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How companies can help accelerate Africa’s digital transformation

Editor’s note: Today Google CEO Sundar Pichai addressed the African Union Summit Business Forum on the potential for Africa’s digital transformation and how companies like Google can help accelerate it, in partnership with governments. Below is an edited transcript of his remarks. Watch the video on YouTube.On behalf of Google and Alphabet, I am pleased…

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Editor’s note: Today Google CEO Sundar Pichai addressed the African Union Summit Business Forum on the potential for Africa’s digital transformation and how companies like Google can help accelerate it, in partnership with governments. Below is an edited transcript of his remarks. Watch the video on YouTube.

On behalf of Google and Alphabet, I am pleased to address this Business Forum on the occasion of the African Union Summit. Thanks to your leadership, the African continent has experienced rapid economic growth despite pressing challenges. It’s been especially inspiring to see the role technology has played in enabling “African-led solutions to African and global problems.”

Africa is increasingly a place where innovation begins. People all over the world now use mobile payment systems, first developed in Kenya. Renewable energy innovations on the continent are shaping a more sustainable future. The emerging digital technologies in air transport and tourism in Africa that you are discussing today will improve connectivity on a global scale.

Expanding opportunities through technology is deeply personal to me. Growing up in India, every new innovation — from the rotary phone to the refrigerator — improved my family’s life.

The chance to bring technology to more people is what drew me to Google, and to its mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

For 14 years, we’ve partnered with African governments to deliver on that mission. We opened our first office in Egypt in May 2007, and Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, hired our very first African Googlers. Since then our presence has grown to include offices in Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, and an AI research lab in Accra, Ghana. Together we have helped 100 million Africans affordably access the internet, trained six million people in digital skills since 2017, and invested in the African startup ecosystem.

Across all of these efforts, digital technology has been a powerful engine for progress. That opportunity will only grow: 300 million more people will come online in the next five years — many of them young, entrepreneurial and digitally-savvy.

What’s more, the African Continental Free Trade Area will boost intra-African trade and generate investments in infrastructure. Said simply: Africa is on the brink of a digital transformation. Companies like ours can play an important role, in partnership with governments, the African Union, and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

Last year we announced a plan to invest $1 billion to support digital transformation in Africa. We are focused on the priorities outlined in our “Digital Sprinters” report, which illustrates how adoption of technology can accelerate economic growth. It starts with expanding affordable and reliable internet access for more people, with infrastructure investments such as our Equiano subsea cable. Working with partners like Econet, X’s Taara team is helping to bring internet connectivity to more communities. It uses light to transmit information at super high speeds through the air.

We’re also investing in startups in areas important to Africa’s economy. That includes transport and tourism, the theme of today’s Forum. For example, we’ve invested in startups like SafeBoda, an app that connects passengers to a community of safe, trusted drivers, through our $50 million Africa Investment Fund. And Send, a logistics platform that helps move cargo across Africa, received equity-free funding from our Black Founders Fund.

At the core of all these initiatives is partnership. Success means working in close collaboration with African governments, the AU, UNECA, and businesses in the digital ecosystem. We are committed to doing just that, to ensure every person in Africa can shape and share in the opportunities technology creates.

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Survey shows how people decide what to trust online

Alex Mahadevan is director of MediaWise at the Poynter Institute. He has taught digital media literacy to thousands of middle and high schoolers, and has trained hundreds of journalists from around the world in verification and digital investigative tools. We caught up with Alex to find out about a recent information literacy survey his organization…

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Alex Mahadevan is director of MediaWise at the Poynter Institute. He has taught digital media literacy to thousands of middle and high schoolers, and has trained hundreds of journalists from around the world in verification and digital investigative tools. We caught up with Alex to find out about a recent information literacy survey his organization conducted in partnership with YouGov, with support from Google. Learn more about how Google is working on information literacy and helping you spot misinformation online.

Why was this survey conducted?

Misinformation isn’t a new problem, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to separate fact from fiction, especially on the internet. We wanted to learn more about how people across generational lines verify information and decide what to trust and share online. And we knew this research would help us expand on the educational resources MediaWise has to offer.

What were the parameters for the survey?

We surveyed more than 8,500 respondents of various ages in the United States, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, Nigeria, India and Japan. We asked a wide range of questions aimed at assessing information literacy skills and verification habits. Those include queries about everything from the tools and techniques someone uses to investigate a post they see online, to the reasons why they may have shared misleading information in the past.

What are some of the biggest takeaways?

The survey found that 62% of respondents think they see false or misleading information on at least a weekly basis – that’s a staggering number. And people are aware that it’s a serious issue. Roughly 50% of all Gen X, Millennial and Gen Z respondents (these are people ages 18 to 57) said they’re concerned about their family being exposed to it.

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New ways we’re helping you find high-quality information

AI models are also helping our systems understand when a featured snippet might not be the most helpful way to present information. This is particularly helpful for questions where there is no answer: for example, a recent search for “when did snoopy assassinate Abraham Lincoln” provided a snippet highlighting an accurate date and information about…

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AI models are also helping our systems understand when a featured snippet might not be the most helpful way to present information. This is particularly helpful for questions where there is no answer: for example, a recent search for “when did snoopy assassinate Abraham Lincoln” provided a snippet highlighting an accurate date and information about Lincoln’s assassination, but this clearly isn’t the most helpful way to display this result.

We’ve trained our systems to get better at detecting these sorts of false premises, which are not very common, but are cases where it’s not helpful to show a featured snippet. We’ve reduced the triggering of featured snippets in these cases by 40% with this update.

Information literacy

Beyond designing our systems to return high-quality information, we also build information literacy features in Google Search that help people evaluate information, whether they found it on social media or in conversations with family or friends. In fact, in a study this year, researchers found that people regularly use Google as a tool to validate information encountered on other platforms. We’ve invested in building a growing range of information literacy features — including Fact Check Explorer, Reverse image search, and About this result — and today, we’re announcing several updates to make these features even more helpful.

Expanding About this result to more places

About this result helps you see more context about any Search result before you ever visit a web page, just by tapping the three dots next to the result. Since launching last year, people have used About this result more than 2.4 billion times, and we’re bringing it to even more people and places – with eight more languages including Portuguese (PT), French (FR), Italian (IT), German (DE), Dutch (NL), Spanish (ES), Japanese (JP) and Indonesian (ID), coming later this year.

This week, we’re adding more context to About this result, such as how widely a source is circulated, online reviews about a source or company, whether a company is owned by another entity, or even when our systems can’t find much info about a source – all pieces of information that can provide important context.

And we’ve now launched About this page in the Google app, so you can get helpful context about websites as you’re browsing the web. Just swipe up from the navigation bar on any page to get more information about the source – helping you explore with confidence, no matter where you are online.

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Finding community and customers through Growth Academy: Women Founders

With thousands of highly-valued tech companies, a global-first market approach, and a strong economy dominated by entrepreneurship, it’s clear why Israel’s nickname is ‘The Startup Nation.’However, this thriving startup ecosystem isn’t equally supportive of all aspiring founders. According to the latest Israeli Tech Gender Distribution Report, spearheaded by Google for Startups and IVC Data and…

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With thousands of highly-valued tech companies, a global-first market approach, and a strong economy dominated by entrepreneurship, it’s clear why Israel’s nickname is ‘The Startup Nation.’

However, this thriving startup ecosystem isn’t equally supportive of all aspiring founders. According to the latest Israeli Tech Gender Distribution Report, spearheaded by Google for Startups and IVC Data and Insights, only 2% of startups with a woman founder raised above $50 million between 2018 and 2021. While the number of entirely women-led companies has doubled in the past decade, they still only comprise 6.3% of Israeli startups — and only 13.9% of startups had at least one woman co-founder in a mixed-gender founding team.

I fall into the latter category. My cofounder Gal Benbeniste and I met during college, where we bonded over how outdated the investment world is. What started with trying to figure out a simple way to automate became FinityX, a deep-tech startup that helps investors implement AI tools as part of their investment process to save time and resources, and improve quality.

While I have been humbled by FinityX’s rapid growth and recognition, as one of the very few women in the deep-tech space I’ve always wanted to be able to access the same capital, business networks, and mentorship readily available to my male cofounder.

So I was thrilled when Google for Startups launched a Growth Academy program tailored specifically for the needs of early-stage women founders. Based on the successful Startup Growth Lab curriculum, the program includes leadership workshops with Israeli VCs such as Entree Capital, Ibex and Viola, leadership sessions with top industry lecturers, and one-on-one Google product mentorship. “Ever since Google for Startups opened Campus Tel Aviv in 2012, diversity and inclusion has been an essential focus to our work,” said Marta Mozes, marketing manager of Google for Startups in Israel. “When we discovered this data about female founders in Israel, we knew we had to be part of the change.”

Meet the other Israeli entrepreneurs, representing industries from family vacation-planning to finance, who joined me at Google for Startups Growth Academy: Women Founders:

  • Miri Berger, Cofounder & CEO of 6Degrees
  • Kerri Kariti, Cofounder & CPO of Claritee
  • Vardit Legali, Cofounder & CEO of Clawdia
  • Ronny Schwartz Dgani, Cofounder & CMO of Expecting.ai
  • Inbal Glantser and Naama Yacobson, Cofounders of Homaze
  • Tamar Liberman, Tal Provizor Narkiss, and Lee Winfield, Cofounders of It’s July
  • Mika Kayt, Founder & CEO of Outgage
  • Danielle Shpigel and Yarden Kaufmann, Cofounders of Unika

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