Racing to seize the opportunities of the new connected age

March 2015

Clare Balding is an enthusiastic user of technology, national treasure and gifted interviewer. When she put Eileen Naughton in the hot seat during a live session during Adweek, it gave Google VP and UK Managing Director an opportunity to talk candidly about some of the big, exciting issues she and her team are grappling with at Google these days.

We know from Google search that looking at the questions people ask gives an instant indication of the trending topics of the day. Clare’s questions reveal some of the areas of Google’s business that pique public interest, so I wanted to dig into those here and share my thoughts.

A unique digital climate

The UK’s advertising industry is more concentrated and digitally sophisticated than any other ad market in the world. An estimated 50% of UK advertising spend is already digital, while the rest of world average is 25% – a massive gap. The UK is also the world’s most advanced e-commerce market, spending an estimated £2,000 per capita in 2013, followed by Australia at £1350 and the US at £1170. British consumers’ propensity to shop and manage their lives digitally conspires to create a very frothy, intensive market for advertisers and marketers.

Preparing for the future

Like many companies, Google is focused on ensuring a talent pipeline to meet the demands of a digital workplace. We’ve encouraged educational systems to encourage STEM skills, and offer courses in coding as a basic language of modern life. The UK has led on this, as of 2014 has required students from fifth grade on to take coursework in computer science. Most of the products and services we consume are made with computer code, and Google has made large financial and resource commitments to support STEM education around the world.

Why do we do what we do

At its core, Google is a company that uses technology to improve the lives of billions of people. We approach engineering and product development using the “Toothbrush Test:” the notion is that our products should be usable twice a day or more by billions of people around the world. Gmail, Google Maps, Google search, YouTube, Android, Chrome – these are all things that provide daily utility to billions of internet users.

Constant connectivity for all

For those of us living in the UK, high-speed connectivity is a given. Not all of us have 4G all of the time, but on balance the UK’s digital infrastructure is advanced and affordable. For us, connectivity is as basic a resource as air, water and electricity. But only 2.5 million people around the world have access to the Internet – leaving 5 billion who are not yet connected. This is why Google invests in projects that aim to bring connectivity to everyone: connecting the world to sources of information and inspiration to inspire innovation, and improve lives.

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