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Google for India: Building services for every Indian, in their language

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.


Make Google read it

We launched Google Go last year as a lightweight, faster way to search the web on devices which may have less space or less reliable internet connections. Today, millions of people around the world use Google Go to learn, stay informed, and explore the web more easily than ever before.

Despite the rapid growth of audio and video content online, the web is still predominantly made up of lengthy, text-based pages which aren’t always easy to read on the go. So it's not surprising we’ve received consistent requests for Google Go to make it more convenient to access web content.

Today, we’re launching a new feature which will let everyone using Google Go’s browser listen to webpages out loud. Powered by natural language processing and speech synthesis AI, this technology can read aloud billions of webpages in 28 languages smoothly, and in a natural sounding voice, even on 2G connections. It also uses minimal cellular data. This technology relies on AI to determine which parts of a page to read, and which to leave out, so you only listen to what is important.

Make Google read it

Using this technology, consuming long-form text becomes as easy as watching TV or listening to the radio. It’s also helpful for multitasking, like following a recipe while cooking a meal, listening to articles while exercising, or catching up on news on your commute.

People using Google Go come from many different backgrounds, and some might want extra tools to help read and pronounce new words—for example those with visual or reading impairments, people studying a foreign language, or those less comfortable reading long text. Today’s update makes it easier for anyone to access the richness of the web. For those learning new languages, each word is highlighted as it is read, allowing you to follow along and helping accelerate your learning.

In the future, we’d like to bring the ability to listen to webpages to more Google products. Long term, we hope this is just one way we can use AI to make accessing the web easier for everyone.

Don’t run out of data: Two new ways Datally can help

Everyone runs out of data sometimes. These moments sting—which is why we built Datally to help. And today, we’re releasing two new features to help you tame your data.

Emergency bank

Emergency bank saves some of your data so you have it protected for later—just in case you need it. Enter your balance and how much data you’d like to save for emergencies, and Datally will automatically block your apps from using data once you reach your emergency data allowance. You decide when and how to use your emergency bank data—for example, to send that urgent message or schedule a ride home.

Bedtime mode

Check your data balance before bed, then check again when you wake up. It should be the same, shouldn’t it? Too often, apps drain your data overnight. Bedtime mode turns off all of your phone’s data usage at night. Choose your bedtime and wake up time, and Datally makes sure your data isn’t draining while you’re dozing.

Datally’s mission is to help you never run out of data. You can use Emergency bank and Bedtime mode starting today.

We need to embrace technological breakthroughs

Editor’s note: This article is a condensed version of a speech Caesar gave at Singapore’s Smart Nation Innovations Week Opening Symposium on June 5, 2018.

Humans have invented technology to help themselves and each other for centuries. While we often refer to technology as the shiny, new innovations like self-driving cars or voice assistants, its breadth is much more than that. Technology also includes the things that are so bound up in our daily lives that we have stopped thinking about them as technological innovations—things like language, clothes and shelter.

Despite technology’s pivotal role in human history, our response to breakthroughs is often to hesitate because we fear potential harm. But the world doesn’t stand still for anyone. As the past has shown, each of these technological breakthroughs presents another opportunity to improve people’s lives, and we need to embrace each of those opportunities.

The move online has opened up access to opportunity

Between 2000 and 2017, the number of internet users grew by 10X—from 360 million to 3.6 billion people. This massive migration online is causing an explosion of economic opportunity across the world.

Something as basic as an internet connection can mean the chance for a higher education, a new job or improved skills. In India for example, every month more than 8 million people use Google’s public Wi-Fi program, Google Station, to get online and access job training material or educational resources. Shrinath, a railway porter in Kerala, used the free, high-speed Wi-Fi at his public transit station to study for and eventually pass the entrance examinations to the Kerala civil service—a feat that would have been much more difficult if Shrinath hadn’t embraced the internet.

The shift to digital has transformed businesses

caesar smartnation keynote

Caesar speaking at Smart Nation about the need to embrace new technologies

It’s also opening up opportunity for businesses big and small. With access to online platforms, companies have more ways to reach customers and grow. And every business can benefit from digital tools, even the most traditional ones. Hai Sia, a 40-year-old family-run seafood wholesaler in Singapore, for example, was a largely face-to-face business in a bustling fish market. Today, they’ve reached new customers with digital advertising and other digital tools like YouTube videos that show the company’s work.

Technology isn’t just about digitizing existing businesses—it’s also creating new kinds of entrepreneurs and industries. Look at YouTube creators, who run businesses that were born on an online platform and that could not have existed before the internet. GO-JEK, a startup that started as motorbike-hailing company in Indonesia, has facilitated the emergence of a new type of business with their food delivery service: allowing home cooks to become restaurateurs. Freed from the costly requirements of renting a restaurant space and hiring staff, people can run profitable businesses right from their kitchens at home.

AI is the next big leap

Every major shift in technology has transformed how we live and work. In the early 1980s, the PC revolution made computers part of people’s lives and changed how we work. In the 1990s, the internet transformed how we find information and opened up new economic opportunity. Then, in the mid-2000s, smartphones brought all that knowledge into our pockets. Now AI is the next frontier. 

What excites me most about the shift to AI and machine learning is watching what younger generations are doing with the technology. Teenagers are using AI to create programs that more accurately identify plant diseases and even detect breast cancer. If our kids can use technology to conserve the environment and fight cancer, imagine what we humans can do if they use AI as one tool among many to improve citizens’ lives.

As we continue to explore what benefits AI can bring, we need to lean into this shift rather than shy away from it. After all, the world would be a very different and much poorer place today if our ancestors had given up on fire or language or the wheel. The reaction to technology we don't know how to use well isn't to stop innovating. The right reaction is to work harder and innovate even better so we can make technology work for everyone.

Google for Thailand—unlocking digital opportunity for all Thais

People search the web billions of times a day to find useful information. Sometimes they find truly extraordinary things. Aum, a 24 year-old man from Thailand ran away from home when he was seven. He spent the next 16 years looking for his family, a search made more difficult by his inability to read or write. When voice search in Thai became possible, he realized that he could search the internet by speaking instead of typing. He was finally reunited with his family last year and now helps other lost Thai children find their families.


In the seven years since Google opened its office in Bangkok, many other Thais have started using the internet to empower themselves. We’re humbled to have supported some of these online journeys, whether by enabling Thai small businesses to go global, helping promising Thai startups to scale or making it easier for people to type in Thai. Today at our “Google for Thailand” event, we announced more initiatives to enable even more Thai people and businesses to make the most out of the internet.


Google Station

Millions of Thais still lack a reliable and affordable internet connection. To improve access to the web, we are bringing Google Station, our high-speed public Wi-Fi program, to Thailand in partnership with CAT Telecom. Thais can get online with Google Station in 10 venues across Bangkok and two provinces—Phichit and Loei. We’ll expand Google Station to other parts of Thailand in the coming months so that more Thais are able to get online for free with a high-speed, reliable connection.


Academy Bangkok - A Google Space

Thailand’s digital economy is booming and needs talent. Under the Google Ignite program, we’ve been helping Thai companies find the right talent, actively connecting them with bright Thai graduates. We send graduates that are hired on an intensive Google-run two month digital skills training program to prepare them for their careers. We are dramatically scaling up this initiative and our long-term commitment to Thailand by building the Academy Bangkok in True Digital Park. Once our academy is open, we can accommodate cohorts of up to 200 students at a time. We also plan to run other programs in the facility in areas including developer skills and cloud computing.


YouTube

To support Thailand’s vibrant YouTube community and nurture its future stars, we’re re-launching the YouTube Pop-Up Space in Bangkok this November. With access to state-of-the-art production facilities, creators will have a space to learn, connect and make more high quality videos. Global training programs like YouTube NextUp and Creators for Change will also be offered. And we’re not forgetting the people viewing this great content. In partnership with AIS, we are launching unlimited YouTube Go data packs in Thailand.


YT Space Bangkok

Thai creators will have access to the best production facilities at the YouTube Pop-Up Space.

Google Maps Motorbike Mode

There are 20 million motorbike owners in Thailand and anyone who rides a motorbike knows that they move at different speeds to the rest of the traffic. But until today, Google Maps gave bikers in Thailand the same directions as car drivers. Our new motorbike mode in Google Maps is designed to offer directions tailored to the needs of motorbikes and scooters, including shortcuts and narrow roads that only motorbikes can travel on as well as more accurate travel times.

Motorbike mode maps

Motorbike mode plans routes in Google Maps factoring in the shortcuts that can be taken by motorbikes.

Google My Business

Although more Thais are going online, only about 13 percent of Thai small and medium sized businesses have websites, missing out on a rapidly growing local market. We are partnering Siam Commercial Bank to make it easier than ever for Thai businesses to get on Google My Business. Siam Commercial Bank personnel will visit business owners at their stores to help them get their free business listings on Google.


Today’s announcements are just the latest in a long-term commitment to make sure everyone can benefit from the internet in Thailand, whether they’re a first-time internet user or a small business owner. We hope that these initiatives help make life easier, more convenient and more meaningful for Thais.

Google for India: Building India-first products and features

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.

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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.

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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.

Introducing Android Oreo (Go edition) with the release of Android 8.1

Since Android’s creation, our mission has been to bring the power of computing to everyone. As a global operating system, Android has grown to more than 2 billion active devices around the world, with more users in India than the U.S.


To make sure billions more people can get access to computing, it’s important that entry-level devices are fully functioning smartphones that can browse the web and use apps. At Google I/O this year, we gave an early look at a project we called “Android Go” to make this possible. We’re excited to announce that this software experience—Android Oreo (Go edition)—is ready, and launching as a part of the Android 8.1 release tomorrow.


Android Oreo devices with 512MB to 1GB of memory will come with the all the Go optimizations. This Android Oreo (Go edition) experience is made up of three key components:

  • Operating System: Performance and storage improvements to the OS with data management features and security benefits built-in.

  • Google Apps: A new set of Google apps, designed to be lighter and relevant to the unique needs of people who are coming online for the first time.

  • Google Play Store: A tuned version of the Google Play Store that allows you to download any app, but also highlights the apps designed to work best on your device.

Go big with faster performance, more storage, data management, and security

We enhanced Android Oreo (Go edition) for speed and reliability on entry-level devices, which means the average app is now 15 percent faster on devices running Android Oreo (Go edition). There are many of these kinds of optimizations—and they really add up. If all entry level Android devices launched apps 15 percent faster, that would save the world a cumulative one million hours of time—every day!


It’s common for entry level devices to have very little storage space available once you account for the size of the OS and the preinstalled apps. This can be frustrating for people who want more space for their music, apps, and photos. So, we’ve optimized Android Oreo (Go edition) and enhanced our preinstalled Google apps to take up 50 percent less space. The net result is that we’ve doubled the amount of available storage on entry-level devices.


App Storage

Devices running Android Oreo (Go edition) also come with Google’s data saver features turned on by default. For example, Data Saver in Chrome saves the average user more than 600MB of data per year. You can also manage which apps can use background data with our built-in data saver feature, giving you more control over how your data is used.


Android Oreo is the most secure version of Android yet, so when you buy an Android Oreo (Go edition) device, you’ll be getting all the same security features. And of course all devices with Android Oreo (Go edition) get Google Play Protect built-in. Google Play Protect continuously works to keep your device, data and apps safe. It scans your app installs, even when you’re offline, no matter where you downloaded them from.


Go with Google

We’ve redesigned many of our popular Google apps to address local needs. Preinstalled on Android Oreo (Go edition) devices, this set of optimized apps includes Google Go, Google Assistant Go, YouTube Go, Google Maps Go, Gmail Go, Gboard, Google Play, Chrome, and the new Files Go app by Google.


With our new and reimagined Google apps, we’ve focused on making them not only smaller, but smooth and fast too. For example, Google Go—a new app to find the information you want—optimizes data by up to 40 percent, weighs less than 5MB in size, and makes it faster to find popular and trending information with a simple, tappable interface. And with the Google Assistant for Android (Go edition), you can quickly send messages, make calls, set alarms, and more with your voice and a single touch of the screen.


Our storage-saving features extend beyond the OS to a new file-management app by Google—Files Go—which helps you clean up space and stay organized. Whether it’s recommendations for removing spam, duplicate images or unused apps from your phone, Files Go is the perfect complement to the storage-maximizing features of Android Oreo (Go edition).

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Go Play

In the Play Store, you can download any app, and we’ve also created a new section that recommends popular apps that are tuned to run well on entry-level devices. 

We’ve have been thrilled to see that many of our partners are using our building for billions guidelines to either optimize their existing app or create a new app to run well on entry-level devices, in the hopes of bringing their experiences to billions of new smartphone users.

Ready. Set. Go.

With the launch of Android Oreo (Go edition) in Android 8.1, partners will soon be able to ship this new release on their entry-level devices around the world. We can’t wait for our partners’ devices to hit shelves in the coming months.


And if you’re a developer, let's build for the next billion together.

Ready, set… Files Go! A faster way to clean up, find and share files on your phone

Every day, millions of smartphones run out of space. While phones with 16GB or 32GB of storage are becoming more popular, many phones around the world have much less storage, often as low as 4GB. And with the barrage of images, videos, apps and documents that keep piling up, at some point it becomes a mess—it's hard to find what you need when you need it, and your phone slows down and starts crashing. We all eventually reach that point where we have to choose what to keep or delete.


That’s why we’re excited to introduce Files Go, an app that takes a mobile-first approach to freeing up space, finding files faster and easily sharing them with others.

FilesGoScreen

Free up space on your phone and find files faster

Files Go helps you:

  • Free up space. Get personalized suggestions about which files to delete, whether it’s unused apps, large files, duplicate files or low-resolution videos and memes detected using Google’s latest mobile vision technology

  • Find files faster. No more navigating through a maze of folders. Find exactly the stuff you want with smart filters that automatically organize your images, videos, apps, documents and more.

  • Backup files to the cloud. If you want to keep a file forever, select it from the Files menu and back it up to Google Drive or any other cloud storage app.

  • Share files offline. Transfer directly from your phone to a nearby friend’s phone without using any data. The file transfers are encrypted, fast (up to 125 Mbps) and free.

FilesGoAnimation
Transfer files securely between two phones, fast and data-free

We’ve been testing Files Go for a month, and the average user is saving 1GB of space and has shared many files with others without using data. Starting today, we’re opening up Files Go globally on the Google Play Store for all phones running Android 5.0 (Lollipop) and higher. Free up more space and share files faster—give Files Go a try!

Files Go video
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