Speaking during the sixth edition of Google for India 2020, Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google and Alphabet, stated that the company is investing US$10 billion into India through equity investments, partnerships and operations infrastructure investments.
He said, “This is a really special time. One of the challenges of this time is we can’t visit the people we love or the places we call home. Online is now the lifeline. Whether it’s a small business looking to stay afloat, a parent looking to keep the family healthy or a youngster wanting education – it’s the internet which is keeping us together. When I was young, new technology kept coming up and India had to wait. Now we don’t need to wait. A whole generation has come up where we’re getting things – right from the latest apps to smart phones and it’s amazing to see this.”
Lauding PM Narendra Modi’s vision for digital India, Pichai spoke about how the country has made progress in bringing a billion Indians to the internet.
“Low cost smart phones have helped. Google has been in India since 2004 when we opened our first offices in Hyderabad and Bengaluru. It started with search. From there we spread awareness of internet in villages and rural India. Google’s efforts in India have deepened our understanding of how technology can be helpful for all different kinds of people. A recent example is Gpay. A fast simple way to pay a rickshaw waala or send money back home,” he said before explaining how the $10 billion fund will help the country.
Investments will be focussed across these areas:
1: Enabling affordable access to information in their own language.
2: Building products and services that are deeply relevant to India’s unique needs.
3: Empowering business in their digital journey
4: Leveraging tech and AI for social good in areas like health, education and agriculture.
Prior to Pichai’s remarks, Sanjay Gupta, country head and vice president, Google India, opened the sixth edition of the annual event.
He said, “The fact that I’m talking to you from my living room is a small indication of how our lives have changed. Covid continues to impact our lives, but it’s been inspiring how the country has worked through this. Businesses have stepped up to provide vital resources and NGOs have also stood up. That said, the challenge is by no means behind us. We have to work together for safety of our people. I’ve experience the telecom and media revolution in India. What inspires me more is the digital revolution. As a country we have made major progress. Today, there are more than 400 million active internet users. Connectivity and access is a foundation for products and services which are relevant and useful and can go on to solve crises in the country.”
He added, “It’s about kick-starting our economy while keeping us safe. We need to get the next 500 million people connected to the internet and solve the issues India faces in health, education and agriculture. We need to create job opportunities for every young Indian. This can’t be done by one company. It needs the power of every Indian. It’s the moment when tech companies like ours, businesses both big and small and the young, talented people of India can play a transformational role. This opportunity of a digital India excites us.”
Also speaking at the online event was Ravi Shankar Prasad, minister of communications, electronics and information technology, and law and justice, Government of India.
Calling Sundar Pichai a symbol of the creative potential of India’s digital human resource, he said,
“It’s a matter of deep satisfaction for us that so many Indians today are occupying key positions in various powerful digital entities globally. India in the present world is a stable democracy, open society and seeking to transform the lives of ordinary Indians through the power of technology. That’s what digital India is about. This digital transformation emphasising on digital inclusion and allowing more and more innovation is a part of that process. In the last five and a half years of our digital journey the way Indian products from digital payment to direct benefit transfer sending billions of dollars to saving billions of dollars. All this is changing the digital narrative of India. From Aadhar, to UPI, to GSTIN, all are operating on digital platforms developed by homegrown tech by Indians. Even this benchmark of success says India’s moment has arrived. I’m very happy that Google is recognising the power of India’s digital innovation.”
Caeser Sengupta, VP – payments and next billion users, Google, followed Prasad, and stated how Google is partnering with Prasar Bharati to launch an edutainment series on Doordarshan on how small businesses can adopt digital tools and adapt to the current situation using examples of real life businesses.
“We hope that these efforts help people across India to go digital. We believe that for solving for India, we will all collectively emerge stronger. Covid has changed a lot of things. We are worrying about our health, our family, our jobs, the economy and the future. This is a tough time but I believe in hope and I believe that India will emerge stronger and brighter through this crisis. We need to work hard and work together to create economic opportunities for everyone. We must do it inclusively,” he said.
Sapna Chadha, senior country marketing director, Southeast Asia and India, Google, added about how Google Meet is being used by teachers and schools across the nation to educate children. Google Meet’s premium services are being offered free of cost till 30 September.
She said, “This pandemic is giving us new ways to cope and reimagine different aspects of our lives. As a parent finding new ways of continuing education for my children has been top of mind. Education is always top of mind for all parents in India. With almost half of India’s population under the age of 26, education is a catalytic tool that can transform the future of the next generation and enable economic growth for India. But today’s environment has put many parents and educators in a state of unease. The covid-19 outbreak has affected over 320 million students in India with school closures. Educators have had to quickly adjust to the reality that students are unable to physically attend classes and that parents are finding it challenging to meet the learning needs of their children. These times are giving rise to an urgent need of tools and services that can facilitate remote learning. To address this growing need we launched Teach From Home an information hub in English and eight Indian languages with resources to help teachers keep teaching.”
She also stated three challenges that are to be solved:
1: Quality of digital content in Indian languages.
2: Teacher readiness to use digital tools.
3: Access to devices and the internet.
Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, Minister of Human Resource Development, Government of India, ended the one-hour long session by thanking and congratulating Google for the way they have tried to touch the lives of general public in India.
He said, “The internet has emerged as a lifeline during the pandemic, which needs to be strengthened and we welcome Google’s initiatives like free access to learning resources, as well as their collaboration with CBSE to train 1 million teachers on tech-enabled education. I welcome Google’s commitment to invest in India over the next five years and we look forward to Google’s work in transforming India into a global knowledge superpower, with a focus on science and research.”