When people think of “digital champions,” it’s natural to think of a highly trained computer scientist creating new technology. There are many other kinds of digital champions, however. They can be small business owners accelerating their growth online or people finding better ways to do their jobs. To do this, people now need to easily learn digital skills throughout their lives.
That’s important for countries as well as individuals. According to the European Commission, France ranks just 16th in the EU’s Digital Economy and Society Index. Yet France has all the assets to succeed. It has top engineers, great entrepreneurs, one of the best education systems in the world, great infrastructure, and successful global companies. Studies suggest that if France fully seized its digital potential, it could earn up to 10 percent of GDP from digital technology by 2025, creating 200-250 billion euros’ worth of additional value per year.
Achieving this will take significant digital transformation for both France’s citizens and its businesses. With the right approach and infrastructure, that transformation doesn’t need to be hard. Over the last three years, we’ve trained more than 3 million Europeans in digital skills. In France alone, more than 230,000 French students and professionals have attended digital-skills training sessions given by our teams and partners. We now want to do more.
Grow with Google in France—“Les Ateliers Numériques Google”
We will open four local Google Hubs called “Les Ateliers Numériques” across France, run by a network of local partners from the digital sector. These physical spaces will provide a long-term Google presence in French cities, with a dedicated team setting up free trainings in online skills and digital literacy. With our partners, we intend to help people find better jobs, keep their families safe online, and develop their businesses or careers. Brittany will be our pilot region, with the opening of a Google Hub in Rennes during first half of 2018; three other hubs will follow. This will bring the best digital training within easy reach of more than 100,000 people every year.
A new research center dedicated to AI
France has produced some truly heroic figures of science—like Louis Pasteur, Marie Curie, Blaise Pascal and Sophie Germain—and its educational system still produces amazing researchers. So it’s only natural that we set up a new research team in Google France around the age’s defining technology: artificial intelligence. Our new research team will work closely with the AI research community in France on issues like health, science, art and the environment. They will publish their research and open-source the code they produce, so that everyone can use these insights to solve their own problems, in their own way.
Oh, and we’re going to need a bigger office, too.
To keep pace with this digital growth, we need to expand our presence in France. We announced recently that our staff in France will increase by 50 percent, bringing our total workforce to more than 1,000 Googlers. Our offices will also grow by 6,000 m2, via new buildings connected to our office today.
More than ever, we’re committed to help France find new ways to grow in this digital era—whether through helping people retrain, or growing a business, or using amazing talent to research and build new products for the world. We hope these new investments will help the country, academia and local businesses turn France into a true digital champion.