As you might expect from a company founded by two engineers and an infusion of start up cash, Google believes in the power of entrepreneurs and small businesses to drive innovation and spur job growth. So it wasn't surprising that when we considered areas to support with our philanthropic efforts, helping entrepreneurs in developing countries rose to the top. This past January we launched an initiative to Fuel the Growth of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs). SMEs in developed countries account for half of GDP and two-thirds of jobs, but they're largely absent in developing countries. We wanted to explore how we could help drive capital to these high-growth businesses. At the same time, we launched a parallel effort to increase access to vital information in poor countries. This effort, known as Inform and Empower, aims to help improve the quality of public services by organizing critical information and making it accessible to all (sound familiar?).
We still strongly believe that growing small businesses will help the poor, but one of Google's ten organizing principles is, "it's best to do one thing really, really well." As we evaluated our efforts this past year, it became clear that given Google.org's unique strengths - including the ability to tap Google engineers to build and link better pathways to information - we could have a greater impact on the lives of the poor by focusing our efforts on Inform and Empower. As a result, we're putting our SME initiative on the back burner. We'll continue to support the grants and investments that we've already committed under the initiative. We have observed and learned from many others addressing the challenges of financing SMEs -- many of whom are seeing significant strong results -- and we hope they continue with great success. At this time, however, we will not fund new efforts in the SME space.
Google remains committed to its philanthropic goal: using information and technology to take on some of the world's greatest challenges. We continue to draw upon resources of 1% equity, 1% profit, and employee time, as outlined by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in their 2004 letter to investors. We've had a strong year of giving since the launch of our initiatives. We know that the global financial crisis is disproportionately affecting the poor and plan to increase our overall giving in 2009.
Sonal Shah, Head of Global Development, Google.org