As refugees have streamed into Europe from Syria and other Middle Eastern nations, Google has launched pilot efforts to help.
Yonca Brunini, vice president of marketing for Google (GOOG) in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa detailed some of those projects on Monday at Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women International Summit in London. The tech giant is giving away Chromebooks in Germany, providing wifi or cell service through partners in Turkey, and, in the refugee transit hub of Lesbos, Greece, Google has set up info centers to provide directions and translations. The centers work on low bandwidth—the only type of access typically available to refugees, Brunini said.
“This is the issue of our time,” Brunini said. “It’s hard not to be involved. We thought, ‘What is the biggest way we can help refugees and be a part of this European issue that is not going away?'” The answer, she said, was connectivity.
Moderator Judith Bogner then asked Brunini what the most Googled term in Syria is.
“Germany,” Brunini said.
The influx of refugees into Germany topped one million in 2015, as Chancellor Angela Merkel resisted calls to stem the tide of people fleeing countries like Syria.
Brunini, who is Turkish, said the help Google has extended to refugees is not just a personal passion; it is a priority for Google.
She also spoke about Google’s efforts to teach digital skills to young people in Europe and Africa, and contrasted the way Europeans confront innovation with the way Americans face it. She gave the example of how Germans reacted to the introduction of Google Street View, which showed photos of residents’ homes. “The Germans especially were concerned,” she said. “They really wanted their houses blurred. They told us to just delete it and we said that if we delete source data it’s gone.” But now, what’s the most common request Google gets from German users? Citizens want the company to put their homes back on Street View so they can sell their houses or show their friends where they live.
“There is something about our countries,” Brunini says, “that pushes away innovation too much and embraces it too late.”