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Apps, Skills and SMEs: making Europe mobile first

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The internet has already revolutionized the way we live, work and play. Today, nearly 3 billion of the world's population are connected to the internet through smartphones. This is a profound shift that brings new opportunities to do business, to learn and to connect with audiences online. As the pace of technology continues to advance, we partnered with Debating Europe, Progressive Policy Institute (PPI), European Small Business Alliance (ESBA), European Digital SME Alliance and EU40 to bring together app developers, educators, policymakers and big thinkers to discuss how to improve skills, jobs and growth in Europe in the mobile era.

“Thanks to the Internet, a farm manager in Kenya has the same access to information as a policymaker in Brussels,” said Carlo d'Asaro Biondo, our president for strategic relations in Europe. This changes everything, but only if people can take part. And according to the European Commission, over 750,000 ICT jobs could remain unfilled in Europe by 2020 due to a lack of digital skills.

Speakers took on the big issues that are crucial to Europe’s future. Innovation is coming from new and unexpected places, as Michael Quigley of the Progressive Policy Institute explained. Their report shows in Europe, 1.6 million jobs have been created through the app economy and through the mobile transformation of more traditional companies. “The leading countries are Germany, France and the Netherlands, but really it’s across the EU,” he said. “Whilst bigger countries create most jobs, the Nordic countries surprise -- their app intensity levels are very high, even higher than in US.”

We heard from the creator of one app designed to deal with intense times -- Monica Archibugi started Le Cigogne (Italian for the fabled stork). Rather than deliver babies, this app helps parents to find babysitters. It covers 107 cities across Italy and connects 20,000 babysitters with 10,000 parents. “Grandparents are our biggest competitors,” she said.
Mobile Transformation Event 2

Jake Ward, President of App Developer Alliance which represents a million developers worldwide, echoed that sentiment. “We have been coming here for four years and the progress we’re seeing in Europe is amazing - a lot of Europeans don’t see that but it’s incredible.” At the heart of this growth are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) -- according to the European Commission, they  have created around 85% of new jobs and provided two-thirds of the total private sector employment in the EU in the last five years.

“SMEs are the backbone of our economy,” said Dr Oliver Grun of the European Digital SME Alliance, which represents 20,000 businesses. But in order to succeed, entrepreneurs will need digital skills to get there. Carlo d'Asaro Biondo highlighted commission figures that in the future 90% of jobs will require some level of digital skills. At Google, we have already trained 2 million people in Europe and 1 million people in Africa in digital skills. We estimate that almost 50% of the people who have taken online training so far are female, and in age they range from students to pensioners.
Mobile Transformation Event 3
Sharing service start-up Scooty talked about how their app enables sharing of scooters

Above and beyond Google’s digital skills training programme , we’ve partnered with online course provider Udacity and German media group Bertelsmann to provide mobile-centric, app-tastic training in the form of 10,000 Android Developer training scholarships across the EU. As Vish Makhijani from Udacity explained, this will help create data scientists, software developers and artificial intelligence experts. Udacity worked with companies like Bosch, Daimler and Zalando to build the curriculums -- and students are reaping the rewards. “Our students are amazing,” he enthused. “They embrace a learning mindset.”

Making the most of the mobile economy means it must benefit everyone, not just the few. For the European Commission’s Lucilla Sioli, it means training people in basics too, because of the increasing digitization of all areas of society. “People will not be replaced by the machines but they need to have sufficiency and the skills to work with the machines.”

And for Christina J. Colclough of UNI Global Union it means making sure jobs created are rewarding and have social protection. “I think we should stop talking about jobs in the sense that digital tech creates x millions of jobs if they’re underpaid jobs,” she said. “What I do want to say is that when nothing is for sure, everything is possible.”

That includes major transformation. Bertelsmann’s Steven Moran explained how the company is embracing digital after nearly two centuries of publishing. “My job is to make sure we stick around for at least another 190 years,” he said. “Part of my responsibility is to build skills across countries and industries. We need to lower the barriers on all things digital.” That means shifting the mindset from ink and paper to a fully mobile product.

Debating Europe: Digital Transformation - New Skills for Jobs and Growth

Finally, we heard an inspiring voice from Africa, where a whole continent is going mobile first. Tele Aina Williams Was one of the first people in Nigeria to attend Google’s digital skills training a year and a half ago. She set up Digital Republic in Lagos and advises businesses on Digital “Only a small number of people in Nigeria have ever opened a laptop, it’s all focused on mobile,” she said. With 189 million people, 157 million mobile subscriptions and increasingly reliable mobile networks, that’s “a lot of opportunity” she concluded.

We at Google want to say Jisie ike, to Tele and the new generation of mobile entrepreneurs. With apps making life easier for millions of smartphone users and billions of new internet users set to come online in the next few years, there’s never been a better time to get creative with tech. We’d like to thank our partners and speakers for making this exciting event happen.

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