Zimbabwean Manyika’s onerous task at Google

Taking into account the rapid pace of innovations and the rising concerns surrounding their impact on the society, James Manyika, the new Googles’ senior vice president of technology and society, certainly has his work well cut out.

It is a role that is novel in itself as it does not follow in the tradition of similar job descriptions in other big tech firms.

Dr. Manyika, who reports directly to Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, is tasked with handling a wider scope of issues on the impact technology is exerting on the society. His plate comprises matters ranging from the future of work, computing infrastructure, sustainability, AI, and the digital economy. His primary responsibility revolves around shaping how technology is impacting the society and how Google is working towards sustainable innovations and solutions.

Tech giants, such as Alphabet and Meta, have faced increasingly loud criticisms on the negative effects their products and practices are having on people. This has compelled firms to urgently design mechanisms to counter these global concerns. And by Mr Manyika’s appointment, Google has set itself on this path.

 Dr. Manyika, therefore, has his hands full in a world teeming with widespread misinformation, data breaches and cyber bullying. His appointment also comes at a time of increased cybercrime and when cases of health issues such as depression, and mental illness are rising at an alarming rate.

Google specifically faces several antitrust lawsuits as government regulations get tighter.

Is Dr. Manyika equal to this onerous task? Looking at his impressive CV points to someone who is tailored for the job. He has been at McKinsey for 28 years. At the firm, which is a global heavy weight in management consultancies, he held key positions, first as a board member from 2016 and chairman and director of MGI since 2009. It is this illustrious experience that the Zimbabwean has to tirelessly bring to bear on his daily duties if he has to be successful.

Perhaps what also stands him in good stead is the fact that he was based in the firm’s Silicon Valley office for over 20 years, where he was charged with advising tech giants on business innovation, strategy and growth. As the hub of innovations, Silicon Valley must have substantially deepened his experience on the dynamic world of relentlessly shifting technology.

As chairman of MGI, he spearhead research on emerging technologies’ impacts on business and the economy, the future of work, productivity and competitiveness, and other trends.

Dr. Manyika, a Rhodes Scholar, was appointed by former US President Barack Obama as vice chair of the White House’s global development council.  Currently, he serves on the boards of research institutions at Oxford, Stanford, Harvard and MIT. He is also a visiting professor at Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford.

He boasts of DPhil, MS, and MA degrees from Oxford in AI and robotics, mathematics, and computer science, in addition to a BS in electrical engineering from the University of Zimbabwe.

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