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We asked Google about their new app and what they’re working on

A new Google app has launched. So we took the opportunity to get inside Google and find out what they’re working on.

We asked the Head of Public Policy and Government Relations, Alina Dimofte, about the new Google app and what it means for the digital world.

What are the biggest digital trends you are noticing at the moment?

A big focus at the moment is the rise of voice search. This is becoming hugely popular on mobiles. We are doing a lot of research into how we implement this more across platforms, making search easier and more accessible to people on-the-go. This is a crucial area for businesses to be aware of, especially as how we search can be quite different via voice than text. For instance we tend to ask longer questions when we use voice search.

Businesses big and small need to make sure that they are coming up top for these queries as well as those that are typed - and it has to be ‘as well’ as it’s not the case that voice search is replacing text, but instead that people are searching more now that they can use voice.

Tell us about this new Google app? What makes this venture different?

‘Learn Digital’ by Google is the App version of our successful Digital Garage initiative. This is a free digital skills training programme that offers every individual and business in the UK the opportunity to upskill in essential digital tools. The App has been tailored from the website experience. It allows people to learn on-the-go and follow a tailored learning experience to help meet specific goals.

Users can pick and choose from a variety of 23 topics of interest, such as building a better web presence, understanding how websites are ranked, how to use keywords correctly and even learning how to advertise online. There is also the opportunity to take an exam. Users can earn Google’s certificate in Digital Marketing fundamentals.

The push notification functionality means that reminders can be set to ensure users keep learning and take the next step in a personalised learning plan. Users can also choose to visit one of our physical Digital Garages and go through specific topics with someone face-to-face. We currently have a Garage open on the high street in Sheffield and another about to launch in the middle of Birmingham. There is certainly no other service currently out there that offers these approaches and facilities – and for free!

Where did the initial idea and inspiration behind the concept of the app come from? Did you do a lot of research beforehand and what did this reveal?

As the popularity of our Digital Garage platform became more popular and the successes of our physical garages grew, it seemed a natural step to create an App that works alongside these allowing people to continue learning and refreshing skills whilst on-the-go. We understand that people lead very busy lives but are keen to get up to speed with digital opportunities. In the UK we face a digital skills gap. We at Google want to help close that gap and give everyone new opportunities for digital growth. We’ve done a lot of research in this area.

For example, we know that 90% of jobs will require digital literacy in the near future. With small companies – the backbone of the British economy – growing twice as fast when they have a strong web presence, it’s never been more important for both employers and employees to keep up to date with the opportunities presented by online technology. Our research also shows that over half (51%) of small businesses say young people are not learning enough digital skills. Nearly a third (29%) feel the cost of training is putting them off.

What do you hope that this new Google app will achieve?

Our aim with The Digital Garage is to make sure that every individual and business in the UK has the support they need to make the most of online tools, encouraging innovation, entrepreneurialism and digital confidence. We hope the app encourages more people to use their spare time to log on and learn. From research, we know that thousands of people have already benefitted that it is extremely empowering. Individuals can feel that they are taking control.

We understand that the digital world can seem daunting however we’ve seen some remarkable people learn different skills and have used them successfully in starting new businesses or growing existing ones. In the current climate, it’s no use simply having a good business idea if you can’t promote it online and that’s why search, keywords and optimisation are some of the most popular topics for learning. We aim to take the fear out of learning digital skills and continue making it enjoyable and fun!

What are the next big projects you are working on at Google that will come out over the next year?

We are about to launch our next Digital Garage in Birmingham which is very exciting. We first opened a smaller Digital Garage back in 2015 which was successful in offering digital help to local businesses. We’re now opening a much larger, visible space right in the centre of the city and anyone passing by can pop in and either sit 1:1 with a digital marketing expert or join a group session that focuses on one of 20 different topics, such as search, social media or advertising. Our aim is to open even more Digital Garages across the UK over the next year.

The app, which is available now in the UK, can be found on the Google Play Store as ‘Digital Garage’ and Apple’s App Store as ‘Learn Digital’.

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