TBY talks to Carolina Angarita, Country Director of Google Colombia, on the impact of the peace process, short-term growth potential, and broader shifts toward digitization in the economy.

Where do you see opportunities for Google in the Colombian economy?

First, Google Colombia is becoming more important every day. As a region, we are growing quickly—faster than many parts of the world. Inside Latin America, there are some countries receiving more attention than others, and Colombia is now one of those because there are many opportunities here. One measure of this is how we have grown since we opened the first operation here seven years ago. We started with only one person and now we have 70. We have been growing fast and have some interesting plans for 2017, especially in areas regarding the development of the ecosystem and SMEs. We are planning on growing more in these areas. Another good thing is the peace process here in Colombia, which unlocks many interesting opportunities because we don't have the uncertainty that we had last year. Certainty brings money and growth in the economy. One of Google's main goals everywhere in the world, and specifically in Colombia, is to intervene in the growth of the economy by boosting the growth of companies, from small startups to bigger firms in the country. All of our efforts here are oriented to help companies meet their goals. If they meet their goals, then we meet ours. Where other people see problems we see challenges, and where we see challenges we see opportunities.

What sectors do you see having more growth potential in the short term?

With respect to Google, there are six sectors that are important to us. The first three are: CPG, retail, and travel. These three sectors are well developed in digital terms; they are using our and other companies' digital assets and are growing at a interesting rate, and we want to help them grow even faster. The other three sectors are: finance, including every level of bank and financial institutions; government—we are helping our government make a digital jump; and telcos, for which we are helping firms of every size grow.

What role you do see tech companies playing in the peace process?

Technology gives opportunities, and we will soon have 8,000 more people looking to make a new life, and technology is there to help them. supports JuvenTIC, a program that promotes digital skills for Colombian youth. Along with other entities—the Colombian Reintegration Agency, USAID, the International Organization for Migration, Universidad EAFIT, Reconciliación Colombia and Colnodo— also supports “A Window to Dream," a 2016 program for people affected by conflict embarking on a new life. We teach them how to use the digital world and digital assets to create new enterprises and develop the abilities to be good employees for potential clients. This is a good example of how you can use technology to help in the peace process. Apart from this, technology brings transparency and access to knowledge that are fundamental because if you have knowledge, then you can change your life.

Where does Colombia stand in its transformation toward a more digital economy?

We have a mix of different things. On the one hand, we are behind, but on the other we are well developed. It is an interesting mixture. As for the latter, our “Viva Digital" program stands out because of the example it has set for many other countries. The government has nearly connected the entire country, a huge step in the right direction. On the down side, we really need to invest more in digital education, especially in education about the ecosystem. This is why 100% of our marketing budget goes to the education of the ecosystem. We go to our partners, clients, and the agencies, but we also have an open door for people such as Google entrepreneurs, Google developers, and many other initiatives to help people to take advantage of the digital world and all of Google's tools.

How is Google bringing its history and reputation for innovation to the local market? What are Google Colombia's goals for 2017?

The growth of our clients, which translates into our growth. All of our clients' goals: more revenue, more market share, more product launches, more brand awareness—these are our goals. We want their KPIs to become our KPIs. The second goal is to use more our products for this growth. We have three main products, one is YouTube, which here in Colombia has grown immensely, which we want to continue. The second product is GDN (Google Display Network), the biggest display network in the world, whose power we want to leverage even more this year. The third is our well-known search and performance platforms. We have become the favorite sales channel for many clients and want to use the power of the search engine for more industries.