Google steps up product focus to drive digital inclusion in India

The new product features are aimed at giving new Internet users easier access to information in Indian languages

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: Nov 18, 2021 6:22 PM  | 10 min read
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At the seventh edition of Google for India, Google announced a slate of new product features and partnerships in the country aimed at extending the benefits of India’s growing digital economy to more people. Today’s announcements underline Google’s growing focus on product innovations that will help new Internet users in India get easier access to information in Indian languages, create more natural ways for local language speakers to interact with the internet, make the Android experience more helpful, and provide support to India’s small businesses and youth.

Speaking at the event, Sanjay Gupta, Country Head & Vice President, Google India, said, “Across people, businesses, and institutions, the outbreak of COVID-19 has catapulted India’s adoption of digital to unprecedented levels. With the fundamental drivers of digitization now in place, and millions of new users coming online, India’s goal of becoming a truly digital economy is within sight. It is now imperative that we step up our efforts in building products that are even more inclusive of India’s diverse and unique needs. Last year, we launched the 10 billion dollar Google for India Digitization Fund. Today’s announcements aim at bridging more gaps and further broadening the inclusive base of India’s digital economy so that the advantages of this crucial transformation are accessible to everyone.”

 

Bridging the talent gap with digital career certifications

Spotlighting the need to expand the base of digitally-trained talent that is ready for job opportunities in high growth areas, Google announced the launch of 100,000 scholarships for Google Career Certificates collaborating with NASSCOM Foundation, Tata STRIVE, and SafeEducate who will help in identifying underserved learners across the country for a free enrolment to a Google Career Certificate of their choice. The Certificates are available via Coursera for IT Support, IT Automation, Project Management, Data Analytics and UX Design. Recognizing the importance of connecting job seekers with employers who have an ongoing demand for these skills, Google has also joined hands with an initial set of companies that recognize the certificates. Along with Google India, Accenture in India, Tech Mahindra, Wipro, Genpact, Times Internet, and Better.com will recognize the certificates, and more will be added to the employer pool.

 

Criticality of information products to mitigate uncertain times

Speaking about the importance of core information products and community inputs that helped Google to surface information for more than 10,000 hospitals with Covid beds across the country, Prabhakar Raghavan, Senior Vice President, Google, said, “The pandemic showed us that we’re only scratching the surface of how we can make information as useful as possible. Over the last few years, we’ve strived to reduce this complexity and remove barriers to information, especially with innovations in speech recognition and language understanding. India continues to be a global leader in the adoption of these technologies. In fact, the number of Indians using voice queries daily is nearly two times the global average, and one-third of Google Assistant users in India are communicating with it in local languages for needs big and small. I’m happy to share our next milestone in this important work, with a pilot of the first-ever Google Assistant-enabled, end-to-end vaccine booking flow in India.”

Google Assistant-enabled, end-to-end vaccine booking flow will guide users through the process of booking a vaccination appointment on the COWIN website with voice guidance in English and eight Indian languages at each step. Google has worked closely with COWIN to enable this integration, where even a relatively new internet user will now be able to easily book a vaccine appointment. This feature will be available in Chrome on Android and will begin rolling out in early 2022.

Tackling the challenge of making high-quality information available to local language users, Pandu Nayak, Vice President, Search and Google Fellow, announced the launch of a new feature in Search that will give users an option to access web pages from other languages and view it in their preferred local language. This stems from a key challenge with local language queries and the lack of adequate local language content available on a topic to deliver high quality results. Now, when searching in a local language, if Google is not able to locate websites that have information in that language, it will find high-quality content on pages that may be in other languages and translate these into the language of the user’s query. When a user taps the translated title and snippet in search results, they can access the page with the content already translated into their language of choice, or view it in the original language. This feature aims at bridging the information gap that local language users often encounter when searching for information online.

Also launching in India – a global first – is a feature that will enable people to hear search results out loud, making it easier for users who prefer consuming information by listening. Aiming to expand voice driven experiences in local languages, this feature will be available in Hinglish and five Indian languages including Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Telugu, and Tamil, and will be extended to other Google Search experiences in the future. Speaking of the launches, Pandu added, “We hope these improvements go a long way towards helping local language users access relevant information. We’re looking forward to bringing these and many more language-based features to Google products, to help advance the Indian internet ecosystem.”

Making digital payments universally relevant and inclusive; helping merchants make forays into creating a digital presence

With a goal to further simplify digital payments, Google Pay today announced an industry first and a first for Google globally, the additional option of selecting Hinglish as a preferred language on Google Pay. With this addition, users will be able to easily navigate the app in the language of their preference, with Hinglish as an option to mirror how a large section of Indians interact naturally.

Bringing further convenience to users, Google Pay also announced the upcoming launch of speech to text, which allows users to use voice as an input to add account numbers into the app to initiate a payment and an additional feature to split bills for shared expenses within a group.

Speaking about Google Pay’s focus in India, Ambarish Kenghe, Vice President, Product Management, Google Pay, said, “With over 10 million merchants now on Google Pay for Business, and many more joining the fold of digital payments every day, we are making it easy for merchants and micro-entrepreneurs to create an online presence directly from the Google Pay for business app. With the launch of MyShop - merchants will be able to effortlessly build a storefront where they will be able to add images, descriptions of their products, and prices in an easy and intuitive way, then share the link, through their Business Profile, across Google surfaces and beyond Google on social media. We hope this will further fuel the adoption of digital payments amongst new adopters, and help them create their online presence, and gain from the growing digital economy. The coming months will see MyShop and other features go live on Google Pay.”

 

Leveraging tech to mitigate the impact of climate change

Climate change is clear and present, and we are seeing the effects of it in increasingly real and personal ways. In states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala, heavy rainfall continues to have a devastating effect on people and infrastructure. Google has been at the forefront of developing technologies and initiatives to help manage and mitigate its detrimental effects. Google’s flood forecasting efforts  in India have focused on delivering timely information that gives affected people the lead time to prepare and to make decisions on their safety, such as evacuating their location. Since the start of the monsoon season this year, Google has sent 110 million notifications to at least 20 million affected people in affected areas across the country.

Building on this successful collaboration with authorities in India, Google announced its partnerships with the Central Pollution Control Board to bring the latest Air Quality Information, and with the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) to launch Weather Alerts for extreme climatic conditions, both of which are now accessible on Google Search. Searching for “Air quality near me”, or “Air quality in Noida” will show real-time AQI information from the nearest station.

Supporting micro-SMBs with reliable credit to spur growth

Google today also joined hands with the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) to launch a USD 15 million (INR 110 crore) financial assistance program, enabling Indian micro-enterprises avail loans of INR 25 Lakh to INR 1 crore at competitive interest rates. The program aims to fulfill the credit needs of Indian micro-enterprises, helping them make investments in their business operations, such as purchasing new machinery and equipment, production infrastructure, and working capital requirements. The program will prioritize women-owned businesses and those engaged in the production of equipment for the country’s fight against the pandemic.

Underlining the importance of the program, Sivasubramanian Ramann, Chairman & Managing Director, SIDBI, said, “Today we feel proud that SIDBI’s efforts in reviving the sector are backed by a strong collaboration with Google, a public spirited and conscientious partner. This one-of-a-kind program brings a corpus of INR 110 Crores to small businesses and crisis response related to Covid-19 to reinvigorate the MSME sector in India. This also marks SIDBI’s launch of a paperless journey to its customers from onboarding to the disbursal stage. With renewed hope in making a full and vital economic recovery, we look to this collaboration to enhance our efforts in expanding the sector’s access to credit and are very eager to see the constructive impact that we can achieve together.”

Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Hon’ble Union Minister of State, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, said, “Collaborations between government and industries will go a long way in reinforcing India's and Prime Minister Modi's Atmanirbhar Bharat mission. To achieve this, we must focus on skilling, talent development, and the capabilities India needs to become a significant digital economy player globally. Google's contributions through investments, technology, and platforms, can accelerate the adoption of digital to well beyond the 800 Mn Indians who are online. I am pleased with Google's focus on driving India-first launches and the progress that Google has made on delivering on their promises.”

Dharmendra Pradhan, Hon’ble Union Minister, Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and Ministry of Education, said, “With the digital economy’s potential to add millions of jobs, the government is committed to providing Indians every opportunity to upskill. PMKVY’s new phase focuses on digital technology and industry 4.0 skills and has already trained approximately 300,000 learners. It is heartening to see Google Career Certificates provide training in digital skills and launch an employer consortium to facilitate employment. If every Indian citizen has access to digital skills, it will not be long before India becomes a one trillion-dollar digital economy.”

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