The push toward a more inclusive and equitable internet — one built for every user everywhere — is a vision that any one player of any size cannot realize alone. It’s an effort that requires an open exchange of knowledge, learning, and competencies within and among an ecosystem of key partners.

Governments, NGOs, philanthropic foundations, and industry leaders all have unique and complementary roles and responsibilities as we bring more people online to a digital experience that is as relevant, as valuable, and as impactful as its maximum potential allows. In working together, everyone involved has everything to benefit.

In all our NBU efforts, we’ve prioritized sharing our research openly and forming partnerships with others who share our goals. An example is our work with Indian telco Jio to create JioPhone Next, an affordable, made-for-India smartphone that enables millions across the country to experience the power of the Internet. We also welcome and support the growing role that governments are playing in developing nationwide and regional strategies to increase digital inclusion, such as the African governments, with whom we’re collaborating to advance Africa’s digital transformation.

Of course, more complex challenges require more complex ecosystems. One example is the Mojaloop Foundation — a partnership led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Google with the mission of unifying digital payments using a single open-source platform, allowing access to financial inclusion for unbanked or underbanked populations all over the world.

Digital payment systems started proliferating in traditionally cash-based emerging markets starting in about 2007. They’ve given millions access to a transaction account and all the tools and benefits of such accounts for the first time ever, and in the process, they’ve raised entire populations out of poverty. But the growth of these individually successful but disparate payment platforms presented a problem: How might all those systems work together compatibly. And that’s where Mojaloop comes in.

Mojaloop is meant to provide a standard publicly available digital-payments blueprint. While providing that technology won’t solve everything, building systems also requires navigating national regulations, training staff, and making sure new financial tools are accessible to people who need them. So in addition to the software platform, the Mojaloop Foundation connects experts with countries and development agencies to tackle problems and help guide government policies that promote privacy and other user-protection measures.

Again, it’s a complex challenge, requiring a complex ecosystem of partners from various sectors, but the benefits are profound. Rodger Voorhies, president for global growth at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, points to the current pandemic as an example of how powerful expanding fast-payments infrastructure could be. “In times of crisis, [poor people are] pushed deeper into poverty.” That’s often answered by local and international charitable donations, but the coronavirus is disrupting international relief and conventional remittance payments. Digital payments can rapidly deliver funds directly to people in need.

In times of crisis, [poor people are] pushed deeper into poverty.

— Rodger Voorhies, President for Global Growth, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

As new technologies emerge, understanding the need for public-private partnerships will become even more important. Artificial intelligence (AI) presents a very current example. Its benefits are evident, but the ethical questions it potentially raises begs the need for sensible regulation. As our CEO Sundar Pichai puts it, “Companies such as ours cannot just build new technology and let market forces decide how it will be used.”

What’s key is how to go about that regulation. For our part, Google has taken the initiative of aligning and codifying our corporate values into a set of AI principles to help guide ethical development and use of the technology. The objective is not simply to be regulated passively but to help work with partner ecosystems, including those of government, to help shape a proportionate approach, balancing potential harms, especially in high-risk areas, with the social opportunities of AI.

We’ve seen the positive impact of working with partners time after time, and if there’s one thing it’s convinced us of, it’s that progress is best made together.


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Growth in Africa
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