Government urged by Google to push digital skills to help economy

Technology giant Google says the post-pandemic recovery in the UK needs to focus on digital skills to give real opportunity.

Google has urged the Government to focus on digital skills and innovation to spark economic growth after the coronavirus pandemic.

The technology giant said a recovery that is digitally-led could help create more opportunity across the UK.

The call comes as a new report looking at Google’s economic impact in the UK is published by Public First. It shows the tech firm’s search and advertising tools supported an estimated £55 billion in economic activity for more than 700,000 businesses last year.

The company said around 280,000 businesses started selling online for the first time as a result of pandemic, and this shift accounted for around £17 billion of the economic activity Google supported.

The report also looked at Google’s impact on everyday life, calculating that more than half of Britons have used the firm’s search engine to keep up to date with news on the pandemic, while general searches have helped saved people more than a billion hours a year – equivalent to an extra free day of time per person, per year.

The company argues this highlights the importance of improving people’s digital skills and placing more emphasis on using digital within business.

Google UK managing director Ronan Harris told the PA news agency that the figures underlined “the importance of digital as people try to pivot and figure out how to get their businesses working in a pandemic environment”.

Mr Harris said that as the UK entered a period where it must deal with the dual issues of navigating the pandemic and leaving the European Union, it was important that the country took advantage of potential areas of growth.

“I’m sure you’ve heard the term that technology use has leapt four or five years in as little as five months over the course of 2020, and we saw a 60% increase in internet usage and searches around online shopping grew by over 200%,” he said.

“And so, certainly as individuals, we have made a massive forward step in our adoption of digital in all aspects of our daily lives.

“I think there are still businesses and industries out there that are struggling and I think every business, including ours, has aspects of the business that are definitely in difficulty, but as consumers and as a nation we have moved very strongly towards digital and online.”

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