Google Chairman Eric Schmidt: Israel Is a 'Tech Miracle'

Speaking at a Tel Aviv conference, Schmidt praises Israel's engineers and development centers and discusses the role of technology in the region's political upheaval.

Google chairman Eric Schmidt said on Monday that the company's development centers in Israel are among the company's most efficient and that Google is constantly expanding them.

Speaking at a Tel Aviv conference called "Big Tent," Schmidt said that the quality of Israel's engineers is very high, not least due to the country's universities and the training acquired in the army. He also praised local salespeople as among the best in the world, saying they continue to contribute to the company's profits.

"We love Israel," Schmidt said, drawing applause from the crowd.

One of Google's main rivals, Facebook, announced on Monday that it was buying, the Israeli company that provides facial-recognition technology, for an estimated sum of between $80 million and $100 million.

Schmidt said that Israel has a good education system and great universities, but added it needs to strengthen them further.

Schmidt also touched on the company's recent departure from China. "We thought there would be popular demand to stop censorship," he said, adding that instead, the censorship only became more severe. "China started to censor more because she could do it," he said. "That's why we lefty China and started to focus on Hong Kong."

"Google is anti-censorship," Schmidt said. "As a user, you have the right to get all the information there is; in the long run, countries that block information are less competitive."

Speaking about the Arab Spring, Schmidt said that "the dictators of the Arab world were censoring everything except for the Internet; they were too old and didnt know about [it]." He added that it was not the tech companies that carried out the Arab Spring, but rather people who used technology "to revolt against the dictators."

"If the government shuts down the Internet, its a sign that the government is scared," he said.

Schmidt also spoke about innovation, saying, "If you dont try, you dont know – we tried, I and you dont even remember the names of the products that failed – thats the secret of innovation."

Asked by Haaretz if Google intends to buy a newspaper or expand its content production, Schmidt answered: "We considered many times buying a newspaper, but we decided not to, producing content is difficult; we prefer linking to the content that you are doing."

"People should not be afraid of technology," Schmidt concluded. "The future is just starting."

Eric Schmidt in Tel Aviv
David Bachar