The day I went to Google New York

In almost every area they compete Google dominates…mail, maps, search and mobile. With over 500,000 Android devices being activated everyday there is little doubt that Google’s mobile operating system will continue to be a giant contender in the field. So while in New York I popped into their offices to talk with Eric Obenzinger who works in Google’s Pubic Sector division. For more information on my research you can check out my site…www.howappt.com

Mobile Engagement

We began our chat with how the mobile platform is uniquely placed to engage with the biggest segment of the population. As Eric explained, smartphone penetration among Hispanics and African Americans is comparatively high which aides many US government agencies attempts to reach out to minority groups. ‘For a section of the population the smartphone is their first experience of high speed Internet access,’ argues the Google employee, ‘which speaks a lot for the proliferation and the usefulness of these devices to connect the vast majority of citizens.’

Eric’s personal view (not necessarily that of Google) is that the government should invest more in mobile sites before they invest in mobile applications due to ubiquity, cheapness and openness of HTML. Furthermore, a lot of what the US government does can be classified as information awareness and basic data exchange in which case mobile sites are the best fit for that situation.

Government mobile examples

Eric also highlighted that if you want to see the cutting edge in social media or new mobile technology then you should look at the developments coming out of the US military. They’ve recently created their own app store and are currently building custom versions of Android for soldiers to use in the field. Given the open source nature of Android Eric says these initiatives are exciting for the company but also tempered this with stipulation that this system can’t get too fragmented. He goes on to highlight that Google likes competition and that its better having more than one platform.

When I asked about other good government mobile examples Eric featured the IRS mobile app (IRS2Go) which assists you in checking the status of your tax refund and a mobile website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in there annual flu awareness campaign.

At a federal level the US government is considering very deeply about mobile access to its services but as Eric explained, ‘there hasn’t been a huge ground swell of mobile engagement so far but that is more to do with scarce resources and the pace at which government adopts these new technologies rather than a lack of enthusiasm to move in a mobile direction.’

Mobile and Flexible Working – Google Apps

More and more government agencies are using Google apps. We talked about Wyoming as the first US State switching completely to Google apps to improve their 10,000 staff’s mobility and collaboration while also saving the State over $1 million every year. This promotional video gives more details and some nice facts about Wyoming that you probably didn’t know…

Future of Mobile

Just to wrap up the interview Eric gave some thought on the future direction of mobile:

  • The basic answer is more…mobile is the fastest proliferating technology that Google has ever seen. They are seeing a 30% increase in mobile search queries each quarter.
  • Mobile devices are becoming complementary to desktop computers…for example desktop Google map searchers are higher during weekdays, however, during weekends mobile map search spikes as more people will be off work…so these devices will increasingly allow you to live your life in a more flexible manner.
  • It will inevitable that these devices will become cheaper, as cell phone companies will want to market them more aggressively and the device manufactures will have free platform options such as Android to build off.

With that my day at Google ended. Everything you’d expect to be in a Google office was there from people riding on scooters to a Lego building area – it’s really a slice of California dropped right into the middle of Manhattan. The only souvenir from my day at Google was that bottle of H20 in the picture above but maybe the secret of Google’s success might have something to do with what they put in their drinking water…fingers crossed.

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Jamie Kirk

Texting is a really important area but we never managed to get on it during that specific interview. However, I’ve actually just written another blog that I’ll be posting here on Monday about a US based non-profit organisation that is using texting to good use in India.