Tag Archives: Next Billion Users

Google Translate learns 24 new languages

For years, Google Translate has helped break down language barriers and connect communities all over the world. And we want to make this possible for even more people — especially those whose languages aren’t represented in most technology. So today we’ve added 24 languages to Translate, now supporting a total of 133 used around the globe.

Over 300 million people speak these newly added languages — like Mizo, used by around 800,000 people in the far northeast of India, and Lingala, used by over 45 million people across Central Africa. As part of this update, Indigenous languages of the Americas (Quechua, Guarani and Aymara) and an English dialect (Sierra Leonean Krio) have also been added to Translate for the first time.

The Google Translate bar translates the phrase "Our mission: to enable everyone, everywhere to understand the world and express themselves across languages" into different languages.

Translate's mission translated into some of our newly added languages

Here’s a complete list of the new languages now available in Google Translate:

  • Assamese, used by about 25 million people in Northeast India
  • Aymara, used by about two million people in Bolivia, Chile and Peru
  • Bambara, used by about 14 million people in Mali
  • Bhojpuri, used by about 50 million people in northern India, Nepal and Fiji
  • Dhivehi, used by about 300,000 people in the Maldives
  • Dogri, used by about three million people in northern India
  • Ewe, used by about seven million people in Ghana and Togo
  • Guarani, used by about seven million people in Paraguay and Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil
  • Ilocano, used by about 10 million people in northern Philippines
  • Konkani, used by about two million people in Central India
  • Krio, used by about four million people in Sierra Leone
  • Kurdish (Sorani), used by about eight million people, mostly in Iraq
  • Lingala, used by about 45 million people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Angola and the Republic of South Sudan
  • Luganda, used by about 20 million people in Uganda and Rwanda
  • Maithili, used by about 34 million people in northern India
  • Meiteilon (Manipuri), used by about two million people in Northeast India
  • Mizo, used by about 830,000 people in Northeast India
  • Oromo, used by about 37 million people in Ethiopia and Kenya
  • Quechua, used by about 10 million people in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and surrounding countries
  • Sanskrit, used by about 20,000 people in India
  • Sepedi, used by about 14 million people in South Africa
  • Tigrinya, used by about eight million people in Eritrea and Ethiopia
  • Tsonga, used by about seven million people in Eswatini, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe
  • Twi, used by about 11 million people in Ghana

This is also a technical milestone for Google Translate. These are the first languages we’ve added using Zero-Shot Machine Translation, where a machine learning model only sees monolingual text — meaning, it learns to translate into another language without ever seeing an example. While this technology is impressive, it isn't perfect. And we’ll keep improving these models to deliver the same experience you’re used to with a Spanish or German translation, for example. If you want to dig into the technical details, check out our Google AI blog post and research paper.

We’re grateful to the many native speakers, professors and linguists who worked with us on this latest update and kept us inspired with their passion and enthusiasm. If you want to help us support your language in a future update, contribute evaluations or translations through Translate Contribute.

An anthology of insights, for a more inclusive internet

Between 2015 and 2022, nearly 3 billion people worldwide got online for the first time — and changed the internet in the process. These novice internet users experience the web differently from those who came online before. Almost all of them connect on their phones, they speak over 7,000 languages, and they often prefer to interact with the internet using video or their voice. For Google, understanding their needs has helped us build better products — for novice users, and for everyone else.

In 2015, we launched our Next Billion Users (NBU) initiative, with a focus on making technology helpful, relevant and inclusive for people new to the internet. Since then, our NBU teams have used deep research and product development to improve our existing products (creating offline versions of Maps, for example) and create new ones, like Files (a storage cleaning and offline file sharing app). With Android (Go edition), we’ve adapted our mobile operating system for entry-level devices, and we built Google Pay to advance financial inclusion in India.

Today, building a better internet is more important than ever. We’re committed to playing our part in nurturing a more inclusive global digital economy. But we also want to share the lessons we’ve learned over the past seven years to support the wider industry— which is why we’re releasing an anthology of our key NBU insights to date.

A man and a lady are standing in the fields at a farm. The man is holding up a leaf while the lady has a smartphone in her hands. Both are looking intently at the smartphone.

This compilation reflects one of the core principles of our NBU work: when we build with the next billion users, we make progress towards an internet that works better for everyone. In the anthology, our insights are listed across 26 topics from A to Z in the Roman alphabet (A for access, F for financial inclusion and Y for youth, and so on).

We’re launching our anthology this month to celebrate the invention of the World Wide Web, one of the most significant technologies in modern history. To mark the occasion, we want to highlight three topics in particular — Women, Ecosystem and Building Inclusive Products — or WEB.

Women

Women make up the majority of the next billion users, and it will take a sustained, coordinated effort from the technology industry, governments and nonprofit organizations to make the internet more gender-equitable. Our research has found that women often face higher barriers to internet access than men, as well as threats to their safety and privacy online. Yet a rising female population could have a profoundly positive impact on the internet economy — as studies in Africa have shown. Together with our partners, we run global programs like Women Techmakers, which provide visibility, community, and resources for women in technology.

Ecosystem

No one organization can build a more inclusive internet alone. In all our NBU efforts, we’ve prioritized sharing our research openly and forming partnerships with others who are working towards the same goals. One example is our work with India’s Jio to create the JioPhone Next, an affordable, made-for-India smartphone that’s enabling millions of people across the country to experience the internet. We also welcome and support the growing role that governments are playing in developing nationwide and regional strategies to increase digital inclusion. That includes Google’s own partnerships with governments to advance Africa’s digital transformation.

Building inclusive products

We’ve learned that to build better products, we have to challenge our own intuition and assumptions as technology-makers. That starts with deep, immersive research — spending time in communities to understand the environment, concerns and aspirations of the people we’re building for. We see the impact we want when we build with new users, not just for them, as with the brainstorming and design process for Motorcycle Mode in Maps. And we’ve learned that there’s no such thing as a typical user. For example, many families in NBU countries share their mobile devices with one another — yet device privacy and account settings are still mostly built on the principle of “one person, one account”.

A group of four young adults are having a meal at an alfresco restaurant. One of them is a bespectacled boy who is holding a smartphone in his hands and chatting with his friend.

Our work with novice internet users goes to the heart of Google's founding mission — to make the world’s information universally accessible — and together we will shape a more equitable, inclusive internet. We designed this anthology of NBU insights to inspire others to join us in building for everyone, everywhere.

A digital decade for Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia’s digital decade is here. Technology has been critical in helping Southeast Asians get through the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, as the latest eConomy Southeast Asia report shows, the digital economy is poised to play an even bigger role in the region’s future than we had imagined.

Last year, we saw Southeast Asia’s resilience in the face of the pandemic, as people turned to the internet to meet their everyday needs in new ways. This year’s report — published today by Google, Temasek and Bain & Company — shows a resurgence, and looks ahead to a “roaring 20s” where technology will open up exciting new possibilities for hundreds of millions of people across the region.

We now forecast that the digital economy will reach $174 billion in gross merchandise value by the end of 2021 and pick up pace to hit $363 billion by 2025, well above last year’s estimate of $300 billion. For the first time, we also make a 2030 forecast— projecting that the digital economy could reach a value of $1 trillion by the end of the decade. Growth on that scale would see Southeast Asia help define the future of technology globally.

Here are some of the key themes from the 2021 report — and a look ahead to the enablers that will ensure Southeast Asia reaches its enormous potential.

Southeast Asians continue to surge online

Of the region’s population of 589 million, 440 million people (or 75%) are online — including 40 million who started using the internet for the first time in 2021. About 350 million Southeast Asians are ‘digital consumers’, meaning they’ve bought at least one online service. Since the pandemic began, the region has added 60 million more digital consumers. And the shift online appears to be here to stay: nine out of 10 people who started using a new online service in 2020 continued using it in 2021.

An infographic showing that the number of internet users in Southeast Asia has grown from 360 million in 2019 to 400 million in 2020 to 440 million in 2021.

A new wave of digital merchants emerges

The internet has been critical in helping Southeast Asia’s small businesses get through the pandemic — and plan for the future. In preparing the 2021 report, we spoke to 3,000 digital merchants (small businesses that use digital tools, usually in food services or retail). We were struck by what a positive experience they’d had since moving online. Today, 90% of these merchants accept digital payments and one in three believe they wouldn’t have survived the pandemic without going online. Over the next five years, eight out of 10 merchants anticipate that more than half their sales will come from online sources.

An infographic showing that 84% of digital merchants surveyed agree digital platforms create more jobs, 84% agree they improve people’s livelihood, 87% agree sales would have declined or there would have been no sales during the pandemic, and 88% agree digital platforms bring positive benefits for their company.

E-commerce leads the digital economy’s resurgence

The rise of e-commerce is at the heart of the regional digital economy’s renewed growth, as people use the internet to buy more and more everyday products and services. The report estimates the e-commerce sector could pass $120 billion in GMV by the end of 2021 and reach $234 billion by 2025. Food delivery is also growing fast, with 71% of all internet users ordering meals online, and online media is increasingly popular — helped by the growing popularity of gaming.

At the same time, three emerging sectors are growing faster because of COVID-19: health, education and financial technology. As people look for greater convenience and accessibility, these sectors are expected to keep expanding and become a significant part of the digital economy by 2030.

A girl in a blue school uniform sits on the front step of a raised building made of wood and corrugated iron. She is typing on a laptop.

Funding fuels opportunity

Across the digital economy, investment is on track towards a record high in 2021. The value of deals in the region was $11.5 billion in the first half of 2021, compared with $11.6 billion in the whole of 2020. Most funding (about 60%) is going to e-commerce and digital financial services, but the growth of health technology has caught investors’ attention: funding for the sector rose to a record high of $1.1 billion in the first six months of the year, more than the 2020 total of $800 million. And there is a pool of $14.2 billion of capital available for founders looking for backing to take their ideas forward.

Looking ahead: a digital decade for everyone

A $1 trillion digital economy in 2030 would mean more widely-accessible online services, new jobs and stronger businesses. It would also see Southeast Asia shaping advances in technology for the wider Asia-Pacific region and beyond, as a bellwether of global digital trends. But to make sure the digital decade benefits as many people as possible, we have to focus on the right enablers. The priorities for the years ahead include getting regulatory frameworks right, putting data infrastructure in place, and ensuring the digital economy develops in a way that’s equitable — for example, by protecting the interests of gig workers and safeguarding online privacy.

Google’s commitment is to help build a digital economy that can benefit everyone in Southeast Asia by 2030. We want to play our part in creating responsible growth and providing economic opportunities for current and future generations. We’ll continue to build the future of the internet in and for this region, provide inclusive, safe access for the communities we serve, and be a partner to Southeast Asia’s businesses and governments on the way to a bigger, better digital economy.

Our $1 billion investment in Africa’s digital transformation

Editor’s note: Today at Google for Africa, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced a $1 billion investment in Africa over five years to cover a range of initiatives, from improved connectivity to investments in startups. Below is an edited transcript of his remarks. Watch the full event above or on YouTube.

There is so much momentum happening across Africa, and we’re excited to showcase it at our first Google for Africa event.

Of course, there are also significant challenges. The pandemic continues to deeply impact communities across the continent and around the world. I hope everyone is taking care during these difficult times.

One thing we’ve seen is how technology can be a lifeline, whether you are a parent seeking information to keep your family healthy, a student learning virtually or an entrepreneur connecting with new customers and markets. Being helpful in these moments is at the core of our mission: to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Expanding opportunity through technology is deeply personal to me. That’s because I grew up without much access to it. Every new technology — from the rotary phone to the television — changed my family’s life for the better. That’s why I’m a technology optimist. I believe in how people can harness it for good.

I see so many examples across Africa today, whether it’s startups like Tambua Health that are using machine learning to help doctors diagnose and treat diseases, or entrepreneurs like Tunji, whom I had the chance to meet when I was in Lagos in 2017. His company, Gidi Mobile, is helping low-income students in Nigeria access online learning.

Sundar Pichai and Gidi Mobile’s Tunji Adegbesan at Google for Nigeria in 2017

Sundar Pichai and Gidi Mobile’s Tunji Adegbesan at Google for Nigeria in 2017

Increasingly we are seeing innovation begin in Africa, and then spread throughout the world. For example, people in Africa were among the first to access the internet through a phone rather than a computer. And mobile money was ubiquitous in Kenya before it was adopted by the world.

This momentum will only increase as 300 million people come online in Africa over the next five years. Many of them are young, creative and entrepreneurial, and they’re ready to drive new innovation and opportunity across the region.

It’s been incredible to see the rapid pace of change in a short amount of time, and be a partner on that journey. Since we opened our first offices in Africa, we’ve enabled 100 million Africans to access the internet for the first time and empowered millions of businesses and creators with digital tools.

A big focus has been on expanding opportunity through digital skills. In 2017, we committed to help 10 million Africans get the digital skills they need to grow their careers and businesses. So far, we’ve trained six million people. We’ve also trained 80,000 developers from every country in Africa and supported more than 80 startups to raise global venture capital funding, creating thousands of jobs.

In 2018, we opened an artificial intelligence research center in Accra. The team is focused on solving challenges relevant to Africa and the world, like using AI to map buildings that are hard to detect using traditional tools and adding 200,000 kilometers of roads on Google Maps.

And we continue to build for Africa’s unique needs. Products like Android Go and Files Go ensure that everyone can have a great smartphone experience. On YouTube, we are supporting Black creators and artists with our Black Voices Fund.

These are just a few examples of how we're investing in, and building for, Africa. We know there’s more we can do to help bring the benefits of technology to more Africans.

So today I'm excited to announce that we plan to invest one billion dollars in Africa over five years. It will cover a range of initiatives, from improving connectivity to investing in startups.

These investments will support the continent’s digital transformation in four key areas:

  • Enabling affordable access and building products for every kind of African user.
  • Helping businesses with their digital transformation.
  • Investing in entrepreneurs to spur next-generation technologies.
  • Supporting nonprofits working to improve lives across Africa.

As we make these investments, we know we can’t do this alone. We look forward to partnering with African governments, policymakers, educators, entrepreneurs and businesses. We have so much opportunity ahead as Africans shape the next wave of innovation. Thank you for the chance to be a part of it.

Raising our India commitment to build a safer internet for everyone

At Google, safety is core to everything we do. We design our products to ensure that they are secure by default and private by design, and you’re in control of your information. We are privileged that hundreds of millions of Indians place their trust in Google products. 


In India, we have been working towards making the internet helpful for over a billion people through a deeper understanding of our users’ needs under our Next Billion Users initiative, and launching many India-first features and products. After the outbreak of COVID-19, the internet's role in our everyday lives has become all the more central. With more and more Indians turning to the internet for their day-to-day needs, we recognise our responsibility to ensure that they’re protected from an evolving range of online risks — from phishing to financial fraud to misinformation. We also know that new users in particular are vulnerable to threats from bad actors.   


Today, we are underlining our commitment to protect users against this multidimensional challenge — and make the internet safer for everyone. 


Ramping up our trust & safety efforts in India 


To protect our users and products at the scale at which we operate, everyday 24x7, we continuously invest in both people and technology to make the internet safer. With over 20,000 people spread across the world, our Trust and Safety teams are dedicated to identifying, fighting, and preventing online harms. This includes everything from researching emerging abuse trends, to developing policies and standards that make clear what is acceptable on our platforms, to building the technology that enables enforcement of those policies at scale, including compliance with local laws and regulations in every country we operate in. Just in the last year, we’ve invested over $1 billion on our content moderation systems and processes, and we continue to invest in this area. 


In India, we have significantly increased the resources dedicated to these teams, adding product policy analysts, security specialists, and user trust experts, and expanded our efforts to provide coverage in more than 10 vernacular Indian languages, enabling our central teams to benefit from the local nuance and inputs.  This increased focus will help us to tackle misinformation, fraud, threats to child safety, violent extremism, phishing attacks, and malware, among other abuse areas.


A collaborative approach for a safer internet 


We recognise that the work of building a safer internet needs the leadership of the larger internet industry that is driving India’s digital economy. These challenges cannot be overcome by one or two players alone, and there is a need to step up our collective efforts as an industry. We are committed to sharing our tools and the institutional knowledge and capabilities we’ve developed over the years to contribute to this joint responsibility. We will be working with leading industry organisations to help train developers and startups in these capabilities, build communal solutions to shared safety challenges, and innovate on open-source tools so we can better protect Indians online.


Investing in user awareness and education in Indian languages


We also know that safety information helps people understand and avoid online harm. The Google Safety Centre serves as a single destination dedicated to educating and empowering our users on the importance of digital safety. As many people in India use the internet in their regional language, we are launching the new and updated Google Safety Centre in eight languages starting with Hindi, Marathi, Malayalam, Kannada, and Telugu, with three more Indian languages set to roll out by the end of the year. 

On this platform, users can discover helpful resources and easy tips, and identify the digital habits that are right for them and their families, all in the language of their choice. With the ‘My Activity’ hub in the Safety Centre, they can review, control, or delete the activity saved to their Google accounts. This section received more than 1 billion visits by Indian users in the first half of 2021 alone, and we hope this refreshed Safety Center will help millions more.


As part of this effort, we’ve also launched a user education campaign in multiple languages, to bring attention to common threats like phishing, malware, and fraud.



Raising our commitment to ensure children’s safety online


While our policies don’t allow kids under 13 to create a standard Google account, we’ve worked hard to design enriching product experiences for them — as well as for older teens and their families. We are aware that kids and teens are spending more time online, and parents, educators, child safety and privacy experts, and policy makers are rightfully concerned about how to keep them safe. We share these concerns and we have announced a series of new policies in response.

We are also committed to matching these efforts with digital safety resources for parents and children. So starting today, we are excited to launch our global Be Internet Awesome program in India, a resource that is designed and crafted by digital safety experts to help children, families, and educators learn about staying safe online. Available in English and Hindi first, then soon in other Indian languages, Be Internet Awesome is a great resource for kids, parents, and teachers to learn about safe and healthy internet habits.


It includes a highly visual, interactive experience called ‘Interland’, where children can learn the fundamentals of online safety and participate in a series of fun, challenging games. They’ll learn how to safeguard valuable information, one-up cyber bullies, and spot what’s real and what’s fake. We’re also keen for children to explore Be Internet Awesome through avenues they’re already familiar with, and so we are delighted to announce our partnership with popular Indian comic book publishers, Amar Chitra Katha, who will help kids discover these critical internet safety lessons through their favourite characters, in eight Indian languages.


A safer and trusted app experience for our users


Affordable smartphones can unlock online opportunities for millions more Indians. But these devices have to be underpinned by a bedrock of privacy, security, and transparency. We have stepped up our efforts to deliver a privacy-first experience with Android 12 with a new privacy dashboard that gives people a clear timeline view of apps that have accessed their location, microphone, and camera in the last 24 hours — so they can better understand and control what data apps use. 


At the same time, we’re taking steps to identify and respond to concerns around specific app categories more quickly. For example, we recently announced clarifications around the policies on personal loan apps, including new requirements that will help safeguard users, while enabling legitimate developers to operate and flourish. And we have significantly expanded our Google Play support teams in India, enabling us to gain a deeper understanding of the needs of our partners and users — including around online safety. The bottom line is this: when we solve for our users, we also solve for our developers. 


We have no doubt that what we do in India will also shape the future of a Safer Internet for everyone. 


Building a safer internet for everyone is not one more thing to do, it is the one thing to do — together.


Posted by Sanjay Gupta, Country Manager & Vice President, Google India, and Kristie Canegallo, Vice President, Trust & Safety, Google 


These researchers are bringing AI to farmers

“Farmers feed the entire world — so how might we support them to be resilient and build sustainable systems that also support global food security?” It’s a question that Diana Akrong found herself asking last year. Diana is a UX researcher based in Accra, Ghana, and the founding member of Google’s Accra UX team.

Across the world, her manager Dr. Courtney Heldreth, was equally interested in answering this question. Courtney is a social psychologist and a staff UX researcher based in Seattle, and both women work as part of Google’s People + Artificial Intelligence Research (PAIR) group. “Looking back on history, we can see how the industrial revolution played a significant role in creating global inequality,” she says. “It set most of Western Europe onto a path of economic dominance that was then followed by both military and political dominance.” Courtney and Diana teamed up on an exploratory effort focused on how AI can help better the lives of small, local farming communities in the Global South. They and their team want to understand what farmers need, their practices, value systems, what their social lives are like — and make sure that Google products reflect these dynamics.

One result of their work is a recently published research paper. The paper — written alongside their colleagues Dr. Jess Holbrook at Google and Dr. Norman Makoto Su of Indiana University and published in the ACM Interactions trade journal — dives into why we need farmer-centered AI research, and what it could mean not just for farmers, but for everyone they feed. I recently took some time to learn more about their work.


How would you explain your job to someone who isn't in tech?

Courtney: I would say I’m a researcher trying to understand underserved and historically marginalized users’ lives and needs so we can create products that work better for them. 

Diana: I’m a researcher who looks at how people interact with technology. My superpower is my curiosity and it’s my mission to understand and advocate for user needs, explore business opportunities and share knowledge.


What’s something on your mind right now? 

Diana: Because of COVID-19, there’s the threat of a major food crisis in India and elsewhere. We’re wondering how we can work with small farms as well as local consumers, policymakers, agricultural workers, agribusiness owners and NGOs to solve this problem.

Agriculture is very close to my heart, personally. Prior to joining Google, I spent a lot of time learning from smallholder farmers across my country and helping design concepts to address their needs. 

“Farmers feed the entire world — so how might we support them to be resilient and build sustainable systems that also support global food security?” Diana Akrong
UX researcher, Google


Courtney: I’ve been thinking about how AI can be seen as this magical, heroic thing, but there are also many risks to using it in places where there aren’t laws to protect people. When I think about Google’s AI Principles — be socially beneficial, be accountable to people, avoid reinforcing bias, prioritize safety — those things define what projects I want to work on. It’s also why my colleague Tabitha Yong and I developed a set of best practices for designing more equitable AI products.


Can you tell me more about your paper, “What Does AI Mean for Smallholder Farmers? A Proposal for Farmer-Centered AI Research,” recently published in ACM Interactions

Courtney: The impact and failures of AI are often very western and U.S.-centric. We’re trying to think about how to make this more fair and inclusive for communities with different needs around the globe. For example, in our farmer-centered AI research, we know that most existing AI solutions are designed for large farms in the developed world. However, many farmers in the Global South live and work in rural areas, which trail behind urban areas in terms of connectivity and digital adoption. By focusing on the daily realities of these farmers, we can better understand different perspectives, especially those of people who don’t live in the U.S. and Europe, so that Google’s products work for everyone, everywhere.

Why did you want to work at Google?

Diana: I see Google as home to teams with diverse experiences and skills who work collaboratively to tackle complex, important issues that change real people’s lives. I’ve thrived here because I get to work on projects I care about and play a critical role in growing the UX community here in Ghana.

Courtney: I chose Google because we work on the world's hardest problems. Googlers are  fearless and the reach of Google’s products and services is unprecedented. As someone who comes from an underrepresented group, I never thought I would work here. To be here at this moment is so important to me, my community and my family. When I look at issues I care about the most — marginalized and underrepresented communities — the work we do plays a critical role in preventing algorithmic bias, bridging the digital divide and lessening these inequalities. 


How have you seen your research help real people? 

Courtney: In 2018, we worked with Titi Akinsanmi, Google’s Policy and Government Relations Lead for West and Francophone Africa, and PAIR Co-lead and Principal Research Scientist Fernanda Viegas on the report for AI in Nigeria. Since then, the Ministry of Technology and Science reached out to Google to help form a strategy around AI. We’ve seen government bodies in sub-Saharan Africa use this paper as a roadmap to develop their own responsible AI policies.


How should aspiring AI thinkers and future technologists prepare for a career in this field?

Diana: My main advice? Start with people and their needs. A digital solution or AI may not be necessary to solve every problem. The PAIR Guidebook is a great reference for best practices and examples for designing with AI.

A new Android smartphone and 5G partnership with Jio


Thank you to everyone at Reliance Industries for all you do for India from investing in infrastructure and technology to creating jobs and expanding opportunity to supporting communities in need, especially in this difficult moment for the country.


It’s been devastating to see the country hit so hard by COVID-19. Yet it’s heartening to see how Reliance has stepped up to contribute to the national response and get support to the communities that need it most. On behalf of all of us at Google: We hope you are taking care and we are wishing for better days ahead.


For Google, the past year has brought renewed purpose and greater urgency to our mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. At a time when so many aspects of our lives and work are moving online, it’s even more important to make technology accessible and helpful for everyone. 


This goal is at the heart of our partnership with Reliance Jio. I was proud to help launch this partnership last year. It was the first and biggest equity investment from the ₹75,000 crore ($10 billion) Google for India Digitization Fund.


Our vision was to bring affordable access to information for Indians in their own language, to build new products and services for India’s unique needs, and to empower businesses with technology.


I’m excited that today, we can announce the next steps in this vision, starting with a new, affordable Jio smartphone, created with Google. Our teams have optimized a version of our Android OS especially for this device. It will offer language and translation features, a great camera, and support for the latest Android updates.


It is built for India and it will open up new possibilities for millions of new users who will experience the internet for the very first time. And we can’t wait to show you the device later this year.


I’m also proud to announce that we are taking our collaboration further with a new 5G partnership between Google Cloud and Jio.


It will help more than a billion Indians connect to a faster and better internet, support businesses in their digital transformation, and help Jio build new services in sectors like health, education and more — laying a foundation for the next phase of India’s digitization.  

As part of this collaboration, Reliance will also shift its core retail businesses to Google Cloud’s infrastructure. They will be able take advantage of Google’s AI and machine learning, e-commerce, and demand forecasting offerings. Harnessing the reliability and performance of Google Cloud will enable these businesses to scale up as needed to respond to customer demand. 

Empowering businesses as they embark on their digital transformation is a key part of our mission in India, and I’m excited for the innovations this partnership will help unleash. We are proud to play a part in India’s next wave of technological innovation. 


Helping to connect 1.3 billion Indians to the opportunities the internet creates is meaningful to all of us at Google — and certainly to me personally. I know that with greater access to smartphones and improved connectivity, there’s no limit to what India’s people can do. 


We look forward to getting technology into the hands of more people and to exploring what more we can achieve together in the years ahead.


Posted by Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet


Partnering with Jio to help bring the promise of internet connectivity and affordability to everyone

From the infrastructure that facilitates widespread connectivity to the availability of truly affordable smartphones, we have been committed to finding ways to help bring ubiquitous access to information to people everywhere. With the pandemic resulting in greater dependency on online services and the need for timely information, access to the internet is especially crucial today. But hundreds of millions of Indians are yet to benefit from being connected, to utilize services and access information that can have a positive and immediate impact on their daily lives. Today we are excited to give you an update on our partnership with Jio in two key areas that can help bridge this gap.


Making the internet accessible to millions of more Indians with Jio


While millions of people across India who use feature phones want access to a full-fledged smartphone, there exists gaps in usability and affordability that prevent these aspirations from becoming reality.


Our Android teams across the globe have been hard at work in finding solutions to these challenges. A big milestone in this journey was our announcement last year to invest in Jio Platforms Ltd to address this gap by jointly creating a device based on optimizations to the Android operating system and the Play Store that serves the needs of many who have never used a smartphone before, while offering premium capabilities that have until now been associated with more powerful devices.

Along with Jio we are thrilled to share a preview of our made-for-India device that is built to address the unique needs of millions of new smartphone users across India. We have worked closely with the Jio team on engineering and product development on useful voice-first features that enable these users to consume content and navigate the phone in their own language, deliver a great camera experience, and get the latest Android feature and security updates.


Image 1: Use Google Assistant to get things done in popular Jio apps; Image 2: Listen to any content on your phone screen by tapping the ‘Listen’ button; Image 3: Quickly Translate any content -- on your phone screen or in the phone’s camera


Easily access and consume content in a choice of Indian languages: For users who might not be able to read content in their language, with a tap of a button they can now translate what’s on their screen, and even have it read back to them in their own language. Read Aloud and Translate Now are seamlessly integrated in the OS allowing these features to work with any text on their phone screen, including web pages, apps, messages, and even photos. We’ve also added App Actions that enable Google Assistant to deliver a great experience with many of the Jio apps on this device. In addition to asking for the latest cricket scores or a weather update, you can also ask Google Assistant to play music on Jio Saavn or check your balance on My Jio.


Image 1: Clearer photos in low light with Night mode; Image 2: Photos have wider dynamic range with HDR mode; Image 3: Snapchat lenses bring Indian-specific effects to your selfies


A great camera experience: A fast, high-quality camera is a must-have feature for today's smartphone users, so we partnered closely to build an optimized experience within the phone’s Camera module resulting in great photos and videos: from clearer photos at night and in low-light situations to HDR mode that brings out wider color and dynamic range in photos, these are firsts for affordable phones in India. We have also partnered with Snap to integrate Indian-specific Snapchat Lenses directly into the phone’s camera, and we will continue to update this experience.


Ongoing feature drops and the latest system updates: Along with support for the latest Android releases and security updates, this experience will keep getting better with new features and customizations, all delivered over-the-air. With Google Play Protect built in, it has Google’s world-class security and malware protection. And with the Google Play Store, you will have access to millions of apps that people across the world use and enjoy.


The smartphone being developed with Jio will be called JioPhone Next. It will be coming later this year, and will enable scores of new internet users to experience these best-in-class Android smartphone features at an affordable price. This is a momentous step in our Android mission for India, and is the first of many that our Android product and engineering teams will embark on in India. We are also actively expanding our engineering teams in India, as we continue to work on finding ways to answer the unique needs of India’s smartphone users.


Powering Jio’s services with a new Google Cloud Partnership


We’re delighted to share that Jio and Google Cloud are embarking on a new long-term, strategic partnership, independent of our investment in Jio Platforms Ltd, with a goal of powering 5G in enterprise and consumer segments in India. Jio will take advantage of Google Cloud’s scalable infrastructure and will also migrate many of their core businesses to Google Cloud.


Google Cloud’s deep expertise and innovation, combined with telco-specific capabilities for security, performance, and resilience, will help Jio’s 5G service to deliver high speed internet as demand for connectivity goes up. The two companies will collaborate to bring a portfolio of 5G edge computing solutions as Jio builds new services across many verticals including gaming, healthcare, education, and entertainment. These will be powered by Jio’s 5G network and Google Cloud’s innovations in AI/ML, data and analytics, and other cloud-native technologies. 


This new Cloud partnership will also see Reliance migrating its core retail businesses like Reliance Retail, JioMart, JioHealth, JioSaavn and others to Google Cloud’s infrastructure, taking advantage of Google’s AI/ML, ecommerce, and demand forecasting offerings. Leveraging the scalability of Google Cloud will increase reliability and performance, as well as enable these businesses to scale up to respond to customer demand.  


We are deeply privileged to play a role in the next phase of India’s digital transformation and we look forward to working closely with Jio to share more on these developments in the months ahead.


Posted by Ram Papatla GM & India Engineering Lead, Android, and Bikram Singh Bedi, Managing Director, Google Cloud India

 

A new Android smartphone and 5G partnership with Jio

Editor’s note: Today, we announced the next steps in our partnership with Jio Platforms, including a new, affordable Jio smartphone built with an optimized version of Android OS and a new 5G collaboration powered by Google Cloud. The following is adapted from remarks delivered by Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, at Reliance Industries’ Annual General Meeting today.


Thank you to everyone at Reliance Industries for all you do for India — from investing in infrastructure and technology to creating jobs and expanding opportunity to supporting communities in need, especially in this difficult moment for the country.


It’s been devastating to see the country hit so hard by COVID-19. Yet it’s heartening to see how Reliance has stepped up to contribute to the national response and get support to the communities that need it most. On behalf of all of us at Google: We hope you are taking care and we are wishing for better days ahead.


For Google, the past year has brought renewed purpose and greater urgency to our mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. At a time when so many aspects of our lives and work are moving online, it’s even more important to make technology accessible and helpful for everyone. 


This goal is at the heart of our partnership with Reliance Jio. I was proud to help launch this partnership last year. It was the first and biggest equity investment from the ₹75,000 crore ($10 billion) Google for India Digitization Fund.


Our vision was to bring affordable access to information for Indians in their own language, to build new products and services for India’s unique needs, and to empower businesses with technology.


I’m excited that today, we can announce the next steps in this vision, starting with a new, affordable Jio smartphone, created with Google. Our teams have optimized a version of our Android OS especially for this device. It will offer language and translation features, a great camera, and support for the latest Android updates.


It is built for India and it will open up new possibilities for millions of new users who will experience the internet for the very first time. And we can’t wait to show you the device later this year.


I’m also proud to announce that we are taking our collaboration further with a new 5G partnership between Google Cloud and Jio.


It will help more than a billion Indians connect to a faster and better internet, support businesses in their digital transformation, and help Jio build new services in sectors like health, education and more — laying a foundation for the next phase of India’s digitization.  

As part of this collaboration, Reliance will also shift its core retail businesses to Google Cloud’s infrastructure. They will be able take advantage of Google’s AI and machine learning, e-commerce, and demand forecasting offerings. Harnessing the reliability and performance of Google Cloud will enable these businesses to scale up as needed to respond to customer demand. 

Empowering businesses as they embark on their digital transformation is a key part of our mission in India, and I’m excited for the innovations this partnership will help unleash. We are proud to play a part in India’s next wave of technological innovation. 


Helping to connect 1.3 billion Indians to the opportunities the internet creates is meaningful to all of us at Google — and certainly to me personally. I know that with greater access to smartphones and improved connectivity, there’s no limit to what India’s people can do. 


We look forward to getting technology into the hands of more people and to exploring what more we can achieve together in the years ahead. 

Source: Android


How to help people navigate the internet, voice-first

When it comes to navigating the internet, many of us still think of keyboards and touchscreens as the norm. Or at least we did until recently. 


Advances in technology — and the changing preferences of internet users around the world — mean that more and more people are now using their voice to access online information and tools. According to Statista, 42% of the global population — and 50% of people in Asia-Pacific — have conducted a voice search on a device recently. And the trend is growing especially quickly in places with large numbers of new internet users, where many people have no history of using a computer or even typing into a smartphone.


Today, we’re releasing a Voice Playbook to help the technology industry better understand why people are using their voice, the challenges that remain to realizing its potential and how we can build more relevant and inclusive technology in response. 


New internet users are finding their voice


It’s easy to think of the ability to talk to your phone as just a matter of convenience — a way of getting information while you’re driving or cooking. But for many new internet users, voice isn’t just helpful — it’s critical. It provides a means for people coming online with low literacy levels to become self-sufficient, without help from others. It simplifies the way they interact with their device, given the complexity of typing in scripted languages. And it makes the output they’re seeking — the result of a search query, for example — much easier to understand. 


Right now, people are using their voice to record and share themselves speaking, issue commands like search queries, use virtual assistants and dictate phrases to be transcribed. 


People are using voice because it makes the internet less complex and confusing. At the same time, there are still significant, often frustrating challenges that remain. One is misinterpretation. Voice recognition and speech interpretation technology isn’t perfect yet, so people everywhere experience misinterpretations. But when new users have a bad experience with voice, they tend to blame themselves. A comment we hear a lot is that “it couldn’t understand my accent.” After a few bad experiences, people often just give up. 


A second major challenge is self-perception. New internet users can feel like using their voice makes others think they’re uneducated, or they worry that their friends will make fun of them. 


On top of this, there are privacy concerns. When people are often surrounded by big groups of people, they’re reluctant to speak to their device because they’re afraid of being overheard. 


A playbook for voice technology


Technology can pose challenges for voice users, but if it’s designed and built right, it can also help overcome them.  


Drawing on the lessons we’ve learned with our own voice technology, we’ve created a set of principles to guide the industry forward and help technology-makers everywhere think about how to build for voice. When we understand people’s experience of voice, and build around that experience, we can dramatically improve the helpfulness and accessibility of the technology they use.

  • We can make voice more discoverable with simple icons (not ‘50s-style microphones) that meet common industry standards, take up greater space on the screen and require no more than one tap to access. 
  • We can prevent people from becoming frustrated and giving up by making the output they get simpler and easier to digest. (For example, we can break up long passages into simple, shorter sentences when text is being read out.)  
  • We can reflect new voice users’ daily realities by better supporting the way they speak naturally — whether it’s factoring in pauses for breathing and thinking, or providing greater support for the many multilingual people who switch from one language to another when they’re talking.
A graphic showing Google's seven principles for building better technology to support voice users

As hundreds of millions more people around the world come online, we want voice to feel more natural and useful. We’re looking forward to helping more people use their voice — and feel heard.