Jeff Buchan serves as Head of Global Industry Relations & Strategic Partnerships for Google, where he oversees Google’s relationships with key advertising industry partners in the U.S. and globally, to address issues most relevant to Google and to the advertising and tech industries. At Google, he has also worked on the GeoCommerce Team, working with small businesses to drive online growth and increase their digital presence.

Technology Innovation for Social Good

The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Google Chicago recently hosted a special event, Technology Innovation for Social Good, to bring together Chicago’s tech community around the city’s opportunity to serve as a world leader in socially-minded innovation. Buchan served as one of the featured panelists that represented innovators on the front lines of using technology to solve both global and local challenges.  

Question: Google today means so many different things, that people often forget the original core product – the search engine. How does that beginning connect to how Google thinks about, and continues to deploy, tech innovation for social good?

Buchan: “Google’s mission at it’s core has always been a social mission, which is to organize the world’s information and to make it universally accessible and useful. We at Google are at our best when we are leveraging technology to tackle really big problems and build solutions for everyone. It’s not enough to solve a problem for some people, or even for most people; we’re really not satisfied until we can build a solution at scale for everyone. It’s really a part of the ethos of the company and how we think.”

Watch the full response below [21:49]:

Question: What is a recent and impactful Google project in the social impact space and what problem is it seeking to solve?

Buchan: “One great example of this, that I’m really excited about, is what we call Project Relate. Did you know that 250 million people globally are estimated to have non-standard speech? This could be from a medical condition like autism, ALS, or various types of speech impairments. Regardless of the cause, the effect is the same, which is that for these millions and millions of people, speaking and being understood is a real challenge. We at Google were really inspired by this issue and also felt we were uniquely positioned to help given our expertise in both speech recognition and artifical intelligence and machine learning.”

Buchan then shared a video detailing Project Relate:

Question: How do you think about the role of the private sector in doing good in the world?

Buchan: “Every company exists because they do something really well. The most compelling examples that I’ve seen of the private sector doing good in the world really stem from identifying that core competency that you have as a company and then putting it to use in a social context. I also think that when the private and public sectors come together to tackle a problem and leverage their respective expertise some really amazing things can happen. A great recent example of this is the Google Cloud partnership with the Chicago Department of Transportation to create what’s called the “Chi Street Work” website. It’s a free public resource that leverages the Google Maps interface and Google Cloud’s capability to overlay multiple data sources to keep Chicagoans informed about important things going on in their neighborhood. It’s a really good example of leveraging Google’s core strengths and teaming up with the city to solve a real problem for the people of Chicago.”

Watch the full response below [44:29]:

Questions: What words of advice do you have for an aspiring entrepreneur who wants to do well but also do good; or for someone working in corporate America who wants to think about doing good within their organizations?

Buchan: I think for me, as someone working at a big company in the private sector, my advice would be to figure out what your company does really well. As I mentioned, every company exists because they do something really well. Figure out what that core competency is, that set of expertise that is unique and where you and your company are uniquely positioned to make a difference and give back and help tackle a social problem. Then approach that challenge with the same passion and vigor you would any other business challenge.

Watch the full response below [1:02:30]:

Learn more about the full program, Technology for Social Good.