April 21, 2017 – Vice President of Engineering at Google, Yossi Matias, visited Ashesi to speak with students and faculty from the Engineering and Computer Science departments.
While in Ghana, Yossi spoke at the 2017 Data Protection Conference, organized by Ghana’s Data Protection Commission, ahead of the implementation of the Data Protection Act, 2012 (Act 843). Speakers at the conference discussed issues affecting data controllers and processes in the country while addressing data protecting trends within the sub-region and across the world.
Interacting with the group at Ashesi, Yossi shared his perspectives on areas including access to technology, solving problems with technology and internet privacy. Here are quotes from the chat:
Access to Technology
In this age, just about anyone can leverage technology to solve complex problems without becoming an expert at those technologies. So while I do encourage you to become experts in fields you’re passionate about, on the other hand, if you’re passionate about solving problems, then you have access to all the technologies you need. This kind of access is unparalleled in history -  that just about anyone can take up a problem, put together a small team and use technology to create powerful functions that can solve those very complex problems. So all you need is the ability to understand how to use the technologies and be able to contribute value in solving complex problems. This really is the best time in history for innovators and for everybody to be an innovator.
Internet Privacy
Primarily It’s important to understand what is being done with your personal data and also make sure you have a choice as to what is done with the data. Know who you’re interacting with and who you’re providing information to, and make sure you trust them.
The responsibility for every company is that they build and maintain trust with their users. The good thing about privacy is that it is also a business interest, especially today, so now essentially everybody has some kind of alternative. So if users are dissatisfied, they can switch providers based on service quality or how safe they feel their information is. It’s in the best interest of companies to be transparent with, and satisfy their users.
Theory and Practice
Building stuff with technology and scientific research are building blocks of problem-solving and you need as much from both areas. Today, in getting a task done, you need to understand the user, the user interface, user behavior, and then you need to understand what technology can do and how to do it in the right way. The way to do scientific research is having an end goal, yet to start with very small steps that are solved incrementally, while identifying problems along the way. In entrepreneurship, in trying to solve a real-life problems, the steps are not too different. A most important attribute is to be able to cut short and to decide what is good enough for the user, to make progress. In the end, the technology should be used to solve real problems.
Yossi Matias is Vice President of engineering in Google's Search and also the founding managing director of Google R&D Center in Israel, with overall responsibility for Google research, development, and technology innovation in Israel. Under his leadership, the Israeli center has developed visible and core technologies in the areas of Search, Data Analytics, Gmail, YouTube, IoT, Internet scale infrastructure and Cloud (some highlights here), as well as pioneered an initiative of bringing online hundreds of heritage collections including the Yad Vashem photo archive and the Digital Dead Sea Scrolls, seeding Google's Cultural Institute.