LEEDS, England (Reuters) - Google on Friday launched its first "digital garage", a multi-million pound project it said would help 200,000 small British businesses harness the Internet to grow.
The U.S. company, which has been under fire in Europe for its dominance in search and other digital services, said last month it would train 1 million Europeans in Internet skills by 2016, including building an online hub to support small enterprises.
Its first "garage" - a drop-in center that will advise on building a mobile website, developing e-commerce and optimizing internet search rankings - will open in the northern English city of Leeds on March 30 for six months, before moving to the next of five British cities in total.
Eileen Naughton, Google's managing director of UK and Ireland, said less than 30 percent of small businesses had an effective online presence, and Google wanted to "jump start" the other 70 percent.
"We understand (small businesses) don't have the benefit of large IT tech infrastructure and development, and they need our assistance in this area disproportionately more than a large business would," she said in an interview.
"We've never set up an outpost in a city - in a garage - as we have here in Leeds, and offered these services openly. For us, it's an exciting experiment."
(Reporting by Paul Sandle, editing by David Evans)