India has the second largest population of internet users in the world—and it’s only getting bigger. Around 40 million new users come online in India every year, and not just from metropolitan centers, but increasingly from rural areas as well. And they’re no longer predominantly men: in the next three years, we expect 45 percent of internet users in India to be women. This rush of new users online has greatly transformed the Indian economy and culture, from the rise of local startups to the growing use of e-commerce, digital payments, ride sharing, and online video by people from Jammu to Thiruvananthapuram.
Sometimes technology can help in extraordinary circumstances. India has gone online to rally behind the victims of the Kerala and Karnataka floods. Our Crisis Response team turned on SOS alerts on Google Search in English and Malayalam, and activated Person Finder to help people search for family and friends. Locations of flood relief resources like shelters are being shared on Google Maps. Outside of the tech support, Google.org and Googlers are contributing over $1 million to support relief and recovery efforts. And others can also donate to Kerala flood relief on Tez.
Technology is a key tool in crises, but it’s also critical for supporting India’s ongoing national momentum. In this spirit, we made announcements at this year’s Google for India event, towards three goals: making the internet work for more Indians, making our products more relevant to Indians, and taking the best of India to the rest of the world.
Making the internet work for more Indians
The first internet users in India consumed English-language content on their PCs, and later, their high-end smartphones. Today, however, there is a generation of internet users with completely different needs—where their first and only internet experience is via a touchscreen and not a keyboard. We have a responsibility to make sure that our products work well for every one of these users.
The first step is to provide more high-quality internet access. Google Station is partnering Andhra Pradesh State FiberNet Limited to cover over 12,000 villages, towns and cities in the state of Andhra Pradesh, potentially reaching 10 million people. This will provide high-quality internet access to areas that have never been connected before, from hospitals to villages.
The second is to help improve the smartphone experience in India. Our Indian hardware partners on Android such as Micromax, Lava, Nokia and Transsion are creating Android (Go edition) phones at prices within reach of more Indians. Early next month Samsung will continue that momentum with the launch of its first ever Android (Go edition) device, the Galaxy J2 Core.
Many of India’s new internet users favor listening and speaking over reading text. That’s why we’re launching a new feature in Google Go that lets you listen to webpages. Powered by natural language processing and speech synthesis AI, this technology can read billions of webpages smoothly in a natural sounding voice. It supports 28 languages, including Hindi, Bengali, Malayalam, Marathi and Tamil—even on 2G connections.
Making our products more relevant to Indians
The majority of internet users in India today are Indian language users, and this number is expected to reach 500 million in the next two years. Smartphones are not useful unless they work in people’s primary language and provide access to great content in their native tongues.
To that goal, we are working with Indian language publishers to bring more relevant content online. Right now, the amount of online content in Indian languages is only 1 percent of what’s available in English. So we’ve started a project called Navlekhā, a word derived from Sanskrit meaning “a new way to write.” This project comprises a tool that uses AI to render any PDF containing Indian language content into editable text, making it easy for print publishers to create mobile-friendly web content. It also provides Indian language publishers with free web hosting with AdSense support, so they can immediately start monetizing their content. Publishers will also receive training and support, and a branded .page domain for the first three years. Navlekhā has already started onboarding publishers from Delhi, and we aim to welcome many more from other regions in September. Sign up for the program at g.co/navlekha.
We’re also expanding the number of languages supported in our existing apps and services. The Search feed will now display your favourite news from both English and Hindi sources, using AI that learns which types of stories you like best. On the Google Assistant, we’re adding Marathi (with seven more Indian languages coming soon) and even more Indian apps—like Where Is My Train, Airtel, and Hello English—making them available through the convenience of voice control.
We’re creating more locally relevant experiences for Indians as well. Google Maps Go now brings turn-by-turn navigation functionality, while incorporating a brand new home screen with handy shortcuts. Google Maps will now also deliver better guidance to public transport riders, informing them of upcoming stops and sending alerts when it’s time to get off. And thanks to our new partnership with RedBus—India’s largest inter-city bus ticketing service—more than 20,000 inter-city bus routes in 1,500 cities will be added to Google Maps.
Taking the best of India to the rest of the world
Since launching our India-first payments app Tez last September, over 22 million people and businesses have used Tez to make over 750 million transactions that are collectively worth over $30 billion annually. We believe that many of the innovations and features we have pioneered with Tez will work in other countries. To take Tez beyond India, we will be unifying all of Google’s payment offerings globally. As a first step, Tez will now be called Google Pay.
Other than the name, the app is staying the same with all the great features and functions you enjoy. Sending a gift with a Happy Birthday spark, or paying a merchant directly from your bank account with no fees is as quick and easy as ever. In the coming weeks, we’ll be making Google Pay even more useful by increasing the number of places you can use it in, expanding services for merchants, and working with banks to provide instant loans to Google Pay users.
These are just a few things we’re working on to make sure that Indians have a great experience online, no matter what phone they’re on or what language they speak. We thank all the Indians who watch and upload videos on YouTube, navigate on Google Maps, use Google Pay, and Search for the information they need. By working hard to make your experience better, we’re also building better products for the world.
The pace hasn’t slowed. In the three years since our last update, more than 70 million people in Southeast Asia have gotten online for the first time, bringing the region’s total to more than 330 million–that’s more than the population of the United States.
More businesses are getting online too, so demand for our expanding Google Cloud Platform (GCP) offerings has grown quickly. Since first opening ourGCP region in Singapore last year, companies like Singapore Airlines, Ninjavan and Wego have joined the likes of GO-JEK and Carousell, using GCP to serve their customers globally.
To keep up with that demand, we’re starting work on a third facility in Singapore. Located in Jurong West, just down the road from our first two buildings (Singapore’s not a very large place), and looking something like the rendering below, this expansion will bring our long-term investment in Singapore data centers to USD $850 million.
The multi-story facility will be one of the most efficient and environmentally friendly sites in Asia, in line with our global approach. It will feature the latest machine learning technology to reduce energy use. And we will use recycled water, diverting 100 percent of the data center’s waste away from landfill.
We’re looking forward to growing our small team at the data centers here, as well as expanding our ties with the local community. Data center Googlers like Haikal Fadly have been helping out with STEM workshops at the nearby Zhenghua Secondary School. Back in December we did a “Walk for Rice” hosted by the St Joseph’s Home for the Aged (our team on the walk below).
And we’re always on the lookout to contribute to nonprofits with good ideas for benefiting the community. So I’d like to encourage community organizations and registered nonprofits in Singapore seeking funding to reach out to us to learn more and apply for our annual grants program, with the applications window opening today.
Editor’s note: Nicola Hazell is one of Australia’s leading voices on gender equality and social innovation. She is the Chief Innovation Officer and creator of the award-winning SheStarts program at Australia’s largest startup accelerator BlueChilli. Since SheStarts launched in 2016, the program has reached hundreds of women across Australia and invested in two cohorts of incredible female founders who lead businesses in a range of industries, including smart cities, finance and health.
Today, our SheStarts community becomes part of the Google for Entrepreneurs’ global partner network, a community supporting startups that includes dozens of co-working spaces and programs across 140 countries. Through this partnership, Google for Entrepreneurs will empower SheStarts founders with the best of Google’s resources—which includes executive mentoring, as well as programming and technical support to help to kickstart their entrepreneurial journey and lead successful, global-minded tech startups.
It’s an honour to have Senator the Honourable Michaelia Cash, Australia’s Minister for Jobs and Innovation, join us today for our Google for Entrepreneurs partnership launch at Fishburners— Australia’s largest non-profit dedicated to supporting startups, and a fellow partner in the Googlefor Entrepreneurs network—to celebrate this important milestone for women and all entrepreneurs alike.
We are living in an era when technology provides the vehicle to create lasting change at a global scale. But the possibilities of technology and innovation will never be truly realised if we’re missing out on the ideas and creativity of half the population. This is why SheStarts exists—to ensure women have the opportunity to unleash their talent and passion on the world, and to demonstrate that you don’t have to be a man in a hoodie and sneakers to make a big impact in the startup economy.
SheStarts provides founders with access to capital, engineering talent, world-class training and a global network of mentors and advisors backing them to succeed. The program supports founders as they take their startups from idea to launch, working with them to build and test their technology, to land major national and international partnerships, and grow their companies as they secure millions of dollars in investment. These emerging leaders have now attracted great teams into their businesses—creating exciting new jobs within Australia’s economy and redefining what it means to be a tech entrepreneur.
As Australia’s only corporate and venture-backed accelerator designed specifically for female-led startups, our goal is to significantly grow the number of women leaders in the tech industry. We work in close collaboration with organisations across the ecosystem—including the wonderful coworking community at Fishburners, led by an empowering and passionate female CEO, Pandora Shelley—as we build support for female founders, together.
We’re making progress, but there is still much work to do. According to the most recent Startup Muster Report, women represent only one in four startup founders in Australia. What’s more, access to investment remains a huge barrier for female founders, with less than 5 percent of venture capital going to female-led startups.
With the support of SheStarts, startups like BindiMaps (an indoor navigation app for the visually impaired), Neighbourlytics (a social analytics platform for neighbourhoods, pioneering the use of social data in cities) and Longevity App (a micro-savings app that boosts a user’s retirement savings every time they spend) are flourishing—and changing the industry’s gender ratio in the process.
Backing female-led startups is an investment in a better future and the growing global support for our founders in SheStarts demonstrates this. In May this year, the World Bank announced that globally, countries are losing $160 trillion in wealth because of the earnings gap between men and women over their lifetime. Meanwhile, international research continues to make the case for women in tech leadership, finding that female-led tech companies are more capital-efficient, achieve higher return on investment and bring in higher revenue than male-owned tech companies. Gender equality is not just a nice-to-have, it’s a global economic imperative.
Through our partnership with Google for Entrepreneurs, SheStarts’ founders in Australia will have the opportunity to connect with experts, investors, and women across the world, shedding light on a new wave of leadership that is redefining what it means to be a tech entrepreneur. We couldn’t be more excited to embark on this journey together with Google.
One of the Indonesian batik fabric designs sold at Batik Njawani
Editor’s note: As part of our series of interviews with people across Asia-Pacific who use the Internet as a tool to connect, create and grow, we spoke with Jajang Nurzamzam, the owner of Batik Njawani, an Indonesian handicrafts store. The internet has helped Jajang grow his business and provide a livelihood for 10 Indonesian artisans that make the products he sells.
Tell us about yourself and Batik Njawani.
Actually, Batik Njawani was established by my wife’s family. Growing up, I never thought I would manage a business. After I graduated from vocational school, my first job was as a sales representative for a financial services company. When I married my wife, I decided to help her with the family business. You could say that I only became an entrepreneur by marriage!
Batik Njawani specializes in Indonesian handicrafts. We source our handmade products from craftspeople in Yogyakarta, which is a well-known center for Javanese culture and artisans in Indonesia.
Why did you decide to create an online presence for your business?
It can be hard to stand out from the crowd when there are so many handicraft shops in Indonesia. Before going online, our business relied on a few customers who were familiar with us. If they didn’t place orders, there were no sales! This was stressful for us, not to mention the artisans who depended on our shop to make a living.
I had absolutely no experience in marketing, but I was determined to find a more sustainable business model. So I used Google Search to find out how I could get more customers. That’s how I discovered Google My Business. I registered Batik Njawani, and posted some photos and location details of it online with just a few taps on my mobile phone. I was surprised by how easy it was to create an online presence!
How has being online changed your business?
The impact has been tremendous. Demand for our products has taken off. After we established our Google My Business listing, an order was placed for 6,000 key chains and 6,000 hair pieces for an international arts festival in Belgium. It was our first international customer and we were incredibly excited to deliver our first export. Today, online orders make up about half of our sales.
The Internet has helped us build a community of customers and craftspeople. Our online presence provides a steady stream of customers, which in turn lets us keep our artisans in steady employment. The Internet helps us build trust with potential customers who are unfamiliar with our brand, but are reassured by the positive reviews they read on Google My Business.
What’s next for your business?
The demand created by online orders allows us to employ 10 artisans in Yogyakarta. They gain a predictable source of income that lets them support their families. Besides a growing business, the real reward is knowing that our work allows them to continue with their traditional craft-making, which helps to preserve and promote Indonesian culture. As our business expands, we hope to be able to support more of our local artisans. I also hope to introduce Indonesian culture to the world by exporting more of our handicrafts.
This week we’re looking at how the Google News Lab is working with news organizations to build the future of journalism. So far, we shared how the News Lab works with newsrooms to address industry challenges and use emerging technologies. Today, we’ll take a look at the News Lab’s global footprint and its efforts to fuel innovation in newsrooms across the world.
Technology continues to change how journalists across the world report and tell stories. But how technology shapes journalism varies from region to region. This past year our team, the Google News Lab, conducted in-person trainings for journalists across 52 countries. Today, we take a look at the unique challenges of newsrooms in the regions we serve and how we’ve adapted our mission for each region to help build the future of journalism.
In Europe, it’s been another big year for politics with major general elections taking place in the Netherlands, France, UK, Germany and Norway. We wanted to ensure we were helping newsrooms cover these critical moments with the accuracy and depth they required. So, our efforts across these countries focused on helping newsrooms verify digital content in a timely fashion and providing training in digital skills for journalists.
- We helped the First Draft Coalition pioneer new collaborative reporting models to combat misinformation and verify news stories during the UK, French, and German elections. In France, we supported First Draft’s launch of CrossCheck; a collaboration among 37 newsrooms to verify or debunk online stories during the election. In the build up to the elections in the UK and Germany, we also supported fact-checking organizations Full Fact and Correctiv to help newsrooms identify new sources of information. These initiatives helped more than 500 European journalists verify content online and debunk 267 inaccurate stories shared on social during the French and German elections.
- Journalists across Europe used Google Trends to help visualize big political stories—here’s a peek at what they did.
- We continued to ramp up our efforts to train European journalists digital skills. We worked with The European Journalism Centre on the latest series of the News Impact Summit, providing large-scale training events on news gathering and storytelling, combined with design-thinking workshops for journalists in Rome, Hamburg, Budapest, Manchester and Brussels. And our partnership with Netzwerk Medien-Trainer has provided over a thousand journalists across northern Europe with expert training on data journalism, verification and mapping.
This year, we expanded our training and programs to the Asia Pacific, where we’ve tailored our approach to meet the specific needs of journalists across this diverse landscape. In a part of the world that is largely mobile-first (or mobile-only) and chat apps are the norm, there are a unique set of opportunities and challenges for newsrooms.
- In July, our first News Lab APAC Summit welcomed 180 guests from 150 news organizations across 15 countries to our offices in Singapore. Product specialists and experts from newsrooms across the region came together to share best practices, learn about emerging technologies, and engage in open dialogue on challenges critical to the news industry.
- In India, our Teaching Fellow has provided training and support to around 4K journalists and journalism students across the country. Our partnership with the Digital Identities team helped journalists in New Delhi experiment and engage new audiences with their stories.
- Working in partnership with News Lab, the South China Morning Post released an immersive virtual reality project to depict the changing landscape of Hong Kong over 170 years of history.
- We’re working to support research projects that tackle industry challenges – working with Media Diversity Australia to quantify issues of diversity and representation in the Australian news organizations, while in South Korea we’re supporting a study about the use of chat apps and their role in the news ecosystem.
Working with journalists across Latin America, we elevated new voices beyond traditional newsrooms, and helped established journalists experiment with new technology and research. In Brazil alone there are an estimated 139 million Internet users, providing a huge opportunity for news organizations to experiment and test new formats.
- We hosted the first Google News Lab Summit in LatAm Google’s HQ in São Paulo, which convened 115 journalists from across Brazil. Attendees from 71 organizations heard from product managers and industry experts about data journalism, immersive storytelling and verification.
- Impacto.jo, an experimental project in Brazil supported by the News Lab, helps journalists track the social impact of their reporting. As a part of the project, six organizations including Nexo Jornal, Folha de S. Paulo, Veja, Gazeta do Povo, Nova Escola and Projor will each track the public response and social reaction to their stories.
- In Brazil, we brought 300 journalists to a first-of-its-kind independent journalism festival in Rio de Janeiro to share ideas on how to engage audiences online with original journalism.
- Our Teaching Fellows based in Buenos Aires and Mexico City have travelled beyond Argentina and Mexico to provide 75 workshops in Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico and Uruguay
Middle East & Africa
We are focused on the growing number of mobile phone users, providing trainings for journalists on digital integration, as it remains a challenge in this part of the world.
- We’re working with Code for Africa and the World Bank to provide training to six thousand journalists across 12 major African cities. Their online learning course will provide self-paced lessons for journalists across Africa. They’re also working to support local Hacks/Hackers meetings to bring journalists and developers together to share new ideas.
- In South Africa, we held a GEN Editors Lab hackathon, in association with Code for Africa, that brought together 35 developers and journalists to tackle a range of topics including misinformation. This builds on our support for previous events in Nigeria and further afield in Australia, Japan, Indonesia, Italy, Ireland, Portugal and Taiwan.
A bulk of our in-person training work has been made possible by the Google News Lab Teaching Fellowship, which launched this year and enlists industry professionals, academic experts and experienced journalists to help us provide practical, in-person workshops and presentations across the world. In total, we hosted workshops, hackathons, and in-person trainings for 48K journalists across 52 countries.
Since we can’t be everywhere in-person, our online training center offers a round-the-clock service in 13 languages including Arabic, Polish, Hebrew and Hindi. We’re continuing to collaborate with training organizations around the world, and our growing Training Network now includes expert trainers in Europe, the U.S. and parts of Asia Pacific. There’s plenty more to do in 2018 and we’re looking forward to working with journalists and newsrooms across the world.
Siti Arofa teaches a first grade class at SD Negeri Sidorukan in Gresik, East Java. Many of her students start the school year without foundational reading skills or even an awareness of how fun books can be. But she noticed that whenever she read out loud using different expressions and voices, the kids would sit up and their faces would light up with excitement. One 6-year-old student, Keyla, loves repeating the stories with a full imitation of Siti’s expressions. Developing this love for stories and storytelling has helped Keyla and her classmates improve their reading and speaking skills. She’s just one child. Imagine the impact that the availability of books and skilled teachers can have on generations of schoolchildren.
In Indonesia today, it’s estimated that for every 100 children who enter school, only 25 exit meeting minimum international standards of literacy and numeracy. This poses a range of challenges for a relatively young country, where nearly one-third of the population—or approximately 90 million people—are below the age of 15.
To help foster a habit of reading, Google.org, as part of its $50M commitment to close global learning gaps, is supporting Inibudi, Room to Read and Taman Bacaan Pelangi, to reach 200,000 children across Indonesia.
We’ve consistently heard from Indonesian educators and nonprofits that there’s a need for more high-quality storybooks. With $2.5 million in grants, the nonprofits will create a free digital library of children’s stories that anyone can contribute to. Many Googlers based in our Jakarta office have already volunteered their time to translate existing children’s stories into Bahasa Indonesia to increase the diversity of reading resources that will live on this digital platform.
The nonprofits will develop teaching materials and carry out teacher training in eastern Indonesia to enhance teaching methods that improve literacy, and they’ll also help Indonesian authors and illustrators to create more engaging books for children.
Through our support of this work, we hope we can inspire a lifelong love of reading for many more students like Keyla.
Photo credit: Room to Read
Since becoming a professor 12 years ago and joining Google a year ago, I’ve had the good fortune to work with many talented Chinese engineers, researchers and technologists. China is home to many of the world’s top experts in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. All three winning teams of the ImageNet Challenge in the past three years have been largely composed of Chinese researchers. Chinese authors contributed 43 percent of all content in the top 100 AI journals in 2015—and when the Association for the Advancement of AI discovered that their annual meeting overlapped with Chinese New Year this year, they rescheduled.
I believe AI and its benefits have no borders. Whether a breakthrough occurs in Silicon Valley, Beijing or anywhere else, it has the potential to make everyone’s life better for the entire world. As an AI first company, this is an important part of our collective mission. And we want to work with the best AI talent, wherever that talent is, to achieve it.
That’s why I am excited to launch the Google AI China Center, our first such center in Asia, at our Google Developer Days event in Shanghai today. This Center joins other AI research groups we have all over the world, including in New York, Toronto, London and Zurich, all contributing towards the same goal of finding ways to make AI work better for everyone.
Focused on basic AI research, the Center will consist of a team of AI researchers in Beijing, supported by Google China’s strong engineering teams. We’ve already hired some top experts, and will be working to build the team in the months ahead (check our jobs site for open roles!). Along with Dr. Jia Li, Head of Research and Development at Google Cloud AI, I’ll be leading and coordinating the research. Besides publishing its own work, the Google AI China Center will also support the AI research community by funding and sponsoring AI conferences and workshops, and working closely with the vibrant Chinese AI research community.
Humanity is going through a huge transformation thanks to the phenomenal growth of computing and digitization. In just a few years, automatic image classification in photo apps has become a standard feature. And we’re seeing rapid adoption of natural language as an interface with voice assistants like Google Home. At Cloud, we see our enterprise partners using AI to transform their businesses in fascinating ways at an astounding pace. As technology starts to shape human life in more profound ways, we will need to work together to ensure that the AI of tomorrow benefits all of us.
The Google AI China Center is a small contribution to this goal. We look forward to working with the brightest AI researchers in China to help find solutions to the world’s problems.
Once again, the science of AI has no borders, neither do its benefits.
The internet in India has undergone an incredible transformation. This year India crossed the 400 million internet user mark. And Indians are using more data than ever before—4GB on average every month, projected to grow to 11GB per month in the next four years. Cheaper data through carrier innovation and greater access to public WiFi such as Google Station makes the richness of the internet more accessible to Indians. And as a result, they’re spending more time watching their favorite videos and less time worrying about the cost of data.
With so many internet users hungry to do even more online, we’ve been working to build new products and features specifically for India. At our third annual Google for India event, in Delhi today, we announced some of these updates. Here’s a look:
A better entry-level smartphone experience with Android Oreo (Go edition)
Android Oreo (Go edition)—a new smartphone experience for entry-level devices—is available to the Android ecosystem of developers, partners and carriers as part of today’s release of Android 8.1. Oreo devices with 512MB to 1GB of RAM will get all the optimizations that come with Android Oreo (Go edition), including a better performing OS with built-in data management features and security benefits. There is also a new set of pre-installed Google apps, including Google Go and the Google Assistant for Android Oreo (Go edition), designed to be lighter and more relevant to the unique needs of the next billion users. Android Oreo (Go edition) smartphones also come with a version of the Google Play Store that allows people to download any app, while highlighting the apps designed to work best on Go edition devices.
Our partners’ phones running Android Oreo (Go edition) will hit shelves in early 2018.
Google Go, a new app from Google Search
One of the core apps designed for Android Oreo (Go edition) is Google Go, a new app from Google Search. Available today as a preview on the Google Play Store in India and Indonesia, Google Go is tailor-made for the millions of people in those countries coming online for the first time. It’s simple to use and fast even on entry level devices and spotty connections, making discovering, sharing and finding content easier and more reliable.
Google Go has three special features that meet the needs of users who are new to the internet. First, typing on a small device can be slow and cumbersome, and people may not know what to look for online, so Google Go’s tap-first user interface helps them better express themselves, explore new ideas, find things to share and guide them around the web. Second, Google Go is light on storage and data, and great on patchy connections. It’s less than 5MB to download, and search results in Google Go are optimized to save up to 40 percent data. Third, it’s very easy to switch and see answers in another language, for example, between Hindi and English.
Free up space on your phone with Files Go
Files Go is a new app that helps free up space, find files faster and share files offline with people nearby. In tests over the last month, the average user saved 1GB of space. Files Go was built from scratch for Go edition devices, and today the official version launched on the Google Play Store. Learn more about Files Go in this post.
The Google Assistant for the JioPhone
A special version of the Google Assistant—the Google Assistant for the JioPhone, built for India in both English and Hindi—is launching today. This will help bring the benefits of the Google Assistant to millions of first time internet users on the JioPhone with an intuitive voice-based user interface, along with a rich set of data services. The Assistant can help make phone calls, text, play music and videos, navigate and search the internet, and access other apps and services.
Two-wheeler mode in Google Maps comes to India first
Another India-first feature is the new “two-wheeler mode” in Google Maps. India is the largest two-wheeler market in the world, and the millions of motorcycle and scooter riders have different navigation needs than drivers of automobiles. Two-wheeler mode in Maps shows trip routes that use “shortcuts” not accessible to cars and trucks. It also provides customized traffic and arrival time estimations. And since so many Indians rely on local landmarks for navigation, two-wheeler mode will show major landmarks on the route so that riders can plan their trip before starting, and don’t have to keep checking the phone on the go.
Two-wheeler mode is launching in India today, to be followed by more countries in the coming months.
Tez momentum and new features
Our India-first mobile payments app Tez has seen huge growth in its first 10 weeks. Tez has processed over 140 million transactions from nearly 12 million active users. There are more than 525,000 merchants already on Tez, using it to take payments, pay their suppliers or transfer money to employees. And Tez isn’t just being used in India’s top metros—in fact, we’ve seen Tez users from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, from towns in Arunachal Pradesh to the villages of Gujarat.
In the coming weeks, Tez will start rolling out a customized experience to pay bills right in the app. More than 70 billers will be supported, including utilities and direct-to-home service providers. Once people pay a bill on Tez, they never have to add the billing organization again. Tez will also remind users when certain bills are due. And they can avoid paying the same bill twice, since the payment status will be automatically updated.
And since payments aren’t simply transfers of money, but often, personal exchanges for meaningful occasions, we’re adding fun animated moments that trigger when a certain word or phrase appears in the message with the payment, such as “hello” or “India.”
We hope this suite of products and features helps more people discover how the internet makes life easier and more convenient for Indians—whether it’s helping pay bills on time, navigating the quickest route to a destination or searching for answers to important questions.
These products and features are India-first, but if we’ve seen anything over the last few years, India-first ideas aren’t just useful to people in India. The mobile-first next billion users are changing the very nature of the internet, and so when we build better products for India, we ultimately build better products for everyone—and for the future.
Having spent my pre-Google career as a reporter and editor at legacy media organizations, I can tell you that digital transformation in the news industry is challenging. Even when news organizations have the will, resources and technical expertise, the obstacles to transformation can be daunting.
In Asia, few news organization have plunged headlong into digital transformation like South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s top English-language daily newspaper. With a daily weekday circulation of roughly 105K, SCMP is a midsize paper, but its language and geography give it outsized influence.
For more than a century, SCMP has been documenting Greater China for the English-speaking diaspora across Asia-Pacific. Before the internet, expatriates and visitors would pick up the paper, sometimes days old, on airplanes and in hotels across the region. For those living in mainland China (like I did in the 1990s), the paper offered a window into the place where they lived, from a familiar yet discrete vantage point.
Now, SCMP uses the web to reach the growing global community of readers interested in news about China, and experiment with new methods of storytelling along the way. After its purchase by Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma in 2016, the newspaper suddenly had a mandate to evolve, and was given the runway and resources to experiment.
“Culture and identity are massively important when you are trying to turn around a 114-year-old company … until you have a company that is ready to experiment, willing to fail, and able to move with agility … you can talk all day long about transformation and where you’re heading but you’ll never get there,” said SCMP CEO Gary Liu in an interview with Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Policy.
That entrepreneurial spirit led SCMP to take on an immersive virtual reality project that would trace the history of Hong Kong from British rule to the present day, mining a century’s worth of archival photos and illustrations and presenting them alongside modern-day 360-degree video and drone footage. The project was Google News Lab’s first immersive storytelling partnership in the Asia-Pacific region, part of the team’s broader effort to accelerate immersive storytelling across the news industry.
“It had to be big, bold, and beautiful—and leverage new formats, technologies and platforms to tell the story,” according to SCMP online editor Brett McKeehan, who helmed the project and talked about the process at a recent Google News Lab event.
In order to make the project accessible to as many readers as possible, especially in the smartphone-dominant Asian market, the SCMP team built a responsive website that was optimized for mobile, tablet and desktop. Animations of 3D Google Earth imagery helped to tell the story and orient the reader across time and space throughout the piece.
They set a deadline to complete the project within two months—an eternity for a newspaper used to daily deadlines. “What can’t you do in two months? What could possibly go wrong? Two months—I thought, we could do anything in two months,” McKeehan said. Shooting and production schedules were set, everyone was ready to go…
And then it rained. And rained and rained—for six straight weeks—one of Hong Kong’s wettest Junes in history.
While it rained, the Hong Kong government changed its drone restrictions, rendering certain planned shots illegal. Meanwhile, SCMP’s developer team of three learned how to build, for the first time, a responsive HTML webframe that would work for both iOS and Android.
In the end, Brett and his team had to change their project scope and push back their release date to overcome the many unforeseen logistical and development challenges that sprang up throughout the process.
“It’s not a tale of of pixies and rainbows…It is a tale of toil and frustration, and the headaches that come with doing something new.”
Despite the pain, Brett said the experience was worthwhile, because it brought new skills that were now embedded in the newsroom. But for anyone embarking on the journey, he offered the following tips:
- Embrace the medium: 360, VR, AR offer incredible storytelling possibilities. The sooner you take the plunge, the better.
- Experiment with new technologies, but start small before taking on more ambitious projects.
- Don’t outsource: Bite the bullet, buy your own equipment (get cheap stuff and play). Own your ideas and develop your own talent.
“We’re an aspirational publisher. We’re doing something for the first time. So we made it; we’re happy with that,” McKeehan said.
And that is success, Gary Liu, SCMP’s CEO, told me after it was published. “The point was to do it and learn in the process.”
With Ruth, our CFO, visiting the site of our new Tokyo office today.
In 2001, when Google was just three years old, we opened our first office outside the U.S. That office was right here in Tokyo. Before Chrome, Gmail and YouTube, there was Google Japan.
16 years later, Google has grown quite a bit—we now have offices in over 150 cities, spanning nearly 60 countries—and Google Japan has grown as well, to 1,300 Googlers strong.
Today, I’m excited to announce the next phase of our long term investment and presence in Japan: a new office in Shibuya, Tokyo, opening in 2019, that will allow us to double the size of our team here. We are also announcing an initiative, working with Minna No Code, to help bring computer science education to more than two million students across Japan.
Doubling our presence in Japan means growing our strong engineering teams here. When an earthquake hit Tohoku in 2011, members of these teams worked quickly to launch tools like Person Finder that we still use when disasters strike around the world. And they continue to work on and improve products like Search and Maps. It also means growing our teams who work every day to help Japanese companies grow. Their work, and the tools we provide, helped Japanese businesses increase their revenue by more than $6.7 billion in 2015 alone.
We are working on some exciting ideas around the design of the new office that will let us open our doors to the community, and will share more details as plans progress.
Finally, this is a sign of our commitment to long-term investment in Japan. It’s about creating the future with Japan’s innovators of today and those from the next generation. That’s why, through Google.org, we are partnering with Minna No Code to train thousands of teachers in computer science who will go on to teach more than two million Japanese students. This initiative is in line with Japan’s plans to ensure that all Japanese students receive a computer science education by 2020.
We can’t wait to start the next phase of our journey in Japan and to see the future that we can create together.
Editor’s note: As part of our series of interviews with entrepreneurs across Asia Pacific who use the internet to grow, we chatted with Glenn Skerman, who, together with his brother Brendan, are directors of AGDATA Australia, a farming accounting software company. Founded in 1984, their working family farm has grown into a software business that employs 18 team members with over 10,000 customers. AGDATA products are used by farmers all around the world, from the Falkland Islands to Papua New Guinea.
Keyword: Can you tell us a bit about yourselves, what inspired you to become entrepreneurs and create this platform for farmers?
Glenn Skerman: Actually, our father founded the business back in the 1980s. Originally, he was only trying to solve a problem for himself on the family cattle and grain farm. He was tired of trying to make existing accounting products meet our farm business management needs. Once word got out, others wanted what he had created. And so we formed AGDATA Australia. Business is thriving—we have more than 22,000 active software licenses. We offer solutions that allow farmers to organise their data on crops, livestock and land.
Our Phoenix software integrates farm production and financial data to provide farmers with a cost-effective solution that was previously only available to larger manufacturing industries. This levels the playing field a bit more for small and medium businesses.
We’re very proud that we’re still a family-owned business.
What difference has the internet made for your business?
It has completely changed the way we do business.
We continue to manage our product development, helpdesk support and administration functions locally, providing jobs for the local economy. Thanks to the internet, we can share data that our customers would otherwise be unable to access. For example, we’re able to share government spatial data directly with users. This provides them information to help them make farm planning decisions.
We’ve got greater access to customers all over the world thanks to Google. Our customers once had to learn about our products in person. Now, they can access our products anywhere by jumping onto Google Search, or finding out more about us on YouTube. They can also try our products immediately online, and communicate directly with us.
The internet has also allowed us to become more environmentally-friendly. We used to deliver our software on physical disks. Now our customers can access our software online. People used to write cheques as a payment solution; now they’re paying online. We use a lot less paper products and packaging today. We now also deliver online training to our customers around the country. This is more efficient for both the customers and AGDATA.
Can you tell us how AGDATA has helped your customers?
Customers benefit from our software in many ways. One said that by using our software, she was able to better monitor her business finances, saving over A$16,000 in interest payments on her loans. Another customer saved over A$30,000 in equipment and labour costs by planning out the irrigation and piping on her farm by overlaying Google Maps using the 3D capability in our Phoenix Mapping software.
We’re also proud to help the community. We have an active “Community Involvement Program” and provide software to not-for-profit groups in Regional Australia, which includes all the areas that lie beyond major cities. Last year we were recognised at one of the Regional Australia Institute and Google’s regional online heroes.
What’s next for your business?
We see greater use of the Internet of Things, and building on the connectivity of devices to the primary database we have. Ultimately, we want to provide a single database for the farmer to manage their farming enterprise more effectively.
What do Indonesia, Nepal, and the Philippines have in common? They’re home to the four winners of Google Business Group’s 2017 “Story Search” contest. Every year, as a part of our effort to spotlight entrepreneurs who’ve taken their businesses online, we invite thousands of our global Google Business Groups (GBG) members to participate in a storytelling competition and share how the Internet and technology empower them to do extraordinary things.
This year’s winners were selected from nine global finalists. We’re especially thrilled to see a common theme uniting each of these businesses: a socially-conscious mission. The winners inspire us all with how they run their businesses for the benefit of others.
Cafe Yagam, Philippines
Khalti, Nepal (the People’s Choice Winner)
These four businesses stood out among submissions we received from GBG members and independent entrepreneurs across 17 countries. All four will have the opportunity to travel to our headquarters in Mountain View, California for Google I/O in 2018 where they’ll get to meet tech thinkers, innovators, and business leaders. They’ll also be spotlighted in videos that document their stories, so stay tuned for those in an upcoming blog post.
Previous winners have gone on to become impactful leaders. Fadli Wilihandarwo is the founder of Pasienia and was one of last year’s finalists. Today he is a GBG Manager for Jogjakarta, Indonesia and did a lightning talk about his chapter at the first-ever GBG Global Summit in Singapore this past September.
Glorypearl Dy was a finalist in 2014 and the founder of Switotwins. She’s now a GBG Manager in Davao, Philippines. I’m proud they are both sharing their knowledge with others and empowering the next generation of business owners. We hope you feel as inspired as we are by this year’s winners and all of the GBG leaders globally.
What happens when you invite kids to tinker and dabble with 3D pens, 3D printers and lots of colorful electrical components? They go on to make some pretty amazing things!
We recently opened our Maker Space to a group of kids that are part of Code in the Community—a program that encourages a wider diversity of Singaporean kids to get excited about coding and technology. We wanted them to experience Google’s maker culture and learn the basics of creative and design-thinking. The idea was to combine their coding skills with their imaginations to build prototypes that might actually help solve everyday problems.
15-year-old Dheena Leonara built a 3D structure of the human heart using styrofoam and soft materials to encase a Micro:bit, which lights up to point to different parts of the heart. Code in the Community has opened Dheena’s eyes to how useful coding can be, and how it powers a lot of the world’s most important technologies. So these were her first steps toward her dream of becoming a biomedical engineer, applying code to make and program artificial organs.
10-year-old Muhammad Taqiuddin Bin Mohd Firdaus wants to build a time-travel machine one day. For now, he made a light-up teddy bear using a 3D pen, some cardboard, LED lamps, batteries and a Micro:bit. If he had more time, he would have added an alarm clock to it. His big idea was to make waking up in the morning a lot more fun.
“Making” isn’t just for kids. Our engineers here at Google are also encouraged to spend time in these Maker Spaces, being hands-on and trying out different ideas. Prototyping is an important part of working on products that billions of people around the world use.
It’s been nearly a year since Code in the Community started, and we’re really excited to have had 500 kids take part in these weekend coding classes in community centers across the island. It’s humbling to see how far kids like Dheena and Muhammad have come, and we can’t wait to see what Singapore’s next generation of makers build next!
About a year and a half ago, I joined Google to pursue my dream job to create compelling hardware products, built with Google’s smarts at their core. As a first step, we brought together various consumer hardware-related efforts and established a single hardware organization within the company. Our team’s goal is to offer the best Google experience—across hardware, software and services—to people around the world. Last fall, we introduced our first family of Made by Google products, including Pixel smartphones, Google Home, Google Wifi, Daydream View and Chromecast Ultra, and we’re preparing to unveil our second generation of products on October 4. We’re excited about the 2017 lineup, but even more inspired by what’s in store over the next five, 10, even 20 years. Creating beautiful products that people rely on every single day is a journey, and we are investing for the long run.
That’s why we’ve signed an agreement with HTC, a leader in consumer electronics, that will fuel even more product innovation in the years ahead. With this agreement, a team of HTC talent will join Google as part of the hardware organization. These future fellow Googlers are amazing folks we’ve already been working with closely on the Pixel smartphone line, and we’re excited to see what we can do together as one team. The deal also includes a non-exclusive license for HTC intellectual property.
In many ways, this agreement is a testament to the decade-long history of teamwork between HTC and Google. Together, we’ve achieved several mobile-industry firsts, including the first ever Android smartphone, the HTC Dream, also known as the T-Mobile G1 (I loved mine!); as well as the Nexus One in 2010, the Nexus 9 tablet in 2014, and the first Pixel smartphone just last year.
It’s still early days for Google’s hardware business. We’re focused on building our core capabilities, while creating a portfolio of products that offers people a unique yet delightful experience only made possible by bringing together the best of Google software—like the Google Assistant—with thoughtfully designed hardware. HTC has been a longtime partner and has created some of the most beautiful, high-end devices on the market. We can’t wait to welcome members of the HTC team to join us on this journey.