Google is trying to bring the next billion users online, and India is both – a fertile ground and a challenge. Solutions to these challenges will be critical to strengthening Google’s position around the Globe. India is where all the action is and in this laboratory, Google can innovate, improvise if need be and quickly reap results.
This was the gist of today’s #GoogleForIndia event, where the company elaborated on its plans, experiments, and innovations in India, with the underlying message being how critical Indian market is for them. Job was well done, and the sentiment resonated rather strongly amidst countless announcements and updates, most of which weren’t exactly new and have already been discussed in tech circles.
As Google CEO Sundar Pichai intelligibly stated, it’s a three pronged approach.
- Provide internet access to all
- Provide Information – The more region specific the better
- Provide platforms which people can use to contribute to the Internet.
Internet for all and empowering Indian citizens
Providing internet access in India is a big challenge. Marian Croak, Vice President, Access Strategy and Emerging markets spoke with great authority and insightfully on the ‘enormity’ of the task.
-To start with, Google will soon be providing high speed WiFi access across 400 railway stations in India starting from January 2016. This WiFi will rely on fiber cables laid down by Railtel.
-Then there is project loom where Google will use hot air balloons to spread internet connectivity to remote areas.
-To empower rural Indian women, Google has started a project where its training local women, who bicycle to nearby villages and teach others how to access Internet from mobile phones. Google is expanding this project to 300,000 villages in next 3 Years which is half the villages in India
– Google is also investing 20 million dollars in Cloud storage and Play services to help new Indian start-ups
– Google will also partner with 30 universities to train 2 million android developers in India.
Making internet better in India
Also, Google is making internet work better on 2G speeds. 50 percent of Indian users are still using 2G in Indian and half of 3G users are getting 2G like speeds. Steps taken in this direction include
- Lighter versions of webpages for low speed connections
- Improved data saving mode in Chrome (saves up to 80 percent data)
- Support for native languages across internet, Android and keyboards
- Google Now can recognize and answer voice queries in Hindi
- A new keyboard which you can use to type Hindi script in English. This new keyboard will ship preinstalled in Lava and Intex smartphones
- YouTube offline
- Improved buffering for YouTube to roll-out in few weeks. You can pause the video and allow it to buffer. Download progress is clearly indicated in MBs.
- Offline maps
- Adding panoramic images of 250 Indian monument on Google Maps
- Upcoming Tap To Translate, which lets you translate with minimal effort within apps. It will start rolling out from January onwards. The feature will even work offline and language packs won’t take much space either (25MB for Hindi language).
To open the event, Rajan Anandan, Vice President of Google in India and Southeast Asia, helped explain both the promises and challenges of bringing the country online.
“By 2018, more than 500M users will be online in India, from all 29 states, speaking over 23 languages. But in 2020, over 30% of mobile internet will still be from 2G connections. Google has been on a long journey in India to build products that connect more people, regardless of cost, connectivity, language, gender, or location,” Anandan said.