UPDATED: Google has undertaken numerous initiatives in India empowering India’s citizens with Google Maps, Google Pay, access to Wi-fi at railway stations, providing early warning information about floods and now, empowering teachers and students with remote learning solutions, through Google Classroom, Google Meet, Read Along (Bolo) and YouTube. Through the Internet Saathi program (in collaboration with Tata Trusts), it has helped more than 30 million Indian women to learn to use the Internet. And Google has done much recently to aid businesses during Covid-19, even helping with the distribution of food and essential items. Google services (voice-based) are also available in 9 Indian languages, though Indians speak more than 22 languages. Google is now taking all that to the next level with a deeper commitment towards the Indian sub-continent. Sundar Pichai, Google and Alphabet CEO, who has Indian roots, today announced the Google for India Digitization Fund — a commitment of INR 75,000 crores (approximately US$10 billion) towards digitizing the Indian economy. The Fund, to be invested in the country over the next five to seven years, will be deployed to accelerate Google’s efforts through a mix of equity investments, partnerships, operations, infrastructure and ecosystem investments.
The fund will focus on the following areas that are important to India’s digitization:
- Enabling affordable access to the internet and to information for every Indian in their own language,
- Building new products and services that are deeply relevant to India’s unique needs including consumer tech, education, health and agriculture;
- Empowering businesses especially small and medium businesses as they continue or embark on their digital transformation;
- Leveraging technology and AI for social good, including digital literacy, outbreak predictions, and support for rural economies.
Speaking about the investment, Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google and Alphabet said, “It’s been incredible to see the rapid pace of change unfolding over my past few visits in India. From the excitement of young people using the latest apps and services, to the ways people are using smartphones to improve lives in rural villages. Google’s efforts in India have deepened our understanding of how technology can be helpful to different types of people. Building products for India first, has helped us build better products for users everywhere. But India’s own digital journey is far from complete. There’s still more work to do in order to make the internet affordable and useful for a billion Indians. From improving voice input and computing for all of India’s languages, to inspiring and supporting a whole new generation of entrepreneurs. Today, I am excited to announce the Google for India Digitization Fund. Through this effort, we will invest 75,000 crore rupees, or approximately 10 billion US dollars, into India over the next five to seven years. We’ll do this through a mix of equity investments, partnership investments, and operational, infrastructure and ecosystem investments. This is a reflection of our confidence in the future of India and its digital economy.”
Sanjay Gupta, Country Head and Vice President, Google India added, “India has always been a strategic and important focus for Google. Over the last several years, under the ‘Next Billion Users’ initiative, Google has solved for India by understanding the challenges of India better and building products and solutions that can help Indians get more out of the Internet. Today, we are recommitting ourselves to partner deeply and support India in becoming a truly digital nation by making the Internet helpful for a billion Indians and empowering India to become a leading digital economy.”
Giving a special address at the event, Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, Hon’ble Minister of Law & Justice, Communications and Electronics & Information Technology, Government of India, said, “India today is seeking to transform the life of Indians with the power of technology, and I am very happy that Google is rising to the occasion by trying to invest a fairly substantial amount in India’s digital transformation. This digital transformation emphasizes upon digital inclusion and overcoming the digital divide. I’m very happy that Google is recognizing India’s digital innovation and the need to create further opportunity. There is immense scope for Google to deploy artificial intelligence and undertake new initiatives in the field of agriculture, weather prediction, healthcare in the wake of COVID-19 challenges and most importantly in digital education. Today, India’s app economy is growing very powerfully, but we must not just download apps. It is important also to upload apps from India. I am sure with this new fund, Google will also focus on promoting our startups further.”
Prasad also urged Google to adopt Indian villages and make them “digital villages” with digital services, e-classrooms and tele-health facilities. Perhaps that will also be included in Google’s new investment plan for India.
Google’s support during the pandemic
Google also announced new initiatives as part of its ongoing efforts towards the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Talking about the Covid-19 impact on small businesses and creating economic opportunity, Caesar Sengupta, GM & VP of Payments and Next Billion Users, Google, said , “Now more than ever, to survive and grow, every Indian business must be a digital business. And we are investing in helping Indian businesses go digital and helping Indian workers learn, grow and find better jobs.”
At the event, Google also shared updates on the work it has been doing since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in India. In the last two months, Google has seen over 2 billion searches on Covid, across different languages on Google platforms. And it has made available credible and authoritative information on COVID-19 across all it’s key products in multiple Indian languages. Working with MyGov and various state Govts, and ICMR, Google has made available the information of over 11,000 food and night shelters spread acrossmore than 700 cities and towns across the country, and over 700 authorized COVID-19 testing centers across 300 Indian cities and towns on Google Maps in India.
Sengupta announced a new initiative with Prasar Bharati (India’s public service broadcaster), launching an edutainment series on Doordarshan on how small businesses can adopt digital tools and adapt to the current situation, using examples of real life Indian businesses.
Talking about the Spot Platform on Google Pay, he shared that the Google Pay Nearby Stores Spot which was introduced in March this year to improve offline merchant discoverability and to help people find shops near them to see what essential food items are in stock, has been used by more than 2 million users. To support people who are looking for work, he shared that the Job Spot on Google Pay, now allows for remote interviews and remote work listings so that people who are unemployed can secure employment and income more quickly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Focus on Education
Focusing on education, and helping educators to use digital tools to deliver classroom learning both in schools and through the Internet, Sapna Chadha, Senior Country Marketing Director, Southeast Asia & India, Google, announced a partnership with CBSE to train over 1 million teachers in 22,000 schools across India by the end of 2020, to deliver blended learning that combines the classroom approach with online learning, using free tools like G Suite for Education, Google Classroom, YouTube and more. To support underserved low-income communities, she also announced a new Google.org grant of $1M USD to Kaivalya Education Foundation (KEF) as part of the Global Distance Learning Fund. Using these funds, the Kaivalya Education Foundation (KEF) will work with the Central Square Foundation and TeacherApp to train 700,000 teachers to deliver virtual education for students so that they can continue learning at home over mass media such as TV and radio, wherever smartphones or internet access are not available.
Speaking at the event, Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’, Hon’ble Minister of Human Resource Development, Government of India said, “Google’s efforts to bring technology and thereby, knowledge and learning to students in every part of the country is commendable. The internet has emerged as a lifeline during the pandemic, which needs to be strengthened and we welcome Google’s initiatives like free access to learning resources, as well as their collaboration with CBSE to train 1 million teachers on tech-enabled education. I welcome Google’s commitment to invest in India over the next 5 years and we look forward to Google’s work in transforming India into a global knowledge superpower, with a focus on science and research.”