The BPCC had a great privilege in having Bernardo Correia, the country manager for Google Portugal, to speak to us about innovation and the rate of change that technology is creating . His vision is for his team to help transform the Portuguese economy into a more modern, more global, more future-proof digital economy.

Given that the rate of change we are currently seeing is the slowest we will experience from now on, there are three trends Bernardo believes we all must be aware of, in order to keep up.

The first trend is the incredible growth in access to technology and education.

Let’s compare the early nineteenth century to now: back then, 94% of the world’s population lived in poverty, and only 17% had a basic level of education. Today, only 10% lives in poverty, and 86% of us have an education. With this boom in education and resources came connection — 3.4 billion people are now online. In other two years that will be 5 billion — about 65% of the global population, all connected by the internet and smart devices. The opportunity this connectivity presents to all of us is incredible.

The second trend is in the explosive growth of AI and machine learning in everyday life.

Google Search, Maps, and Translate are all examples of AI in action, and Translate is showing just how quickly machine learning is improving. Having built a neural net model for Translate for Chinese to English translations, the technology had expanded to another eight languages within six weeks, and is now live for nearly all of the 103 languages

The final trend Bernardo sees is in how we all acquire new skills and knowledge.

Most people now are turning to the Internet to find solutions, rather than taking the traditional path of reading books or taking courses. For some, this switch to doing everything online is jarring, and we need to carefully cultivate the skills and mindsets to take advantage of technology as it evolves, in order to keep up and stay relevant to a changing workplace and social situation.

The European Commission found that 47% of European adults are not sufficiently ‘digitally skilled’, even though 90% of the work in the near future will require some level of digital skill.

To help combat that, Google is offering free digital training across Europe so that anyone, anywhere, can take advantage of all the opportunities that interest them in this new digital space. And while that’s a step in the right direction, each individual also has to take a proactive interest in their own skill development.

Bernardo again sees three keys to building your own momentum here:

1. Show Up
Use the technology that’s available to you, to show your audience (whether that’s customers, employers or competitors) that you’re meeting them on their own ground. Learn to recognise the moments that matter in your audience’s journey, and make sure you’re publishing material that is compelling to them.

2. Wise Up
Now is the time to experiment, to use the tools at hand, and to measure your results obsessively. Every touch point you have with a customer makes you better for the next interaction, and making sure you have access to real-time information ensures your decision-making is effective. Invest in your skills, in your team, and in building an environment where all parties — you, your team, your customers and partners — can all thrive.

3. Speed Up
Having mobile responsive websites (and fast loading times) are critical for keeping up with the attention span of your audience. Most people won’t wait for slow technology (just like they won’t wait for slow service in stores). Adjusting to the rapidity of online interactions can require some aggressive targets and making changes to key incentives and rewards in order to motivate everyone in your team to do what it takes, when it’s needed.

Finally, Bernardo had good news to share about the growth of technology and innovation here in Portugal. Mobile usage has increased 100% year on year, and Internet penetration continues to rise (now up to 72%, though this is trailing EU average of 84%). Portuguese companies are starting to come into their own in utilising the digital space, and there’s a lot of room in the market for new local online companies to make their mark.

Now is the best time in history to seize the opportunities around you, and together we can design a future that is more safe, more accessible, and more prosperous than ever before.

More photos from this event
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Text: Laura Hanly

Photos: Nuno Mousinho

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