afaqs! news bureau

Google announces initiatives to drive digital inclusion in India at Google for India 2021

The event covered Google initiatives such as Google Assistant led vaccine booking and expanding voice experiences in local languages.

At the seventh edition of Google for India, Google announced a slate of new product features and partnerships in the country aimed at extending the benefits of India’s growing digital economy to more people. The announcements underline Google’s growing focus on product innovations that will help new Internet users in India get easier access to information in Indian languages, create more natural ways for local language speakers to interact with the internet, improve the Android experience, and attempt to provide support to India’s small businesses.

Speaking at the event, Sanjay Gupta, country head and vice president, Google India, said, “Across people, businesses, and institutions, the outbreak of COVID-19 has catapulted India’s adoption of digital to unprecedented levels. With the fundamental drivers of digitisation now in place, and millions of new users coming online, India’s goal of becoming a truly digital economy is within sight. Last year, we launched the 10 billion dollar Google for India Digitization Fund. We want to broaden the base of India’s digital economy so that the advantages of this crucial transformation are accessible to everyone.”

Bridging the talent gap with digital career certifications

Spotlighting the need to expand the base of digitally-trained talent that is ready for job opportunities in high growth areas, Google announced the launch of 100,000 scholarships for Google Career Certificates collaborating with NASSCOM Foundation, Tata STRIVE, and SafeEducate who will help in identifying underserved learners across the country for a free enrolment to a Google Career Certificate of their choice.

The Certificates are available via Coursera for IT Support, IT Automation, Project Management, Data Analytics and UX Design. Google has also joined hands with an initial set of companies that recognize the certificates. Along with Google India, Accenture in India, Tech Mahindra, Wipro, Genpact, Times Internet, and will recognize the certificates, and more will be added to the employer pool.

Criticality of information products to mitigate uncertain times

Speaking about the importance of core information products and community inputs that helped Google to surface information for more than 10,000 hospitals with Covid beds across the country, Prabhakar Raghavan, Senior Vice President, Google, said, “The pandemic showed us that we’re only scratching the surface of how we can make information as useful as possible. Over the last few years, we’ve strived to reduce this complexity and remove barriers to information, especially with innovations in speech recognition and language understanding. In fact, the number of Indians using voice queries daily is nearly two times the global average, and one-third of Google Assistant users in India are communicating with it in local languages for needs big and small. I’m happy to share our next milestone in this important work, with a pilot of the first-ever Google Assistant-enabled, end-to-end vaccine booking flow in India.”

Google Assistant-enabled, end-to-end vaccine booking flow

The initiative attempts to guide users through the process of booking a vaccination appointment on the COWIN website with voice guidance in English and eight Indian languages at each step. Google has worked closely with COWIN to enable this integration, where even a relatively new internet user will now be able to easily book a vaccine appointment. This feature will be available in Chrome on Android and will begin rolling out in early 2022.

Tackling the challenge of making high-quality information available to local language users, Pandu Nayak, Vice President, Search and Google Fellow, announced the launch of a new feature in Search that will give users an option to access web pages from other languages and view it in their preferred local language.

This stems from a key challenge with local language queries and the lack of adequate local language content available on a topic to deliver high quality results. Now, when searching in a local language, if Google is not able to locate websites that have information in that language, it will find high-quality content on pages that may be in other languages and translate these into the language of the user’s query.

When a user taps the translated title and snippet in search results, they can access the page with the content already translated into their language of choice, or view it in the original language. This feature aims at bridging the information gap that local language users often encounter when searching for information online.

Also launching in India – a global first – is a feature that will enable people to hear search results out loud, making it easier for users who prefer consuming information by listening. Aiming to expand voice driven experiences in local languages, this feature will be available in Hinglish and five Indian languages including Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Telugu, and Tamil, and will be extended to other Google Search experiences in the future.

Making digital payments universally relevant and inclusive; helping merchants make forays into creating a digital presence

With a goal to further simplify digital payments, Google Pay today announced an industry first and a first for Google globally, the additional option of selecting Hinglish as a preferred language on Google Pay. With this addition, users will be able to easily navigate the app in the language of their preference, with Hinglish as an option to mirror how a large section of Indians interact naturally.

Bringing further convenience to users, Google Pay also announced the upcoming launch of speech to text, which allows users to use voice as an input to add account numbers into the app to initiate a payment and an additional feature to split bills for shared expenses within a group.

Leveraging tech to mitigate the impact of climate change

Climate change is clear and present, and we are seeing the effects of it in increasingly real and personal ways. In states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala, heavy rainfall continues to have a devastating effect on people and infrastructure.

Google’s flood forecasting efforts in India have focused on delivering timely information that gives affected people the lead time to prepare and to make decisions on their safety, such as evacuating their location. Since the start of the monsoon season this year, Google has sent 110 million notifications to at least 20 million affected people in affected areas across the country.

Watch the full event below.