Google to develop digital skills of thousands of Estonians

Janno Riispapp
, reporter
Google sign.
Google sign. Photo: MIKE BLAKE / Reuters / Scanpix

Tech giant Google will launch a training program in Estonia the goal of which is to aid coronavirus crisis recovery by complementing the digital skills of at least 4,000 people and companies.

“We have been sent different signals from the Estonian market to indicate interest. Additional participants are welcome as these are online trainings and there is no attendance limit,” said Kristina Randver, head of business development for Google in Estonia.

Working with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications and Enterprise Estonia (EAS), Google plans to offer trainings covering web design, e-commerce, digital visibility, social media marketing, digital strategies etc. starting in April.

“The main goal is to help small and medium businesses to recover from the crisis as quickly as possible and carry out long-term change,” Randver added. “Our analyses and studies have shown that Estonian entrepreneurs consider lack of digital skills their main touchstone.”

Problem outlined in the coalition agreement

The Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund concludes, based on feedback from 51,000 job seekers, that around half of people describe their digital skills as mediocre, one-third as rudimentary, 6 percent as lacking and only 2 percent consider themselves experts. Estonia’s coalition agreement also mentions the problem and reads that the plan is to develop digital skills in all age groups to boost digital involvement and the general digital skills base in society.

One might ask why a global internet giant is concerned with the Estonian economy and the prosperity of its people. Asked whether Google is looking to pay off some of its karmic debt in the wake of the digital taxation debate in Europe, Kristina Randver said that the aim of the training program is to help the locals improve their digital skills.

“The goal is not to promote use only of our products,” Google’s Estonian representative said. Because the pandemic is raging everywhere, Google’s program is also global.

Randver said that all trainings are product-agnostic (solutions work with all products in a given category – ed.) and trainers will be passing on knowledge regarding all available tools that include Google products but also applications from companies Google has no link to.

She added that the trainers have already been picked and include leading digital experts in Estonia. “I would not name any names yet, while I can say they are all well-known in their field.”

Google will also donate $150,000 or around €125,000 to the Estonian Trade Unions Confederation aimed at teaching low-paid workers whose jobs might soon disappear about digital technologies and tools.

Low-income jobs in jeopardy

Head of the confederation Peep Peterson described Google’s decision as landmark in terms of helping those with a lower level of qualification and income to find better jobs in the future.

“The coronavirus crisis has accelerated automation and demonstrated even more clearly the importance of basic knowledge of digital technologies for coping in the modern world. Whether we are talking about remote working or buying things online. Unfortunately, low-income workers often fail to see the need to develop their digital proficiencies. At the same time, their jobs are most at risk of disappearing in the future,” Peterson explained, adding that the confederation and other parties are doing everything they can to make sure labor market change happens as painlessly as possible.

Minister of Entrepreneurship and Information Technology Andres Sutt said that boosting digital skills in all social groups is included in the government’s coalition agreement.

“We need a digital turn in order to exit the pandemic crisis stronger and more competitive. This requires boosting of IT know-how among people and companies and Google’s new initiative is a great help here. Despite our society’s high digital capacity, we can always improve our know-how and skills,” Sutt said.