Google’s Pichai: LatAm must invest in sustainable digital transformation
By Raquel Godos
Los Angeles, Jun 9 (EFE).- “We think the potential (in Latin America) is immense.” This is what Google CEO Sundar Pichai told EFE in an exclusive interview, demonstrating a genuine interest in the region and pushing for a sustainable digital transformation there in which governments, companies and civil society can join together in favor of economic development via technology.
“We’re going to do our part,” he said, going on in the interview to announce $1.2 billion investment by the tech giant in the region in the next five years, albeit within the framework of the 9th Summit of the Americas, currently under way in Los Angeles, where the firm is working to get alliances with and commitments from Latin American leaders to continue advancing in the same direction.
The Google CEO said that he was eager to attend the meetings at the Summit to move forward with and push for the digital transformation, adding that governments, companies, the business community and social organizations must join forces and asserting that there is “no other way” to achieve such changes.
Pichai outlined three basic areas in which governments should place their efforts and push for a digital transformation as a springboard for the generation of wealth in the world’s most economically unequal region.
First, he said, is working for “investment and growth” in sustainable digital infrastructure, including support for expanding Internet access. This is the great role that governments have to play, he stressed.
The second area is training people, establishing worker training programs and supporting the entrepreneurial spirit with correct policies.
Third, Pichai said, governments have an important role in promoting “responsible innovation.”
But also, he warned that preparing and creating adequate environments is also key, including assuring privacy, interoperability of cross-border data flows and electronic commerce.
Having appropriate legal frameworks in place is one crucial way to support this, the Google exec said, adding that his talks with leaders at the Summit will include sharing with them Google’s long-term commitment to the region and articulating what the firm is doing but also encouraging governments to do more in all these areas.
The $1.2 billion that Google will invest in Latin America will be focused on the company’s activities in developing infrastructure, developing technological talent, creating ecosystems for entrepreneurship and strengthening the most vulnerable communities.
“Particularly, we see many countries as what we call ‘digital sprinters.’ Effectively, by investing in the digital economy they can drive growth. … We have had success in other parts of the world, by bringing this kind of focus, and it has to be focus from the private sector, from the government and focused across people, infrastructure, technology and policy, and that’s what gives rise to the digital transformation,” he said.
Pichai also emphasized the launching of the undersea Firmina connectivity cable, which will link North and South America via the Atlantic Ocean and is expected to become operational by early next year.
Pichai said that when Google undertakes these infrastructure projects it’s very high-profile, and the firm is really focused on the regions in which it’s operating. Thus, Firmina, in combination with the regions where the firm has its Google Cloud in Santiago and in Sao Paulo, for instance, creates the backbone to ensure that the digital economy can prosper.
At the same time, he insisted on the democratization of these services, something Google is interested in doing by making them freely available.
Part of the commitment he announced will be devoted to increasing the engineering team in Brazil, focusing on essential areas like privacy and security, as well as on the creation and development of better products for the region and the world.
Meanwhile, another large quantity of the funding will be destined to training people in digital skills, providing a million scholarships to push quality jobs via the “Grow with Google” program, whereby the firm has provided training to almost eight million people since 2017.
In addition, Pichai emphasized that $300 million of the $1.2 billion will go to supporting non-governmental organizations, especially those working to reduce the gender gap and to foster environmental sustainability.
“Google.org will announce $300 million over the next five years. And that is focused on supporting non-profits, which are really focused around economic opportunity for women, young people, including indigenous women-led businesses, and that’s a big part of what we are focused on,” he said.
When asked about the big investments being made by other countries like China in Latin America, Pichai said he sees an opportunity in the arrival of other actors on the scene.