Author Archives: Scott Beaumont

Our commitment to Asia Pacific’s small businesses

Technology can help businesses grow — but only if the people who lead and work for those businesses have the right skills. Today, on Micro-, Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) Day, we’re reaffirming our commitment to Asia Pacific’s small businesses — and putting education and training at the center of our efforts to help them succeed and grow.

Since 2015, we’ve trained 8.5 million MSMEs across the region through our Grow with Google programs and partnerships. We stepped up these efforts when the global pandemic hit, and we’ve seen the impact of working more closely with governments and other businesses to close skills gaps and create opportunities. Our Saphan Digital program in Thailand has trained over 100,000 small businesses, while the Accelerate Vietnam Digital 4.0 initiative has trained 650,000 people. But we recognize there’s much more work ahead to ensure that MSMEs are prepared for longer-term economic and technological change.

Video presenting the story of Indonesian entrepreneur Ibu Ida and how taking her food business online helped her grow sales.
10:25

Over the next year and beyond, we’ll be deepening our existing programs to support small businesses and launching new ones — like Expand with Google in Japan, focusing on helping MSMEs build their capabilities in digital advertising and e-commerce. We’ll also be helping MSMEs find the skilled people they need by expanding access to Google Career Certificates, which develop in-demand skills like IT support, data analytics and user experience design. In partnership with learning institutions and nonprofits, we’re providing free scholarships for certificates in India, Indonesia and Singapore, and we’ll be offering the same opportunity in more countries soon — we’ve committed to providing over 250,000 scholarships across Asia Pacific in 2022.

Video presenting Yesha’s story from deciding to change her career and taking a Google Career Certificate course to finding a job soon after graduation.
10:25

To ensure that opportunities to learn new skills are equitable, we’ll continue to support nonprofits across the region. Since 2019, through our Google.org philanthropic arm, we’ve contributed over $11 million in grants that support underserved MSMEs. We have provided grant funding to Youth Business International to reach more than 180,000 entrepreneurs through its Rapid Response and Recovery Program and to The Asia Foundation working with its partners to train more than 225,000 people through the Go Digital ASEAN initiative, endorsed by the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on MSMEs.

Helping MSMEs in underserved parts of the region will continue to be a major priority — including $4 million in Google.org support for The Asia Foundation, which will expand Go Digital ASEAN with new training programs including green skills, cybersecurity and financial planning.

Video about three young entrepreneurs who received help from YBI's Rapid Response and Recovery Programme and sustained their business through the pandemic
10:25

Finally, we’ll keep playing our part to foster the next generation of businesses in Asia, through our Google for Startups programs, initiatives like the Women Founders Academy, and partnerships with governments like the ChangGoo program in Korea — which has helped 200 startups and created over 1,100 new jobs. Our developer programs — such as the Appscale Academy in India, a partnership with the MeitY Startup Hub — will continue to help app-makers (like health-technology startup Stamurai) grow globally.

Video presenting the story of Seojung Chang who, after attending a Google for Startups program, raised capital and achieved growth for her startup Jaranda in Korea.
10:25

Whether Asia Pacific’s entrepreneurs are long-established, or just starting out, we’re ready to help them adapt to change and thrive in the digital economy. And we look forward to celebrating their success.

Our commitment to Asia Pacific’s small businesses

Technology can help businesses grow — but only if the people who lead and work for those businesses have the right skills. Today, on Micro-, Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) Day, we’re reaffirming our commitment to Asia Pacific’s small businesses — and putting education and training at the center of our efforts to help them succeed and grow.

Since 2015, we’ve trained 8.5 million MSMEs across the region through our Grow with Google programs and partnerships. We stepped up these efforts when the global pandemic hit, and we’ve seen the impact of working more closely with governments and other businesses to close skills gaps and create opportunities. Our Saphan Digital program in Thailand has trained over 100,000 small businesses, while the Accelerate Vietnam Digital 4.0 initiative has trained 650,000 people. But we recognize there’s much more work ahead to ensure that MSMEs are prepared for longer-term economic and technological change.

Video presenting the story of Indonesian entrepreneur Ibu Ida and how taking her food business online helped her grow sales.
10:25

Over the next year and beyond, we’ll be deepening our existing programs to support small businesses and launching new ones — like Expand with Google in Japan, focusing on helping MSMEs build their capabilities in digital advertising and e-commerce. We’ll also be helping MSMEs find the skilled people they need by expanding access to Google Career Certificates, which develop in-demand skills like IT support, data analytics and user experience design. In partnership with learning institutions and nonprofits, we’re providing free scholarships for certificates in India, Indonesia and Singapore, and we’ll be offering the same opportunity in more countries soon — we’ve committed to providing over 250,000 scholarships across Asia Pacific in 2022.

Video presenting Yesha’s story from deciding to change her career and taking a Google Career Certificate course to finding a job soon after graduation.
10:25

To ensure that opportunities to learn new skills are equitable, we’ll continue to support nonprofits across the region. Since 2019, through our Google.org philanthropic arm, we’ve contributed over $11 million in grants that support underserved MSMEs. We have provided grant funding to Youth Business International to reach more than 180,000 entrepreneurs through its Rapid Response and Recovery Program and to The Asia Foundation working with its partners to train more than 225,000 people through the Go Digital ASEAN initiative, endorsed by the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on MSMEs.

Helping MSMEs in underserved parts of the region will continue to be a major priority — including $4 million in Google.org support for The Asia Foundation, which will expand Go Digital ASEAN with new training programs including green skills, cybersecurity and financial planning.

Video about three young entrepreneurs who received help from YBI's Rapid Response and Recovery Programme and sustained their business through the pandemic
10:25

Finally, we’ll keep playing our part to foster the next generation of businesses in Asia, through our Google for Startups programs, initiatives like the Women Founders Academy, and partnerships with governments like the ChangGoo program in Korea — which has helped 200 startups and created over 1,100 new jobs. Our developer programs — such as the Appscale Academy in India, a partnership with the MeitY Startup Hub — will continue to help app-makers (like health-technology startup Stamurai) grow globally.

Video presenting the story of Seojung Chang who, after attending a Google for Startups program, raised capital and achieved growth for her startup Jaranda in Korea.
10:25

Whether Asia Pacific’s entrepreneurs are long-established, or just starting out, we’re ready to help them adapt to change and thrive in the digital economy. And we look forward to celebrating their success.

Partnerships to build a safer internet in Asia Pacific

Over the past two years, millions of people throughout Asia-Pacific have started using the internet for the first time, lifting the region’s online population to more than 2.5 billion. This wave of digital adoption has created new opportunities, helping people communicate, find information, and access vital services like health and education. But it’s also reinforced the need for vigilance in the face of a growing range of threats to online safety and privacy. Google Search reflects people’s concerns, with trends showing that searches related to privacy and data breaches grew by more than 20% in 2021, across places as diverse as Australia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia and Singapore.

This week, as we mark Safer Internet Day on February 8, we’re focused on the ways Google can help protect people in Asia-Pacific as they go about more of their lives and work online.

Our highest priority is to safeguard the Google tools that people use every day. We have hundreds of engineers and other experts, many based in Asia-Pacific, working to make sure that people’s accounts are secure and Google infrastructure is defended against intruders. These teams also develop simple tools — like Security Checkup and Privacy Checkup — which people can use to strengthen their security and privacy settings.

But we recognize that our responsibility for internet safety goes beyond our own tools and technology. Keeping people safe online is a shared challenge, not something that any one organization can do alone. One of the most powerful ways we can help protect people is by equipping them with the skills and knowledge to navigate the internet safely.

In Asia-Pacific, Google is supporting the work of organizations like the Sejiwa Foundation, which is dedicated to helping younger members of the community and their parents make safe decisions online. I was struck by the story of 24-year old Indah from West Sulawesi, who came across a job vacancy that required her to fill out a form online with personal information. Drawing on the knowledge she’d learned through the Sejiwa Foundation’s "Tangkas Berinternet" program, Nazwa was able to take simple steps to identify that the request was a scam — preventing her from sharing her data and making suspicious purchases on behalf of the scammer.

“Tangkas Beinternet” is the Indonesian version of Be Internet Awesome, an internet safety initiative delivered by Google and our partners around the world, including the Sejiwa Foundation and the Indonesian government. It’s an example of the collaborative approach that’s needed to deepen online safety knowledge in communities that too often miss out on digital education — and we want to enable more partnerships like these.

This year, through Google.org — Google’s philanthropic arm — we’re supporting nonprofit organizations in Asia-Pacific with approximately $5 million in grant funding to raise awareness about security and media literacy and promote positive online habits among underserved communities. This builds on the more than $11 million that Google.org has committed to digital responsibility initiatives over the past five years. Organizations Google.org has supported include Maarif Institute — whose Tular Nalar program with MAFINDO and Love Frankie is helping educators and young people in Indonesia become more media-literate — and Internews in India, whose FactShala initiative with Data Leads is helping people evaluate online information critically.

With the new funding from Google.org, we aim to help nonprofits give more people in every part of the region access to such educational opportunities. Together with the investments we’ll continue making to safeguard our own tools and platforms, we hope these efforts will contribute to global progress towards a safer internet for everyone.

Google in Asia Pacific: 10 proud moments from 20 years

Twenty years ago this month, Google opened the doors of its first overseas office — in Tokyo, with just a single employee. The office was rudimentary by today’s standards (the music system was a portable cassette deck). But our founders knew the Asia Pacific region would be central to Google’s mission of making information universally accessible. More importantly, Google also had an enormous amount to learn from the region.

Over the past 20 years, Google’s commitment to Asia Pacific has steadily deepened, and we’re proud to have helped support the region’s extraordinary growth. Today, 2.5 billion people are online here, almost all of them on mobile. We’re honored they use Google’s tools to improve their lives: finding jobs, learning new skills, building businesses, and pushing the boundaries of technology. It’s clear there remains huge, untapped potential for the future if we can continue to lay the foundations with the right investments and initiatives.  

To mark the occasion, we wanted to reflect on some of the moments and themes that have defined Google’s 20 years in Asia.


1. Silicon Valley to Shibuya

That first nondescript office in Tokyo’s Shibuya neighborhood was a long way — in both scale and decor — from the current Google office down the street. But these humble digs served as our first Asia Pacific headquarters. The Googlers there did pioneering work — including steps to take emoji culture global (🎉). And the office laid the groundwork for today’s Google Japan team, helping the host nation continue its long tradition of forward-thinking in technology. Fast forward to today and we have offices full of Googlers throughout the region, with Singapore as our current Asia Pacific headquarters.
Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin alongside an employee at Google’s first Tokyo office. The Googler is demonstrating something on her phone.

Google’s co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, at our first overseas office in Shibuya, Tokyo. 

2. G'Day, Google Maps

In 2004, two Aussies and two Danes came together in Sydney to develop a new kind of mapping technology for the internet.  In February 2005, Google Maps was born — and it’s had quite a run since. As Maps got more sophisticated, Googlers in Asia Pacific went above and beyond to expand its reach, including Street View filming expeditions from Mongolia’s Lake Khövsgöl to Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and Australia’s Uluru

A woman with a camera attached to her backpack looks towards Uluru in the distance, as she films footage for Street View. The sun is setting behind Uluru.

Filming for Street View at Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park in Central Australia in accordance with Tjukurpa law

3. Map Maker and Asia’s influence on Google products

In 2008, two Indian engineers realized that there wasn’t enough commercial mapping data of India for a full national map in Google Maps, so they built a tool called Google MapMaker, where communities could make their own additions to the map. It went on to be useful for everywhere around the world, especially in times of disaster like typhoons in the Philippines. We learned a big lesson here: when we build for the newest users in Asia, we build better for the world. 


We’ve seen this now with Google Pay, created in India as Tez, and motorbike navigation mode, launched in India, which have both been expanded globally. YouTube and Maps offline modes were originally built to help people in Asia conserve data, but now help anyone driving through areas with spotty connections. An engineering center in Singapore — working with teams across the region — helps advance our efforts to make the internet more inclusive for the Next Billion Users set to come online for the first time.
A merchant standing next to a stall on the side of the road in India, with signs indicating that he accepts Google Pay as a payment method.

Google Pay has helped merchants across India accept digital payments.

4. Building blocks for Asia’s digital economy

In 2011, we opened our first data centers in Asia. The facilities in Singapore and Taiwan helped provide faster, more reliable access to our tools and services. Since then, we’ve kept increasing our investment in the physical infrastructure that supports the digital economy, adding more data centers and helping build subsea cables like Echo and Apricot. A study found that between 2010 and 2019, Google infrastructure investments like these contributed $430 billion in aggregate GDP and helped create 1.1 million jobs throughout the region. They’re crucial to Google Cloud’s growing presence in the region, helping companies like Japan’s Fast Retailing and Indonesia’s Tokopedia

A tall robot-like figurine standing on a plinth in front of the entrance to one of Google’s data centers in Singapore. Beanbags and a pool table are visible through the glass office walls.

The scene at Google’s data center in Singapore when it opened in 2013

5. Gangnam Style: the rise of YouTube in Asia

In the summer of 2014, Psy’s 2012 video “Gangnam Style” surpassed two billion views on YouTube.  That incredible success was a seminal moment in a bigger story: how Korean ‘K-Pop’ artists were some of the first to use YouTube to reach new audiences around the world. As of today, nine of the top 10 24-hour debuts on YouTube are by Korean artists. And beyond Korea, creators across Asia are using YouTube to share their voice, help others learn, and make a living.

The music video of Psy’s hit song “Gangnam Style”, hosted on YouTube.

Psy's Gangnam Style broke records on YouTube. 

6. “Flappy Bird” and Asia’s new mobile entrepreneurs

Flappy Bird” was another big online moment in 2014. Created by Vietnamese developer Dong Nguyen, the game became a huge hit around the world. It summed up the new possibilities for entrepreneurs building and marketing their mobile apps through Google Play. Today, Asia Pacific is the number one region for mobile subscriptions, the app market and the source of half of all global online gaming revenue.  

Sundar Pichai in conversation with “Flappy Bird” creator Dong Nguyen. They are sitting on low stools in a street-side cafe in Hanoi, with motorcycles, pedestrians, trees and shops in the background. A smartphone is propped on a stool in front of them.

Sundar Pichai meets “Flappy Bird” creator Dong Nguyen in Hanoi in 2015.

7. New approaches to digital skills

One particular challenge we’ve faced is how to bring digital knowledge and skills to people with limited access to the internet or restrictions on data. In parts of India, that initially meant using a rickshaw equipped with internet-enabled devices, information on using the web and an operator to explain how. Over time, we recognized that to really make a difference, we needed training programs to be embedded in communities — leading to the Internet Saathi initiative where female trainers share their knowledge with other women in their village. Between 2015 and 2020, we provided skills training to 50 million people across Asia Pacific through Grow with Google. And we continue to tailor our skills and education programs to local needs, whether it’s our Bangkit initiative in Indonesia (working with local tech firms to nurture talented developers) or our Skills Ignition partnership in Singapore(offering training and work placements for thousands of people). 

A woman speaks into a phone to search for information. She’s sitting alongside another woman — an internet ‘saathi’, or trainer — a table with a sewing machine on top, in front of a house with walls painted blue and yellow. Another woman watches on in the background.

The Internet Saathi initiative helps women in rural India use the internet.

8. AlphaGo demonstrates the promise of AI

DeepMind’s go-playing AI AlphaGo made the cover of Nature in January 2016 for being the first AI to ever beat a master at the 3,000-year-old game. In 2017. AlphaGo beat the former world-champion Lee Sedol 4-1 in Seoul. From there, DeepMind traveled to Wuzhen, China, where AlphaGo Master beat world champion Ke Jie 3-0 at the Future of Go Summit — an extraordinary event involving the world’s best players. AlphaGo has since retired, but the role of AI in society is only increasing. Today, we’re working with partners throughout Asia Pacific on ways AI can help with challenges like flood prediction and disease diagnosis.  

Grandmaster Ke Jie, wearing a suit and sitting on a white chair to the left of a blue table, leans forward to make a move on the board in his match against AlphaGo.

Grandmaster Ke Jie locked in competition with AlphaGo in 2017

9. Investments in the digital future

In September 2017, we brought HTC’s engineering talent into Google — cementing a decade-long partnership with the Taiwanese company, and marking a big step forward in Google’s plans to build devices combining the best of Google software and hardware. Today, our Pixel phones and Nest devices are popular across the region. And we’ve continued to invest in Asian companies bringing the best of technology to hundreds of millions of people, from Indonesia’s Gojek to India’s Reliance Jio. Together with Jio, we’re working on an affordable smartphone that will enable more Indians to get online.

A room full of HTC colleagues looking towards a stage with a Google logo in the background, at their official welcome to Google Taiwan in 2018.

Welcoming new HTC colleagues to Google’s engineering workforce in Taiwan in 2018.

10. Giving voice to polyglot Asia

As of 2020, Google Translate supports more than 30 languages across Asia Pacific. Extending the reach of Google Translate — and improving it with AI — is vital in a region of such vast linguistic diversity. But there are other steps that can make the internet more accessible and helpful: for example, building technology that’s intuitive for people who find it more natural to speak to their device. The rise of ‘voice users’ will be a big theme for Google and the entire tech industry in the decade ahead, and we’ve developed a playbook to guide technology-makers’ efforts.

A woman in traditional dress in Indonesia sits facing the camera and talking to her phone. She’s surrounded by potted plants.

 A growing number of internet users in Asia prefer to speak to their phone, rather than type. 

Google in Asia Pacific: 10 proud moments from 20 years

Twenty years ago this month, Google opened the doors of its first overseas office — in Tokyo, with just a single employee. The office was rudimentary by today’s standards (the music system was a portable cassette deck). But our founders knew the Asia Pacific region would be central to Google’s mission of making information universally accessible. More importantly, Google also had an enormous amount to learn from the region.

Over the past 20 years, Google’s commitment to Asia Pacific has steadily deepened, and we’re proud to have helped support the region’s extraordinary growth. Today, 2.5 billion people are online here, almost all of them on mobile. We’re honored they use Google’s tools to improve their lives: finding jobs, learning new skills, building businesses, and pushing the boundaries of technology. It’s clear there remains huge, untapped potential for the future if we can continue to lay the foundations with the right investments and initiatives.  

To mark the occasion, we wanted to reflect on some of the moments and themes that have defined Google’s 20 years in Asia.


1. Silicon Valley to Shibuya

That first nondescript office in Tokyo’s Shibuya neighborhood was a long way — in both scale and decor — from the current Google office down the street. But these humble digs served as our first Asia Pacific headquarters. The Googlers there did pioneering work — including steps to take emoji culture global (🎉). And the office laid the groundwork for today’s Google Japan team, helping the host nation continue its long tradition of forward-thinking in technology. Fast forward to today and we have offices full of Googlers throughout the region, with Singapore as our current Asia Pacific headquarters.
Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin alongside an employee at Google’s first Tokyo office. The Googler is demonstrating something on her phone.

Google’s co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, at our first overseas office in Shibuya, Tokyo. 

2. G'Day, Google Maps

In 2004, two Aussies and two Danes came together in Sydney to develop a new kind of mapping technology for the internet.  In February 2005, Google Maps was born — and it’s had quite a run since. As Maps got more sophisticated, Googlers in Asia Pacific went above and beyond to expand its reach, including Street View filming expeditions from Mongolia’s Lake Khövsgöl to Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and Australia’s Uluru

A woman with a camera attached to her backpack looks towards Uluru in the distance, as she films footage for Street View. The sun is setting behind Uluru.

Filming for Street View at Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park in Central Australia in accordance with Tjukurpa law

3. Map Maker and Asia’s influence on Google products

In 2008, two Indian engineers realized that there wasn’t enough commercial mapping data of India for a full national map in Google Maps, so they built a tool called Google MapMaker, where communities could make their own additions to the map. It went on to be useful for everywhere around the world, especially in times of disaster like typhoons in the Philippines. We learned a big lesson here: when we build for the newest users in Asia, we build better for the world. 


We’ve seen this now with Google Pay, created in India as Tez, and motorbike navigation mode, launched in India, which have both been expanded globally. YouTube and Maps offline modes were originally built to help people in Asia conserve data, but now help anyone driving through areas with spotty connections. An engineering center in Singapore — working with teams across the region — helps advance our efforts to make the internet more inclusive for the Next Billion Users set to come online for the first time.
A merchant standing next to a stall on the side of the road in India, with signs indicating that he accepts Google Pay as a payment method.

Google Pay has helped merchants across India accept digital payments.

4. Building blocks for Asia’s digital economy

In 2011, we opened our first data centers in Asia. The facilities in Singapore and Taiwan helped provide faster, more reliable access to our tools and services. Since then, we’ve kept increasing our investment in the physical infrastructure that supports the digital economy, adding more data centers and helping build subsea cables like Echo and Apricot. A study found that between 2010 and 2019, Google infrastructure investments like these contributed $430 billion in aggregate GDP and helped create 1.1 million jobs throughout the region. They’re crucial to Google Cloud’s growing presence in the region, helping companies like Japan’s Fast Retailing and Indonesia’s Tokopedia

A tall robot-like figurine standing on a plinth in front of the entrance to one of Google’s data centers in Singapore. Beanbags and a pool table are visible through the glass office walls.

The scene at Google’s data center in Singapore when it opened in 2013

5. Gangnam Style: the rise of YouTube in Asia

In the summer of 2014, Psy’s 2012 video “Gangnam Style” surpassed two billion views on YouTube.  That incredible success was a seminal moment in a bigger story: how Korean ‘K-Pop’ artists were some of the first to use YouTube to reach new audiences around the world. As of today, nine of the top 10 24-hour debuts on YouTube are by Korean artists. And beyond Korea, creators across Asia are using YouTube to share their voice, help others learn, and make a living.

The music video of Psy’s hit song “Gangnam Style”, hosted on YouTube.

Psy's Gangnam Style broke records on YouTube. 

6. “Flappy Bird” and Asia’s new mobile entrepreneurs

Flappy Bird” was another big online moment in 2014. Created by Vietnamese developer Dong Nguyen, the game became a huge hit around the world. It summed up the new possibilities for entrepreneurs building and marketing their mobile apps through Google Play. Today, Asia Pacific is the number one region for mobile subscriptions, the app market and the source of half of all global online gaming revenue.  

Sundar Pichai in conversation with “Flappy Bird” creator Dong Nguyen. They are sitting on low stools in a street-side cafe in Hanoi, with motorcycles, pedestrians, trees and shops in the background. A smartphone is propped on a stool in front of them.

Sundar Pichai meets “Flappy Bird” creator Dong Nguyen in Hanoi in 2015.

7. New approaches to digital skills

One particular challenge we’ve faced is how to bring digital knowledge and skills to people with limited access to the internet or restrictions on data. In parts of India, that initially meant using a rickshaw equipped with internet-enabled devices, information on using the web and an operator to explain how. Over time, we recognized that to really make a difference, we needed training programs to be embedded in communities — leading to the Internet Saathi initiative where female trainers share their knowledge with other women in their village. Between 2015 and 2020, we provided skills training to 50 million people across Asia Pacific through Grow with Google. And we continue to tailor our skills and education programs to local needs, whether it’s our Bangkit initiative in Indonesia (working with local tech firms to nurture talented developers) or our Skills Ignition partnership in Singapore(offering training and work placements for thousands of people). 

A woman speaks into a phone to search for information. She’s sitting alongside another woman — an internet ‘saathi’, or trainer — a table with a sewing machine on top, in front of a house with walls painted blue and yellow. Another woman watches on in the background.

The Internet Saathi initiative helps women in rural India use the internet.

8. AlphaGo demonstrates the promise of AI

DeepMind’s go-playing AI AlphaGo made the cover of Nature in January 2016 for being the first AI to ever beat a master at the 3,000-year-old game. In 2017. AlphaGo beat the former world-champion Lee Sedol 4-1 in Seoul. From there, DeepMind traveled to Wuzhen, China, where AlphaGo Master beat world champion Ke Jie 3-0 at the Future of Go Summit — an extraordinary event involving the world’s best players. AlphaGo has since retired, but the role of AI in society is only increasing. Today, we’re working with partners throughout Asia Pacific on ways AI can help with challenges like flood prediction and disease diagnosis.  

Grandmaster Ke Jie, wearing a suit and sitting on a white chair to the left of a blue table, leans forward to make a move on the board in his match against AlphaGo.

Grandmaster Ke Jie locked in competition with AlphaGo in 2017

9. Investments in the digital future

In September 2017, we brought HTC’s engineering talent into Google — cementing a decade-long partnership with the Taiwanese company, and marking a big step forward in Google’s plans to build devices combining the best of Google software and hardware. Today, our Pixel phones and Nest devices are popular across the region. And we’ve continued to invest in Asian companies bringing the best of technology to hundreds of millions of people, from Indonesia’s Gojek to India’s Reliance Jio. Together with Jio, we’re working on an affordable smartphone that will enable more Indians to get online.

A room full of HTC colleagues looking towards a stage with a Google logo in the background, at their official welcome to Google Taiwan in 2018.

Welcoming new HTC colleagues to Google’s engineering workforce in Taiwan in 2018.

10. Giving voice to polyglot Asia

As of 2020, Google Translate supports more than 30 languages across Asia Pacific. Extending the reach of Google Translate — and improving it with AI — is vital in a region of such vast linguistic diversity. But there are other steps that can make the internet more accessible and helpful: for example, building technology that’s intuitive for people who find it more natural to speak to their device. The rise of ‘voice users’ will be a big theme for Google and the entire tech industry in the decade ahead, and we’ve developed a playbook to guide technology-makers’ efforts.

A woman in traditional dress in Indonesia sits facing the camera and talking to her phone. She’s surrounded by potted plants.

 A growing number of internet users in Asia prefer to speak to their phone, rather than type. 

Google in Asia Pacific: 10 proud moments from 20 years

Twenty years ago this month, Google opened the doors of its first overseas office — in Tokyo, with just a single employee. The office was rudimentary by today’s standards (the music system was a portable cassette deck). But our founders knew the Asia Pacific region would be central to Google’s mission of making information universally accessible. More importantly, Google also had an enormous amount to learn from the region.

Over the past 20 years, Google’s commitment to Asia Pacific has steadily deepened, and we’re proud to have helped support the region’s extraordinary growth. Today, 2.5 billion people are online here, almost all of them on mobile. We’re honored they use Google’s tools to improve their lives: finding jobs, learning new skills, building businesses, and pushing the boundaries of technology. It’s clear there remains huge, untapped potential for the future if we can continue to lay the foundations with the right investments and initiatives.  

To mark the occasion, we wanted to reflect on some of the moments and themes that have defined Google’s 20 years in Asia.


1. Silicon Valley to Shibuya

That first nondescript office in Tokyo’s Shibuya neighborhood was a long way — in both scale and decor — from the current Google office down the street. But these humble digs served as our first Asia Pacific headquarters. The Googlers there did pioneering work — including steps to take emoji culture global (🎉). And the office laid the groundwork for today’s Google Japan team, helping the host nation continue its long tradition of forward-thinking in technology. Fast forward to today and we have offices full of Googlers throughout the region, with Singapore as our current Asia Pacific headquarters.
Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin alongside an employee at Google’s first Tokyo office. The Googler is demonstrating something on her phone.

Google’s co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, at our first overseas office in Shibuya, Tokyo. 

2. G'Day, Google Maps

In 2004, two Aussies and two Danes came together in Sydney to develop a new kind of mapping technology for the internet.  In February 2005, Google Maps was born — and it’s had quite a run since. As Maps got more sophisticated, Googlers in Asia Pacific went above and beyond to expand its reach, including Street View filming expeditions from Mongolia’s Lake Khövsgöl to Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and Australia’s Uluru

A woman with a camera attached to her backpack looks towards Uluru in the distance, as she films footage for Street View. The sun is setting behind Uluru.

Filming for Street View at Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park in Central Australia in accordance with Tjukurpa law

3. Map Maker and Asia’s influence on Google products

In 2008, two Indian engineers realized that there wasn’t enough commercial mapping data of India for a full national map in Google Maps, so they built a tool called Google MapMaker, where communities could make their own additions to the map. It went on to be useful for everywhere around the world, especially in times of disaster like typhoons in the Philippines. We learned a big lesson here: when we build for the newest users in Asia, we build better for the world. 


We’ve seen this now with Google Pay, created in India as Tez, and motorbike navigation mode, launched in India, which have both been expanded globally. YouTube and Maps offline modes were originally built to help people in Asia conserve data, but now help anyone driving through areas with spotty connections. An engineering center in Singapore — working with teams across the region — helps advance our efforts to make the internet more inclusive for the Next Billion Users set to come online for the first time.
A merchant standing next to a stall on the side of the road in India, with signs indicating that he accepts Google Pay as a payment method.

Google Pay has helped merchants across India accept digital payments.

4. Building blocks for Asia’s digital economy

In 2011, we opened our first data centers in Asia. The facilities in Singapore and Taiwan helped provide faster, more reliable access to our tools and services. Since then, we’ve kept increasing our investment in the physical infrastructure that supports the digital economy, adding more data centers and helping build subsea cables like Echo and Apricot. A study found that between 2010 and 2019, Google infrastructure investments like these contributed $430 billion in aggregate GDP and helped create 1.1 million jobs throughout the region. They’re crucial to Google Cloud’s growing presence in the region, helping companies like Japan’s Fast Retailing and Indonesia’s Tokopedia

A tall robot-like figurine standing on a plinth in front of the entrance to one of Google’s data centers in Singapore. Beanbags and a pool table are visible through the glass office walls.

The scene at Google’s data center in Singapore when it opened in 2013

5. Gangnam Style: the rise of YouTube in Asia

In the summer of 2014, Psy’s 2012 video “Gangnam Style” surpassed two billion views on YouTube.  That incredible success was a seminal moment in a bigger story: how Korean ‘K-Pop’ artists were some of the first to use YouTube to reach new audiences around the world. As of today, nine of the top 10 24-hour debuts on YouTube are by Korean artists. And beyond Korea, creators across Asia are using YouTube to share their voice, help others learn, and make a living.

The music video of Psy’s hit song “Gangnam Style”, hosted on YouTube.

Psy's Gangnam Style broke records on YouTube. 

6. “Flappy Bird” and Asia’s new mobile entrepreneurs

Flappy Bird” was another big online moment in 2014. Created by Vietnamese developer Dong Nguyen, the game became a huge hit around the world. It summed up the new possibilities for entrepreneurs building and marketing their mobile apps through Google Play. Today, Asia Pacific is the number one region for mobile subscriptions, the app market and the source of half of all global online gaming revenue.  

Sundar Pichai in conversation with “Flappy Bird” creator Dong Nguyen. They are sitting on low stools in a street-side cafe in Hanoi, with motorcycles, pedestrians, trees and shops in the background. A smartphone is propped on a stool in front of them.

Sundar Pichai meets “Flappy Bird” creator Dong Nguyen in Hanoi in 2015.

7. New approaches to digital skills

One particular challenge we’ve faced is how to bring digital knowledge and skills to people with limited access to the internet or restrictions on data. In parts of India, that initially meant using a rickshaw equipped with internet-enabled devices, information on using the web and an operator to explain how. Over time, we recognized that to really make a difference, we needed training programs to be embedded in communities — leading to the Internet Saathi initiative where female trainers share their knowledge with other women in their village. Between 2015 and 2020, we provided skills training to 50 million people across Asia Pacific through Grow with Google. And we continue to tailor our skills and education programs to local needs, whether it’s our Bangkit initiative in Indonesia (working with local tech firms to nurture talented developers) or our Skills Ignition partnership in Singapore(offering training and work placements for thousands of people). 

A woman speaks into a phone to search for information. She’s sitting alongside another woman — an internet ‘saathi’, or trainer — a table with a sewing machine on top, in front of a house with walls painted blue and yellow. Another woman watches on in the background.

The Internet Saathi initiative helps women in rural India use the internet.

8. AlphaGo demonstrates the promise of AI

DeepMind’s go-playing AI AlphaGo made the cover of Nature in January 2016 for being the first AI to ever beat a master at the 3,000-year-old game. In 2017. AlphaGo beat the former world-champion Lee Sedol 4-1 in Seoul. From there, DeepMind traveled to Wuzhen, China, where AlphaGo Master beat world champion Ke Jie 3-0 at the Future of Go Summit — an extraordinary event involving the world’s best players. AlphaGo has since retired, but the role of AI in society is only increasing. Today, we’re working with partners throughout Asia Pacific on ways AI can help with challenges like flood prediction and disease diagnosis.  

Grandmaster Ke Jie, wearing a suit and sitting on a white chair to the left of a blue table, leans forward to make a move on the board in his match against AlphaGo.

Grandmaster Ke Jie locked in competition with AlphaGo in 2017

9. Investments in the digital future

In September 2017, we brought HTC’s engineering talent into Google — cementing a decade-long partnership with the Taiwanese company, and marking a big step forward in Google’s plans to build devices combining the best of Google software and hardware. Today, our Pixel phones and Nest devices are popular across the region. And we’ve continued to invest in Asian companies bringing the best of technology to hundreds of millions of people, from Indonesia’s Gojek to India’s Reliance Jio. Together with Jio, we’re working on an affordable smartphone that will enable more Indians to get online.

A room full of HTC colleagues looking towards a stage with a Google logo in the background, at their official welcome to Google Taiwan in 2018.

Welcoming new HTC colleagues to Google’s engineering workforce in Taiwan in 2018.

10. Giving voice to polyglot Asia

As of 2020, Google Translate supports more than 30 languages across Asia Pacific. Extending the reach of Google Translate — and improving it with AI — is vital in a region of such vast linguistic diversity. But there are other steps that can make the internet more accessible and helpful: for example, building technology that’s intuitive for people who find it more natural to speak to their device. The rise of ‘voice users’ will be a big theme for Google and the entire tech industry in the decade ahead, and we’ve developed a playbook to guide technology-makers’ efforts.

A woman in traditional dress in Indonesia sits facing the camera and talking to her phone. She’s surrounded by potted plants.

 A growing number of internet users in Asia prefer to speak to their phone, rather than type. 

Future directions for technology and education in Asia

COVID-19 began upending education across Asia Pacific in January, forcing hundreds of millions of students to learn remotely. As a father, helping my sons learn from home left me grateful to their teachers—and deeply appreciative of the technology that helped keep their education going outside the classroom. 

Within Google, we’ve made it a priority to help education authorities and schools adapt— providing tools like Google Classroom and Read Along, working with governments to make hardware available, ensuring teachers have the resources they need, and supporting nonprofits like INCO through Google.org's Distance Learning Fund. Today, many students across the region are back at school. The question now is: where next from here?


Only around 22 percent of the schools the OECD surveyed in the peak of the pandemic want to go back to ‘teaching as usual’ afterwards. Almost 60 percent see hybrid learning—a combination of classroom and remote teaching—as the way forward. But there’s a lot to do to make that approach work on a national or regional scale. 


To get an insight into how education might evolve from here, I spoke to Andreas Schleicher—Director for Education and Skills at the OECD—as part of Google’s APAC Beyond series of talks looking at the economic and social outlook beyond the coronavirus.


Looking at it from a global perspective, what lessons did you take from a shift to remote learning on this scale? 


It reinforced two things for me. First, learning is not a place but an activity, and education and technology must work better together in the future. Second, education is not a transactional experience. It’s a social experience. What students will remember from this crisis is the teacher who reached out to them when they needed it. So we have seen big social as well as technological changes in education. 


There is also the potentially dramatic economic impact of learning loss, totalling hundreds of billions of dollars, if the students affected aren’t well-equipped for the workplace. 


What do you see as the role of technology in education from here?  


We can’t manage learning loss by just adding back learning time—we need to focus on managing students’ time better, finding out which students learn the best in what context and how we can best support them. A hybrid model is more than just an hour in the classroom, and hour virtually. It's about totally reconfiguring places and technology to enable learning. That’s the model most of the schools we talk to want to adopt. 


So far, the way we teach via technology has been quite traditional. But where social distancing means there will continue to be capacity constraints in schools, we need different approaches in areas like project-based learning and working as a team.

OECD education insights

A graphical summary of the discussion at APAC Beyond: The Future of Education

Where do you think we’ll face barriers in combining technology and education? 


One is access to technology. At disadvantaged schools in parts of Southeast Asia, for example, only around 20 percent of students have computers they can use for school work. Within schools, there’s often a lack of devices for instruction. 


We need to make sure, first, that schools have the online learning platforms in place for both remote learning and classroom teaching and, second, that teachers can use and contribute to the platform with confidence. In some countries — Japan for example — many teachers aren’t comfortable incorporating technology into their teaching process. We should also work to foster better collaboration between teachers, within schools and internationally. Today, only 28 percentof teachers run classes as a team—yet we know collaboration is how new ideas and approaches emerge.  


Creating a culture of technology in schools will take time, but we’re seeing progress. Over 80 percent of the countries that we surveyed are committed to ensuring secure internet connectivity for all teachers and students. There has been good collaboration between the tech industry and governments to equip schools with the software, hardware and training resources. These are steps we can build on, not just to mitigate the impact of school closures or restrictions, but to rethink how we provide education in future. 

Help for retailers and shoppers in Asia Pacific

Retailers have played a vital role in Asia Pacific’s response to COVID-19, battling through a tough economic environment while serving their customers and communities, providing essential products and services, and supporting jobs. 


As more of the region’s businesses turn to ecommerce, we’ve been focused on supporting them in every way we can—including helping retailers list their products online for free. We’ve been doing this in India and Indonesia since 2019, and now we’re extending similar support across the broader region: making it free for merchants in Asia Pacific to list their products on the Google Shopping tab.  


For retailers, this change means free exposure to millions of people who come to Google every day for their shopping needs, regardless of whether they advertise on Google. For shoppers, it means more products from more stores, discoverable through the Google Shopping tab. For advertisers, it means paid campaigns can now be augmented with free listings. 


We made this change earlier this year in the United States, and retailers running free listings and ads got an average of twice as many views and 50 percent more visits. Small and medium-sized businesses saw the biggest increases.
GS gif APAC

Asia’s changing retail scene


This is a time of huge change in the way people shop and sell across Asia Pacific. Even before the pandemic, e-commerce was growing fast—in Southeast Asia, for example, the regional internet economy reached $100 billion in 2019, on its way to a forecast $300 billion by 2025. 


COVID-19 has sped up these trends. According to Google analysis, 53 percent of online shoppers in APAC say they’ll choose to buy online more frequently after the pandemic, while almost 40 per cent of people who weren’t online shoppers before say they intend to continue buying online. One in three have bought from a brand they didn’t shop with before. 


To help retailers adjust to these changes, we’re offering skills training through Grow with Google and sharing research and insights to inform their business decisions. We’ve launched a playbook and webinar series on how to better manage digital storefronts. And we’re working closely with many of our partners to help merchants manage their products and inventory. This includes global partners like Shopify, and those across the region, including Haravan in Vietnam, Shopline in Taiwan and Hong Kong, and LnwShop in Thailand. 


In advancing our plans with Google Shopping, we hope to build on these programs, providing extra support and relief for Asia Pacific retailers when it’s needed most.  


What’s next? 


Existing users of Merchant Center and Shopping ads don't have to do anything to take advantage of the free listings. For new users of Merchant Center, we'll continue working to streamline the onboarding process over the coming weeks and months.


We’re looking forward to working even more closely with retailers throughout Asia Pacific, helping shoppers find the products they need more easily, contributing to the recovery from COVID-19, and preparing for longer-term change in regional commerce.

Our role in Asia’s economic recovery

Krishne Tassels—an ornamental tassels company led by a husband and wife from India—typifies the way Asia Pacific’s small businesses have responded to COVID-19. When the pandemic began to affect their operations, owners Raghu and Amita developed a new kind of lace that customers can stitch themselves, then uploaded YouTube tutorials to show them what to do, keeping sales up and building a sense of community at the same time. 

Every day, I hear more stories like this one, testifying to the resilience and ingenuity of family business owners across the region. We want to help them adjust and succeed as Asia’s economies reopen. At the same time, we want to help Asia rebuild for the longer term changes that the pandemic has brought about. 

From here, we’ll be focusing our COVID-19 recovery efforts on three areas: expanding our direct support for small businesses; helping people get digital skills for the economic recovery; and working to make the recovery inclusive. 

Direct support for small business

Later this week, we’ll mark the UN’s Micro-, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Day, and our immediate priority continues to be supporting Asia Pacific business owners in as many ways as possible. That includes:

  • Working with businesses as they adjust their operations—like Malaysian logistics company The Lorry, which used Google search trends to launch a new grocery delivery service.

  • Sharing research to help businesses take new opportunities—such as the report we prepared with Taiwan’s Export Trade Development Council on openings for small business exporters

  • Helping YouTube creators diversify their opportunities to earn revenue—so they can follow the example of Korean gamers Yangdding, who’ve used features like channel memberships to boost their income. 

  • Making sure our apps support the regional recovery—for example, by expanding Google Pay (first created in India) to highlight local hawkers and restaurants in Singapore, or adding remote jobs and interview features to our job-seeker app Kormo (first created in Bangladesh and Indonesia). 

  • Helping Asian businesses become more visible on Google Search and Maps—like Indonesian snack retailer Bengke Puruik, whose owner Arni used Google My Business to let her customers know she was still selling products online, even though her physical stores are temporarily closed.

  • Continuing to make ad credits available to small businesses in Asia Pacific, as part of a broader, $340 million global commitment

We’ll keep adding new forms of support across all our tools and platforms. But where we believe we can make the biggest, most sustained impact is in digital skills. 

Digital skills for the economic recovery

After moving our Grow with Google digital training courses online earlier this year, the number of people taking the courses soared—including a 300 percent increase in Australia alone. And we know this isn’t a temporary change. With work, education, healthcare and other services now taking place online on a scale we haven’t seen before, digital skills are going to become even more vital to people’s lives and careers. 


Since 2015, we’ve trained 50 million people in Asia Pacific through Grow with Google. Now, building on what we’ve learned so far, we’re ready to expand that commitment—making our programs part of bigger economic recovery plans across the region.


In Taiwan, we’re helping launch a Digital Talent Discovery program, connecting students and other job seekers to employers looking for talent. In Indonesia, we’re providing thousands of training sessions and scholarships to help people use cloud tools in their work. In Korea, we’re expanding our Changoo program for developers, with the government’s backing. And in India, Southeast Asia and Pakistan, we’re sharing resources for startups and running Google for Startups Accelerator programs for founders working to solve social or economic problems. 

Making the recovery inclusive


While its economic impacts have been widespread, COVID-19 has cast an especially harsh light on entrenched inequalities around the world—including in Asia Pacific. Not everyone in the region has the same access to the opportunities the internet creates, and we’re determined to help change that. 


Earlier this week, backed by funding from Google.org and support from ASEAN, The Asia Foundation announced a new grassroots program that will bring skills training to 200,000 people in marginalized communities across Southeast Asia. This partnership builds on Google.org’s earlier grant helping Youth Business International support vulnerable enterprises in 16 Asian countries, as well as the efforts and advocacy of our Women Will program. Over the coming months, we’ll be launching more initiatives to advance digital inclusion and spread opportunities more widely across the region.  


A path beyond the pandemic


While the health threat of COVID-19 is far from over, the economic reopening is underway—and just as Asia Pacific led the immediate response, now it has a chance to lead beyond the pandemic. We’re ready to stand with the region’s people and communities as they shape the recovery and rebuild.