Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai announced Google for India Digitization Fund. Through this fund, Google will invest $10 billion (approximately ₹75,000 crores in Indian currency) into India for the upcoming 5-7 years. Google will do so through “a mix of equity investments, partnerships, and operational, infrastructure, and ecosystem investments.“
The investments will boost up the progress of Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s vision of Digital India. “The investment is a reflection of our confidence in the future of India and its digital economy,” added the Indian-born CEO of the tech giant.
The investments will focus on four prime sectors which are significant in India’s Digitization:
- With low-cost smartphones combined with a cost-effective data plan (cheapest data rate in the world) and world-class telecom infrastructure, the country has made an enormous advancement in getting a billion citizens online. And thus, it has eventually paved the route for many new undiscovered opportunities. Hence, Google’s first key focus is to “enable affordable access and information for every Indian in their own language, whether it’s Hindi, Tamil, or any other.“
- The second major sector is “building new products and services that are deeply relevant to India’s unique needs.” The CEO admits that building products for India first has helped Google to understand the product and make it better for users worldwide. India has made Google understand how technology can be used to impact the lives of common masses positively. The AI-empowered reading tutor app Bolo (now known as Read Along) is a perfect example of a technology-built application specifically for Indian users. It received so much positive response that Google rolled it out to the rest of the world. Now children in 180 countries can learn to read in nine languages, with more to come.
- Only one-third of small businesses in India had an online presence and access to digital tools just four years ago. Today, 26 million SMBs are now discoverable on Google Search and Maps, driving connections with more than 150 million users every month. Moreover, small merchants across the country are now well-equipped to accept digital payments. And now, the global pandemic has supercharged the adoption of digital tools. Digital payments, for example, have enabled families across India to access goods and services during lockdowns. So, the third major area is “empowering businesses as they continue or embark on their digital transformation.“
- The fourth major area is “leveraging technology and AI for social good, in areas like health, education, and agriculture.” The program like Internet Saathi focused on growing awareness of the Internet in rural areas in India. The program has helped more than 30 million women across the rural areas in India to obtain digital skills to enhance their lives and their communities. Another example is the AI-enabled flood forecasting system developed by Google, which was designed to keep people safe during India’s monsoon season. It’ll also help hundreds of millions of people affected by floods each year around the world.
The investments will be extremely efficient to revive the pandemic hit economy and take India a step ahead towards PM Modi’s vision of Digital India. However, the journey is a long way to go.