The Economics of Peace: Google goes to the West Bank

Last week we kicked off a section of our site, dedicated to highlight companies who recognize the importance of doing well by doing good. The goal of this series of blog posts is to shine a spotlight on businesses that go out of their way to uplift the communities and the people where they do business – you know, that coffee company that donates products to nonprofits, the car company that lets down-on-their luck owners defer payments or the ice cream shop that gives proceeds to a local children’s charity.

When we developed the series, we were mostly thinking about these great local examples. This week, however, I was reminded about the incredible efforts of companies, whose caring reach far beyond neighborhood issues or boundaries.

Those companies that go out on a limb to tackle complex social problems, chronic diseases and even peacemaking—companies like Google, who this week brought its unique assets to the Palestinian West Bank to contribute to efforts to build the framework for peace.

For the past year or so, I’ve had the great fortune to serve as a co-chair of the U.S.-Palestinian Partnership (UPP), a public/private partnership launched after the Annapolis peace talks. UPP was designed to promote economic and educational opportunities for the Palestinian people in order to facilitate progress toward a two-state solution, wherein Israel and Palestine can live side by side, in peace, security and prosperity. The basic idea behind our work is that there cannot be a two-state solution unless both states have stable and strong economies in which their youth have hope for the future and opportunities in the present. Through the support of youth centers, job creation, tourism and business delegations, UPP is working to demonstrate that the West Bank is open for business and to create the economic conditions necessary for peace.

Since our founding in December of 2007, the Partnership has secured private sector contributions for the West Bank from leading companies and organizations such as Cisco, Intel, Microsoft, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and National Geographic. Google is the latest company to answer the call in a big way. On March 24-25, Google teams from around the world, in partnership with USAID, the Case Foundation and Palestinian IT associations, traveled to Ramallah to provide more than 300 software developers, entrepreneurs and NGO leaders with:

  • in-depth training on the latest innovations in code development,
  • guidance about how to create, monetize and market Arabic content using online tools, and
  • how to use free Google applications (such as Google Docs) to better manage businesses.

Entrepreneurs and NGO leaders in the West Bank are young, well educated and tenacious, everyday overcoming challenges that seem insurmountable. Bringing Google to the West Bank not only gives these leaders a leg-up and fresh ideas, but it also sends an important signal that they are valued and indeed have significant contributions to make within the region and around the world.

Since we launched UPP, our efforts to encourage companies to care about the West Bank has been better then expected. It turns out the U.S. private sector cares deeply about peace in the Middle East, and a number of companies and leaders have just been waiting for a smart way to jump in. It’s been straightforward, because doing business in Palestine provides one of the most clear and rewarding double-bottom line opportunities in the world. You can do well in Palestine, thanks to its highly-educated workforce, low infrastructure costs and unique historic landmarks. And you can also do good—like creating jobs, opportunities for young people, and a stable economy that can build up a state that can live side by side in peace and prosperity with Israel.

As the world gets smaller and government resources get tighter, caring companies will continue to play a pivotal role in creating lasting solutions to problems big and small, near and far. Whether it’s Google sharing knowledge, Microsoft gifting software, Intel providing connectivity, Cisco building digital bridges or the many other examples of corporations tackling societal challenges, we salute these incredible acts of generosity and look forward to many companies following in their footsteps.