By Michael Carroll

Google calls for digital balance

Google executive Maggie Stanphill argued that people should not necessarily always be connected to the digital world simply because technology enables them to.

Speaking to Mobile World Daily ahead of a conference session on digital wellbeing, Stanphill explained there is a balance to be struck between accessing the benefits of technology and getting “stuck in a habitual cycle”, for example by constantly responding to emails or text messages.

Helping users to achieve such a balance is a challenge for all technology companies, but to do so requires new skill sets and expertise. These can be developed by “learning as much as we can” by analysing user behaviour: “This human-first approach will help us define and build experiences that don’t necessarily enforce that always-on is a good thing, even if it’s the result of great innovation,” she said.

Google research found 70 per cent of users in markets where people own multiple devices want “more help in finding the right balance”. At the same time, the company does not want to hinder users in markets where their mobile phone may be “the way an individual earns a living as well as a vehicle to new educational opportunities”.

Over the past 12 months, Google has added “capabilities within core products such as Android and YouTube” to raise users’ awareness of their tech habits.

“This includes ways for them to monitor their online usage (including parental controls), set timers for apps and establish important schedules for fewer distractions.”

Stanphill noted user feedback has been positive, with people stating it has encouraged them to exert more self-control.

She also praised the inclusion of digital wellness on the MWC19 agenda, noting that “making room for this important conversation” will enable industry leaders to “create products and ecosystems that prioritise users’ goals for living a meaningful life”.