater year round and a building wastewater treatment system serve as water sources for cooling towers, flushing toilets and irrigating the landscape. This is a big step toward delivering on our commitment to replenish 120% of the water we consume by 2030.

It doesn’t stop there. Bay View is an example of an all-electric campus and shows what’s possible in regenerative building. Here’s how:

  • The two kitchens that serve seven cafes are equipped with electric equipment rather than gas — a template for fully carbon-free cafes and kitchens.
  • There are 17.3 acres of high-value natural areas — including wet meadows, woodlands and a marsh — that are designed to reestablish native landscapes and rehabilitate Bay Area wetlands. Something that’s especially important as Bay View sits close to the San Francisco Bay.
  • The water retention ponds not only collect water for reuse, but also provide nature restoration, sea level rise protection, and access to the beauty of natural wetlands. New willow groves along the stormwater ponds provide resources for wildlife.
  • The integrated geothermal pile system will help heat and cool the campus. The massive geoexchange field is integrated into the structural system, reducing the amount of water typically used for cooling by 90% — that’s equal to five million gallons of water annually.

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Seniors search what they see, using a new Lens

“Often, when I go for a walk, I stumble upon an unknown flower or a tree. Now I can just take a picture to discover what kind of plant I am standing before,” Verner Madsen, one of the participants, remarked. “I don’t need to bring my encyclopedia. It is really smart and helpful.”Seniors in a…

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“Often, when I go for a walk, I stumble upon an unknown flower or a tree. Now I can just take a picture to discover what kind of plant I am standing before,” Verner Madsen, one of the participants, remarked. “I don’t need to bring my encyclopedia. It is really smart and helpful.”

Seniors in a country like Denmark are generally very tech savvy, but with digitization constantly advancing — accelerating even faster during two years of COVID-19 — some seniors risk being left behind, creating gaps between generations. During worldwide lockdowns, technological tools have helped seniors stay connected with their family and friends, and smartphone features have helped improve everyday life. One key element of that is delivering accurate and useful information when needed. And for that, typed words on a smartphone keyboard can often be substituted with a visual search, using a single tap on the screen.

Being able to “search what you see” in this way was an eye-opener to many. As the day ended, another avid participant, Henrik Rasmussen, declared he was heading straight home to continue his practice.

“I thought I was up to speed on digital developments, but after today I realize that I still have a lot to learn and discover,” he said.

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