Tag Archives: Next Billion Users

Android 13 (Go edition): Easier to update and tailored just for you

When we introduced Android (Go edition) five years ago, we tailored our core mobile platform to power affordable phones with limited memory and storage. This need is just as pertinent today, with nearly 180 million people coming online in the last twelve months alone.

As we announce the release of Android 13 (Go edition), we’re marking a milestone, too: there are now over 250 million monthly active devices powered by Android Go.

To better serve this growing set of users, we focused on three critical qualities: reliability, usability and customization. Let’s walk through what’s new in this release.

Get direct software updates

Updating the software in a phone takes a lot of storage space, which most entry-level devices can’t afford to lose. With Android 13 (Go edition), we’re bringing Google Play System Updates to Go devices which helps ensure devices can regularly receive important software updates, outside of the major Android release. This will make the delivery of critical updates quick and simple without compromising storage availability on the device. The result is a phone that stays up to date over time — and you don’t have to wait for the next release or a software push from your phone’s manufacturer to have the latest and greatest.

Discover content just for you

Android (Go edition) has built-in intelligence that helps you get more from your phone. This release brings you the Discover feature, letting you swipe right from your home screen to see a curated list of articles and other content.

Tailor your phone’s look

Four images of phones showing the Material You UI and wallpaper color theming on Android Go devices

Everyone should be able to adjust their phone to fit their needs and to reflect their tastes. This new release brings Material You to Android Go for the first time, so you can customize your entire phone’s color scheme to coordinate with your wallpaper. When you set your wallpaper image, you’ll see four corresponding color schemes to choose from. Besides making for a beautiful home screen, the dynamic coloring really helps make your smartphone feel unique to you.

In addition to the new features that are tailored to the needs of Go users, this update also brings some of key Android 13 features like Notification Permissions, App Language Preferences and more. Our goal with this release is to support more possibilities for the millions of current and future owners of an Android Go device. Look out for new devices launching with Android 13 (Go edition) in 2023.

Source: Android

Delivering on our $1B commitment in Africa

Last year our CEO, Sundar Pichai, announced that Google would invest $1 billion in Africa over the next five years to support a range of initiatives, from improved connectivity to investment in startups, to help boost Africa’s digital transformation.

Africa’s internet economy has the potential to grow to $180 billion by 2025 – 5.2% of the continent’s GDP. To support this growth, over the last year we’ve made progress on helping to enable affordable access and on building products for every African user – helping businesses build their online presence, supporting entrepreneurs spur next-generation technologies, and helping nonprofits to improve lives across the continent.

We’d like to share how we’re delivering on our commitment and partnering with others – policymakers, non-profits, businesses and creators – to make the internet more useful to more people in Africa.

Introducing the first Google Cloud region in Africa

Today we’re announcing our intent to establish a Google Cloud region in South Africa – our first on the continent. South Africa will be joining Google Cloud’s global network of 35 cloud regions and 106 zones worldwide.

The future cloud region in South Africa will bring Google Cloud services closer to our local customers, enabling them to innovate and securely deliver faster, more reliable experiences to their own customers, helping to accelerate their growth. According to research by AlphaBeta Economics for Google Cloud, the South Africa cloud region will contribute more than a cumulative USD 2.1 billion to the country’s GDP, and will support the creation of more than 40,000 jobs by 2030.

Image shows Director for Cloud in Africa, Niral Patel, next to a heading that announces Google's intent to establish its first Cloud region in Africa

Niral Patel, Director for Cloud in Africa announces Google's intention to establish Google's first Cloud region in Africa

Along with the cloud region, we are expanding our network through the Equiano subsea cable and building Dedicated Cloud Interconnect sites in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Lagos and Nairobi. In doing so, we are building full scale Cloud capability for Africa.

Supporting African entrepreneurs

We continue to support African entrepreneurs in growing their businesses and developing their talent. Our recently announced second cohort of the Black Founders Fund builds on the success of last year’s cohort, who raised $97 million in follow-on funding and have employed more than 500 additional staff since they were selected. We’re also continuing our support of African small businesses through the Hustle Academy and Google Business Profiles, and helping job seekers learn skills through Developer Scholarships and Career Certifications.

We’ve also continued to support nonprofits working to improve lives in Africa, with a $40 million cash and in-kind commitment so far. Over the last year this has included:

  • $1.5M investment in Career Certifications this year bringing our total Google.org funding to more than $3M since 2021
  • A $3 million grant to support AirQo in expanding their work monitoring air quality from Kampala to ten cities in five countries on the continent;
  • A team of Googlers who have joined the Tony Elumelu Foundation for 6 months, full-time and pro-bono. The team helped build a new training web and app interface to support the next million African entrepreneurs to grow and fund their businesses.

Across all our initiatives, we continue to work closely with our partners – most recently with the UN to launch the Global Africa Business Initiative (GABI), aimed at accelerating Africa’s economic growth and sustainable development.

Building more helpful products for Africa

We recently announced plans to open the first African product development centre in Nairobi. The centre will develop and build better products for Africans and the world.

Today, we’re launching voice typing support for nine more African languages (isiNdebele, isiXhosa, Kinyarwanda, Northern Sotho, Swati, Sesotho, Tswana, Tshivenda and Xitsonga) in Gboard, the Google keyboard – while 24 new languages are now supported on Google Translate, including Lingala, which is spoken by more than 45 million people across Central Africa.

To make Maps more useful, Street View imagery in Kenya, South Africa, Senegal and Nigeria has had a refresh with nearly 300,000 more kilometres of imagery now helping people virtually explore and navigate neighbourhoods. We’re also extending the service to Rwanda, meaning that Street View is now available in 11 African countries.

In addition to expanding the AI Accra Research Centre earlier this year, theOpen Buildings Project, which mapped buildings across the African continent using machine learning and satellite imagery, is expanding to South and Southeast Asia and is a great example of the AI centre creating solutions for Africa that are useful across the world.

Delivering on our promise

We remain committed to working with our partners in building for Africa together, and helping to unlock the benefits of the digital economy for more people by providing useful products, programmes and investments. We’re doing this by partnering with African organisations, businesses and entrepreneurs. It’s the talent and drive of the individuals in the countries, communities and businesses of Africa that will power Africa’s economic growth.

Source: Translate

Building language models, one story at a time

One-third of the world's languages are spoken in Africa, but less than 1% of African languages are represented online. This is significant because the language you speak, write or sign shapes your online experience. Language is the cornerstone of your identity, the connection to your past and the key to your future. When we can’t experience the internet in our language, it limits what we can learn, what jobs we can have, what stories we can access, and so much more.

In my home country Mali, eighty percent of the population speaks Bambara as its first or second language. It is also spoken in Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Liberia and Guinea — making it one of West Africa's most widely spoken languages. But, if Bambara is your primary language, it can be difficult to have an immersive internet experience. That's why I've set out to make the internet more accessible to Bambara speakers, remove the language barrier, and bring this primarily spoken language online for everyone.

To achieve this goal, a language model for Bambara needs to be built. Language models require lots of data, which typically means having hours of transcribed recordings where humans are speaking the language so that computers can learn the language through a process called Natural Language Processing. Unfortunately, Bambara lacks readily available data to train. Researchers call this being “low-resourced.” My team at Robots Mali has been trying to solve this challenge for years as part of a collaborative project called Bayɛlɛmabaga. Through collaboration with the Google Research team in Accra, we're closer to accomplishing our goals of building more resources (written and bilingual texts) for Bambara.

To overcome the challenge of being “low-resourced," we teamed up with those who hold the culture's knowledge, rich history and teachings. Malian Griots are the real keepers of the Bambara collective memory, passing their knowledge only through oral storytelling. So, we gathered more than thirty griots to record them narrating generational stories. We transcribed and translated each tale to preserve the knowledge for future generations. While griots are traditionally older men, for this project, we worked to identify a diverse group of griots based on age, gender and background to build a representative group.

Using these recordings we've been able to build a model for understanding Bambara speech and facilitating easy translation to other languages, known as an Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) model. As a result, we are making the world's information more accessible to millions of Bambara speakers and releasing our findings for the research community and everyone to benefit. Our work has allowed us to uplift traditional practices while building a new future for Bambara speakers. We’re in contact with the National Museum of Mali to donate all of the beautiful stories that the griots have narrated. The rich history and teachings from the griots will be available to the local community and public. Furthermore, the project is selected to be showcased at The Deep Learning Indaba 2022 next week, the largest machine learning conference in Africa.

Most importantly, we identified oral literature as a viable resource for languages. Many languages are underrepresented online, and this project represents a big step towards bringing more of them online. Of course, there's still a lot of work to do. But, by introducing this work to the community, researchers have new tools to keep breaking down the online language barrier.

How tech can support transformational growth in Africa

This week, I was privileged to be in Kigali, Rwanda for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (‘CHOGM’) - a forum that brings together government, business leaders and NGOs from around the world to discuss how to improve the lives of the over 2.5 billion people living in the 54 independent countries that make up the Commonwealth.

Africa is facing multiple challenges. While Covid was first and foremost a health crisis, the economic impact continues to be severe for parts of the continent. The war in Ukraine has added further pressure on supply chains and food security. And Africa’s rapid population growth - 60% of the population will be under 24 by 2025 - creates a further pressing need to generate economic opportunity and ensure people and families can earn a living.

Despite the challenges ahead, the mood at CHOGM was optimistic, focusing on the collaboration and solutions that can help Africa’s economic recovery. For me, harnessing technology is key to that.

I grew up in Zimbabwe, then a Commonwealth country, and discovered the possibilities of the world of programming as a highschooler. Since then I’ve always been fascinated by the role technology can play in creating opportunities and helping to solve large-scale societal problems. My position at Google allows me to focus on how technology can benefit society, and I feel fortunate that it’s taken me back to Africa after just five months in the role.

Google first bet on Africa with the investment in Seacom cable in about 2005: I remember hearing about it from my friends at Google at the time. Two years later, Google opened offices on the continent, and has been a partner in Africa’s economic growth and digital transformation ever since - working with local governments, policymakers, educators and entrepreneurs. Our mission in Africa is to unlock the benefits of the digital economy to everyone - providing helpful products, programmes and investments.

Africa’s internet economy has the potential to grow to $180 billion by 2025 - 5.2% of the continent’s GDP - bringing prosperity, opportunity and growth. African governments and businesses must turn that opportunity into a reality: integrating technology into the economy, ensuring no one is left behind, and emerging stronger from the current challenges.

Ensuring affordable internet access

Most crucial to this is affordable internet access - a precondition for digital transformation, but still a barrier today. Across Africa, only 18% of households have an internet connection, and data costs remain a major obstacle. By actively promoting infrastructure investments, including in rural areas, Governments can support people to get online and harness the economic growth and benefits that will come with that.

Google is already working in partnership with African governments to do this. We’ve enabled over 100 million Africans to access the internet for the first time through our affordable Android devices, and plan to invest $1 billion over the next 5 years in projects that will help enable Africa’s digital transformation, including our state-of-the-art Equiano subsea cable.

The cable, which lands in Namibia in the next few weeks, will provide twenty times more network capacity by connecting Africa with Europe. It will run through South Africa, Namibia, Togo, Nigeria and St Helena, enabling internet speeds up to five times faster and lowering connectivity costs by up to 21%, in turn supporting growth and jobs.

Investing in people

Those accessing the internet need to be able to use it and transform their lives leveraging it. Working with tech companies and NGOs to foster digital skills developments, governments can ensure people can participate fully online.

Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, made a commitment in 2017 to train 10 million Africans in digital skills. To date, Google has trained more than 6 million people across Africa through Grow with Google in partnership with local governments, and given $20 million to non-profits helping Africans develop their digital skills. Moreover, Google has committed to certifying 100,000 developers - and so far has certified more than 80,000. Last year, a Google study showed the developer ecosystem in Africa is growing. There are nearly 716,000 professional developers across Africa - of which 21% are women; numbers we hope to contribute to.

Investing in startups

Alongside digital skills, governments need to encourage entrepreneurs and startups - a crucial part of Africa’s economic growth and jobs creation. There has never been a shortage of entrepreneurs in Africa - what is needed are the tools, including technology, and financing to enable them.

Last year, we announced an Africa Investment Fund to support startup growth across Africa. Through the Fund, we invest $50 million in startups like SafeBoda and Carry1st, and provide Google’s people, products and networks to help them build meaningful products for their communities. This is on top of our existing work on the Startups Accelerator Africa, which has provided more than 80 African startups with equity-free finance, working space and expert advisors over the last three years. We also launched a Black Founders Fund in 2021, supporting Black African Founders like Shecluded, a digital financial growth resource and service startup for women.

Using technological innovation to solve systemic challenges

Advances in technology are increasingly enabling solutions to development challenges, and with 300 million more people coming online in Africa over the next five years, the possibilities are endless. Digital finance, for example, can be used to address the barriers preventing nearly a billion African women from banking - while advances in AI have made it possible for Google to Translate more languages, including Luganda - spoken by 20 million people here in Rwanda and in neighboring Uganda.

Technology offers Africa a tremendous opportunity for growth, prosperity and opportunity. I’m hopeful that working in partnership, we can continue to make an impact and build on Africa’s digital revolution.

Renewing our commitment to Brazil

New technology advancements during the pandemic have reshaped the way we connect, work and run businesses around the world. Today, we gathered Googlers, journalists, business leaders, civil society representatives and public figures for our Google for Brazil event in São Paulo to demonstrate how we’ll contribute to Brazil’s continued digital transformation.

The event happened on the heels of the IX Summit of the Americas, where our CEO Sundar Pichai announced a five-year, $1.2 billion commitment to Latin America. Here’s how that will unfold in Brazil:

Reinforcing Brazil as an innovation hub

In January, we announced our goal to increase our engineering workforce in the country. At today’s event, we shared our plans to open a new multidisciplinary engineering center in São Paulo. Located on the São Paulo University campus, the new center will be part of the IPT Open Experience, a program created by the Technological Research Institute (IPT) of the State of São Paulo to promote innovation.

A 3D rendering of an office building with three floors, a large staircase and various outdoor spaces

A 3D render of the new multidisciplinary engineering center in São Paulo

The Google São Paulo Engineering Center, which should be complete at the end of 2024, will accommodate up to 400 Googlers from various technical areas. Initially, this new hub will host Google engineers working on areas like privacy, security and safety. They will join teams focused on delivering simple user protection and controls to help people stay safe online.

This important work happens both inside and outside of Google. So in partnership with our Google Safety Engineering Center (GSEC), we're launching a dedicated outreach program for content responsibility in Brazil — engaging with tech experts, educators, regulators and key opinion formers to discuss our approach to content responsibility and online safety, and provide more transparency into our work.

Using technology in service of recovery

Being online is essential for any business to grow, and even more so to recover from the pandemic. According to our most recent Economic Impact Report from consulting firm AlphaBeta, thousands of businesses, nonprofits, publishers, creators and developers relied on Google Search, Google Ads, Google AdSense, Google Play and YouTube to generate US$19.4 billion in economic impact in Brazil in 2021.

When it comes to selling products or services in physical stores, it's important for businesses to keep their online information up to date. We’re continuing to experiment with Duplex, our AI technology for natural voice conversations, to call Brazilian businesses and update their hours in their business profile on Maps. All calls are conducted respecting local privacy laws.

Another way to help people in times of recovery is to connect them with the information they need. According to the latest report by research network Rede Penssan, hunger affects more than 33 million Brazilians today. So we partnered with Ação Cidadania to make it easier for Brazilians to find reliable information about soup kitchens and food banks on Search and Maps, with 1,000 currently pinned across the country.

Brazilians can now find soup kitchens and food banks on Search and Maps

Supporting digital inclusion

Since 2017, we’ve invested over 1.6 billion reais to strengthen our technical infrastructure in Brazil, including our subsea cables and cloud region in São Paulo. All these projects aim to improve the quality of digital services for Brazilians and support the growth of our Cloud business. And as our employee base grows, our local Cloud team will move to a new office in São Paulo city in 2023.

To help people and entrepreneurs make the most of this infrastructure, we need to equip them with knowledge and skills. This is especially important for job seekers, as Brazil currently has 11.9 million unemployed people. Today, we announced a commitment to provide 500,000 Google Career Certificate scholarships over the next four years. This year, we’ll offer 30,000 of them in partnership with Centro de Integração Empresa-Escola (CIEE), helping Brazilians get access to jobs in high-growth fields like data analysis and UX design. We’ve also expanded Capacita+, our educational content hub for cloud computing.

A video of Patricia Alves talking about her professional journey

This builds on the work Google.org and the InterAmerican Development Bank have been supporting since 2019 with JA Brazil to bring Google Career Certificates to over 2,000 young Brazilians across the country. Additionally, we recently renewed our commitment with Instituto Rede Mulher Empreendedora (RME) through a new $2 million Google.org grant to train 200,000 women all over the country on entrepreneurship, with a focus on Northern Brazil. This complements our new Google for Startups scholarship program in partnership with Instituto Vamo Que Vamo to train 200 young Black people, mostly women, in software development.

Promoting a more sustainable planet

Each day, more people ask themselves what they can do to help protect our planet from environmental threats like climate change. Many of these questions start in Google Search. So in partnership with the United Nations, we’ve released an information panel that appears above results for climate change-related queries. In addition to sharing basic facts about the topic, the panel also offers tips for living a more sustainable life.

As a technology company, we can also help others use digital solutions to increase the scale and impact of their work. Through a $500,000 Google.org commitment ($250,000 in cash grants and $250,000 in Ad Grants), we’ll support The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to develop solutions to protect biodiversity in the Amazon rainforest.

Reaffirming our mission

Our Google for Brazil event was a special moment to demonstrate our long-term commitment to the country and celebrate Brazil's unique contributions to the world. In fact, to cap off the day, we revealed a new Google Arts & Culture collection dedicated to Gilberto Gil, one of Brazil's best-known musicians. It's the platform’s first large retrospective dedicated to a living artist, unpacking Gil’s life, career and influences on Brazilian and global culture on the month of his 80th birthday.

Through all of these initiatives, we are reaffirming our mission to help Brazilians use technology to build a more inclusive, innovative, sustainable, democratic and equitable future.

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 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.


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