Tag Archives: Google in Asia

Small ventures, big impact: celebrating inspiring entrepreneurs

One of the ways Google supports and partners with entrepreneurs is by convening Google Business Groups. These are communities of business owners and professionals—including Google experts—that share knowledge, host workshops, run meet-ups and provide mentors to help businesses use Google technologies.  

We love bringing these groups together to help entrepreneurs grow—and we love celebrating their success, too.  

Each year, through the Google Business Groups “Stories Search,” we put a call out for inspiring examples of business owners using the internet not just to build businesses, but to make a difference in their communities. 

We saw 152 great submissions come in during our most recent search. And while it’s always hard to pick winners from such a high-quality field, three ventures really stood out this time round.  We’re proud to share their stories with you here. 

  • AlterYouth, from Bangladesh, is a digital scholarship platform for financially struggling students in government primary schools.

AlterYouth

  • Kok Bisa, from Indonesia, is a media startup that creates educational videos designed to make learning fun and engaging by answering questions that students submit.

Kok Bisa

  • Kul Techno Lab, from Nepal, provides free e-learning services for students in grades 6 to 12, giving them all the material they need to learn the national curriculum.

Kul Techno Lab

It was our pleasure to host these three businesses at our headquarters in Mountain View, where they spent time with their Google mentors and attended I/O, and we're looking forward to seeing them continue to grow, succeed and help others along the way.

Heritage on the Edge urges action on the climate crisis

Editor’s note: Guest author Dr. Toshiyuki Kono is President of the International Council on Monuments and Sites. Distinguished Professor Kono also teaches private international law and heritage law at Japan's Kyushu University.

Preserving and protecting the past is essential for our future. This belief is at the core of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), a global non-government organization dedicated to the conservation of architectural and archaeological heritage.

Our 10,000 members across the globe—including architects, archeologists, geographers, planners and anthropologists—share the same vision: to protect and promote the world’s cultural heritage. The recent youth climate demonstrations shed a spotlight on the urgency of the climate crisis, which is having a devastating effect on our cultural monuments too. It is important to take action, and we must act now to save this part of our human legacy.

That’s why, in collaboration with CyArk and Google Arts & Culture, we’re launching Heritage on the Edge, a new online experience that stresses the gravity of the situation through the lens of five UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You can join us and explore over 50 online exhibits, 3D models, Street View tours, and interviews with local professionals and communities about Rapa Nui’s (Easter Island) iconic statues, the great mosque city of Bagerhat in Bangladesh, the adobe metropolis of Chan Chan in Peru, Scotland’s Edinburgh Castle and the coastal city of Kilwa Kisiwani in Tanzania—all heritage sites that are affected by the climate crisis.

Above all, the project is a call to action. The effects of climate change on our cultural heritage mirror wider impacts on our planet, and require a strong and meaningful response. While actions at individual sites can prevent loss locally, the only sustainable solution is systemic change and the global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Heritage on the Edge collects stories of loss, but also of hope and resilience. They remind us that all our cultural heritage, including these iconic World Heritage Sites, are more than just tourist destinations. They are places of great national, spiritual and cultural significance.

The Indian journalists fighting fake news

Indian journalist Bharat Nayak knows misinformation can have dangerous consequences. He’s witnessed it too often in his home state of Jharkhand, India. 


According to Bharat, “Indian society has been gravely affected by ‘fake news’, which has  contributed to a rise in hatred and violence, and horrific incidences of lynching.” Concern about misinformation was especially pronounced around last year’s Indian general election—where more than 600 million people voted in the biggest democratic exercise in history.  


The spread of misinformation is something the Google News Initiative (GNI) India Training Network—a group of 240 senior Indian reporters and journalism educators—has been working to counteract, in their newsrooms and beyond. 


In partnership with DataLeads and Internews, the Network has provided in-depth verification training for more than 15,000 journalists and students from more than 875 news organizations, in 10 Indian languages. Using a “train-the-trainer” approach, it’s also helped support nearly all of the fact-checking initiatives launched by  Indian media over the past year. 


But Network trainers wanted to do more than train their fellow journalists - they wanted to spread the message to their communities. Bharat traveled home to Jharkhand and held workshops, not only with fellow journalists, but with community groups and students—like those in the photo above.


Today, to build on the network’s progress since 2018, we’re announcing a $1 million Google.org grant that will help Internews launch a new initiative promoting news literacy among the Indian public. The funding support is part of Google.org’s broader, $10 million commitment to media literacy, in collaboration with the Google News Initiative.  


How will it work? First, Internews will select a team of 250 journalists, fact checkers, academics and NGO workers, who will be trained on a curriculum developed by global and Indian experts, adapted to local needs and available in seven Indian languages. The local leaders will then roll out the training to new internet users in non-metro cities in India, enabling them to better navigate the internet and assess the information they find.  


“To make journalism effective again, more than the improvements in media, what is needed is media literacy,” Bharat said. “I want to make the citizens aware of how to consume media, see news and how they can play an active role in changing things for the better.”


Starting today, Internews is putting the call out for journalists, educators, community workers and others to join the new program. We have no doubt there’ll be a strong response to the new program—and we look forward to continuing to support citizens and journalists like Bharat in the fight against misinformation in India.

5 tips for finding the best hotels in 2020

The sandy beaches in Da Nang, the night life of São Paulo, and Korean barbecue from Seoul are all top of mind for people planning vacations this year. According to global hotel search data, people from around the world are interested in traveling to these destinations in 2020.

BINK_Google_Keyword_TrendingDestinations_7b.png

When you’re ready to start planning your next vacation, here are five tips to help you pick the best hotel for your trip.

Know when to go

Have flexible travel dates? You can now find the best times to visit or typical hotel prices for specific dates right above the hotel results on desktop at google.com/travel. On the “When to visit” tab, you’ll see how weather, crowds and pricing vary across the year. Check out “What you’ll pay” to find out if prices are low, typical or high for the dates you’re considering (grouped by hotels’ star ratings). If you find out prices are much higher than usual due to a conference or sporting event, you may decide to change your dates.

Narrow down by neighborhood

Part of the fun of traveling is discovering a city’s different neighborhoods—but how do you choose one to  be your home base during a trip? Click on “Where to stay” to get a summary of top neighborhoods, including what each area is known for, its location score, and the average cost of hotels there. Select an area you’re interested in, and you’ll see it highlighted on the map. When you’ve decided which neighborhoods you’d like to narrow your search to, click “Apply” to update results to include only hotels in these areas. 


See personal results

In your hotel results, we’ll tell you if you’ve searched for or stayed at a hotel before or if there are similar options to places you’ve stayed in other cities. We’ll also call out hotels that are close to points of interest you’ve searched for. For example, if you’ve been researching Tokyo Tower, we’ll highlight how far it is from hotels nearby. These personalized results are only visible to you, and you can adjust your account settings to disable them at any time.

Personalized with callout (1).png

Get the total cost for your stay

When you decide on a hotel and want to confirm the cost before booking, you can now see both the nightly and total price for your entire stay including taxes and fees. In the U.S. and Canada, you can also see the nightly price without taxes and fees. On the “Overview” or “Prices” tab you can choose to see either view when you check availability.

122019_Rate-explanations_Pixel3.png

Resume planning your trip in seconds

Easily continue planning your trip by going to google.com/travel. If you’re signed into your Google account, you’ll see upcoming trips if you’ve received a booking confirmation in Gmail and potential trips you’re still researching. 

Travel_Add-Shortcut-Promo (1).gif

Scroll down and tap “Add shortcut” to add the icon to your phone’s home screen so you can return to planning trips quickly in the future.

Young coders are shaping Singapore’s future

You’re never too young to take up coding—just ask 10-year-old Sephia Rindiani Binte Andi. Sephia only took up coding a year ago, and sharpened her skills so quickly she created an online game shortly after. The game challenges players to navigate their way out of a maze (I admittedly kept getting lost). Today, Sephia continues dabbling in code at home with the help of her mom, Kamzarini.  


Sephia is a graduate of Code in the Community, a program that brings coding classes to young Singaporeans from less affluent backgrounds. The grassroots initiative is run by local education organizations like Saturday Kids and 21C Girls, with the help of more than 1,000 volunteers and the backing of Google and Singapore's Infocomm and Media Development Authority (IMDA). 


Since 2017, Code in the Community has reached more than 2,000 Singaporean students. And this week, we’re proud to announce that Google will provide a new grantto help expand the program for another three years.   


Together with a matching grant from IMDA, the new funds mean two things: First, they’ll allow the program to bring basic coding classes to 6,700 more kids by 2022.  Second, they’ll support new courses for the 2,300 existing graduates—encouraging talented young students like Sephia to apply what they’ve learned and explore new concepts like design thinking.  

We hope Code in the Community will shape Singapore’s future as a smart nation, growing the city-state’s $12 billion internet economy—one of the most advanced in Southeast Asia—with new jobs and opportunities. 


As a Singaporean myself, I’ve found it incredibly inspiring to see the way local communities have come together to make technology real, accessible and fun for children. I can’t wait to see what the next generation of graduates do as they develop their skills and go wherever their imagination takes them. 


Digital skills for Indonesia’s internet economy

Since joining Google just over a year ago, I’ve heard so many inspirational stories about the ways Indonesians are using the internet to improve their lives and others’.  Entrepreneurs like Sherly Santa—who took her durian business online—have helped make Indonesia’s internet economy the largest in Southeast Asia.  And a new generation of young Indonesians is working on big ideas for the future—like the Developer Student Club that built a flood warning app for villages in Bojonegoro.  


The challenge for Indonesia isn’t a lack of ability or ambition. It’s giving more Indonesians the digital skills to take advantage of the opportunities technology creates, something that’s a priority for us and our Indonesian partners. Training programs like Gapura Digital and Women Will have helped 1.4 million Indonesians learn digital basics and business tools. But we also want to help Indonesians gain more advanced software skills, which are in high demand from Indonesian technology companies. 


Today, at the fourth Google for Indonesia event, we announced a new initiative aimed at meeting that need. Bangkit (meaning “rise up” in Indonesian) is an intensive, six-month training program for developers run in partnership with Gojek, Tokopedia, Traveloka and leading Indonesian universities in Jakarta, Bandung, Denpasar and Yogyakarta. The program will be free, but selective—open to cohorts of 300 of the most talented developers across the country, with workshops starting in January 2020. The goal is to teach developers both technical skills in machine learning, as well as more general “soft skills” that can help them advance their career in the technology sector. Our hope is that Bangkit helps expand the pool of talent in Indonesia, making it easier for even smaller startups to hire people with the skills they need—and supporting Indonesia's digital economy as it continues to grow. 

GDCA Logos.png

Bangkit isn't the only way we're helping Indonesians get the most out of the internet. At Google for Indonesia we also announced a partnership with Telkom to expand Google Station, so it reaches more Indonesians with a network of fast, free and secure Wi-Fi points. We’ve launched Kormo, a career app that connects job seekers and employers to entry-level roles. And we’re deepening our commitment to protecting Indonesians online, announcing Stay Safer for Google Maps—a feature that lets people share their location with friends and family, and alerts them when their driver deviates from their chosen route by more than 500 meters.

With 152 million Indonesians online—and more joining them every day—there’s great potential for Indonesia to shape its future with new technologies, growing digital industries and jobs. It starts with expanding skills and opportunities more widely across the country—and we’re committed to playing our part. 

A new home for Japan’s startups

Google CEO Sundar Pichai meets Japanese founders from Sansan and Cinnamon

Japan has always been a nation of forward thinkers. From the bullet train and the walkman to the lithium ion battery, Japanese ideas have shaped the modern world—and now a new generation of Japanese entrepreneurs is carrying on that legacy, building businesses around technology like artificial intelligence and machine learning.  

To support these talented founders as they grow and scale globally, we’re opening the doors on a Google for Startups Campus in Tokyo. Joining a worldwide network with locations from London to São Paulo to Seoul, it’s a platform for Japanese startups to develop their ideas, access Google resources, and build connections with like-minded entrepreneurs.  

We’ve been supporting Japanese startups for some time now: Cinnamon uses AI to help businesses work more efficiently and Lily MedTech is working on a device that could better detect breast cancer at an early stage. The new Campus means we’re better able to help many more founders as they take their ventures forward. It’s co-located with our new office in Shibuya, so we can offer Google training, mentoring and tools. And it’ll provide a welcoming, inclusive environment for startups from all backgrounds. Over 37% of our Campus members globally are women—a higher percentage than in most other parts of the startup community, but one we’re working hard to increase every year. 

Starting in 2020, the Tokyo Campus will also be home to a new Google for Startups Accelerator, an intensive three-month boot camp for startups working in AI. The goal of the Accelerator program is to give founders with established products the tools to prepare for the next phase of growth, and ultimately contribute to a stronger Japanese economy. We’re confident the program’s focus on AI and machine learning will advance ways of applying technology to tackle social, economic and environmental challenges—an area where we believe Japan can lead the world. Applications open today.

The launch of a Google for Startups Campus in Tokyo is part of a bigger story, with Japan making technology, digital skills, and AI central to its ambitions for the future. Eighteen years ago, Japan was where we opened the first Google office outside the United States. Today, our team here is much bigger, but we're just as focused on making sure Japan has the digital tools and services it needs. We're helping Japanese businesses adopt cloud computing. We're supporting AI research at academic institutions and universities. And we've committed to train 10 million Japanese workers in digital skills by 2022, through the Grow with Google program we launched earlier this year. 

We’re looking forward to Campus contributing to these efforts, giving Japanese startups the opportunity to make their ideas real—and continue shaping the world like so many of Japan’s entrepreneurs before them. 

A call for the next big ideas in news

This time last year, we launched the Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge, part of our $300 million commitment to help journalism thrive in the digital age.  

With our first challenge, we funded23 projects focused on diversifying reader revenue in the Asia Pacific region. Since then, we’ve launched challenges in North America, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Turkey, receiving more than 1,300 project submissions from 77 countries--and recently selected 64 more projects for funding. 

Today, we’re opening our second challenge in Asia Pacific. This time, we’re calling for projects which aim to increase reader engagement. The more deeply people engage with the stories they read, the more likely they are to return to a news website, visit more pages during a session, sign up for an email newsletter and become subscribers.  

We’re interested in hearing about creative ideas around reader engagement, including but not limited to personalization, analytics, audio and loyalty programs. And the Innovation Challenge is open to organizations of every size--startups, NGOs, broadcasters, traditional news publishers and freelancers--so long as they can clearly show the impact of the project from a reader’s perspective, and deliver it within a year. 

The application window for project submissions is open until January 7, 2020, and you can read more about the eligibility, rules and criteria and funding at the Google News Initiative website or at a town hall on November 13. 

To find out more about the results of the first round of funding, we spoke to Disha Mullick of Khabar Lahariya, who has created a new subscription model around a video series about young people in rural India.

How did you develop this subscription model?

We initially talked about aiming the subscription model at our primary, rural audience. The dream is for this audience to become our strongest, most loyal subscribers. But discussions internally with the Google News Initiative and with our peers in digital media pushed us to test the idea with our urban, English-speaking audience first. 

Our vision is to take hyper-local content and voices to a broader audience through immersive video storytelling. Embedded reporters would help link these local stories to global shifts in gender and power, technology, environmental change and financial instability. If this platform works, we’ll adapt it to other audiences who may take longer to come around to the idea of paying for content. 

What is the long-term plan for growing your subscriber base?      

We plan to create a model that combines the features of a membership model and a digital subscription or paywall--one that’s inclusive of both rural and urban audiences willing to pay for good quality, hyper-local content. We also hope to be able to provide other features, like workshops and fellowships, travel opportunities—perhaps even access to small grants for media or other entrepreneurial projects. 

What advice would you offer the next group of reporters looking to increase reader engagement?  

I can't over-emphasize the impact of investing in local content. Even if that's not what gets monetized easily, it’s what builds trust and credibility, which have been shaken by the amount of misinformation floating about. I also think the way we engage readers needs to be responsible, to counter the state's imperative to control social media or the flow of information on the internet--which may be knee-jerk reactions to the violence and abuse we see. 

The Singapore students using Cloud for smarter recycling

Coming up with big ideas in technology used to take the kind of time and money that only large companies had.  Now open source tools—like TensorFlow, which provides access to Google’s machine learning technology—mean anyone with a smart concept has the opportunity to make it a reality. Just ask Arjun Taneja and Vayun Mathur, two friends and high school students from Singapore with a big ambition to improve recycling rates.  

Arjun and Vayun realized that separating waste is sometimes confusing and cumbersome—something that can derail people's good intentions to recycle. Using TensorFlow, they built a “Smart Bin” that can identify types of trash and sort them automatically. The Smart Bin uses a camera to take a picture of the object inserted in the tray, then analyzes the picture with a Convolutional Neural Network, a type of machine learning algorithm designed to recognize visual objects.  

To train the algorithm, Arjun and Vayun took around 500 pictures of trash like glass bottles, plastic bottles, metal cans and paper. It’s a process that would normally be laborious and expensive. But by using Google’s Colab platform for sharing resources and advice, the students could access a high powered graphics processor (GPU) in the cloud for free. They were also able to access Tensor Processing Units, Google’s machine learning processors which power services like Translate, Photos, Search, Assistant and Gmail. These tools helped their system analyze large amounts of data at once, so the students could correct the model if it didn't recognize an object. As a result, the model learned to classify the objects even more quickly. Once the Smart Bin was trained, all they had to do was place an object in the tray, and the system could predict whether it was metal, plastic, glass or paper—with the answer popping up on a screen. 

Building on their successful trials at home, Arjun and Vayun showcased the Smart Bin with a stall at last week’s Singapore Maker Faire, and they continue to work on other projects. It’s a great example of how tools available in the cloud are cutting out processes and costs that might have held back this kind of invention in the past.

Media literacy for Asia’s next generation

When I served as U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam, it often struck me that young people there had vastly more access to news and information than I did when I first lived in that country 20 years earlier—a sign of how things can change for the better from generation to generation.  


The internet has enabled people in Vietnam and across Asia Pacific to learn, connect and express themselves in ways we couldn’t have imagined in the past. We need to keep expanding those opportunities, but we also need to help the next generation explore the internet with confidence as they come online.


As Google marks UNESCO Global Media and Information Literacy Week, we’re building on our efforts to promote media literacy and combat misinformation. We’re constantly working to make a difference with our own products, like improving our algorithms to prioritize authoritative sourcesand original reporting in search results. At the same time, through a $10 million Google News Initiative media literacy campaign funded by Google.org, we’re supporting expert organizations across the region as they develop new approaches for teaching media literacy. 


In Southeast Asia, this includes programs run by the Indonesian Anti-Slander Society and the Child and Youth Media Institute in Thailand to create video teaching tools for local schools, building on a pilot program we developed with the University of Hong Kong. And today we took the next step, announcing that Google.org will support a new initiative run by the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication in the Philippines. The funding will enable the AIJC to hold “school summits” across the country, training 300 high school teachers so they can teach media literacy to around 9,000 students each year—helping them tell the difference between misinformation and reliable news online.


We asked Ramon Tuazon, President of the AIJC, to tell us a bit more.  


In 2017, the Philippines became the first country in Asia to make media and information literacy (MIL) part of its high school curriculum. Why is this so important?  


When we first started discussing adding MIL to the curriculum in 2013, we knew we had to address misrepresentation and propaganda in traditional media as well as social media. But we also had to deal with the new challenges the internet has created, including the fact that young people are becoming media literate online before they learn ethics and responsibility in how to use technology.  


With the new campaign, what do you hope students and teachers get out of the experience? 

I hope the students gain new perspectives and better understand how to verify news, deal with their biases and be sensitive to misinformation and disinformation. For teachers, I hope the training helps them learn new, creative and engaging teaching approaches.  Over the long term, I hope both teachers and students will be able to go out and challenge misinformation on social media and other platforms.  

What’s next after this initial campaign? 

We’ll be working closely with the Department of Education to continue improving how we teach media and information literacy as part of the curriculum, including through new tools and better teacher training.  Our challenge is to expand this new initiative nationwide.