Indian languages got a massive push from Google with the search giant offering a new product that will help vernacular newspaper and magazine digitalise and go online really fast and with minimum resources. The Navalekha Project was announced as part of the Google For India event where the Mountain View tech major for which India is its second largest market announced new features and services for this market. The other major announcement was the rebranding of Google’s Tez payment app as Google Pay with deeper integration with online and offline retailers as well as access for instant loans via the Bhim UPI.
Shashidhar Thakur, Google’s vice-president for Search Engineering, said that 50 per cent more Indians are using mobile search every day, Indian languages content is just one per cent of what is available in English. He said the effort from Google will be in terms of filling this content gap, serving the content faster and allowing for more learning in these languages.
Thakur told indianexpress.com that with typing in regional languages still though, they see a lot of people use not English, but tying vernacular in Roman script. “So one of the big observations from looking at how Indians use that language is understanding of essential regional language queries,” he said.
While the Navalekha Project will help fill the content gap by bringing the thousands of offline products online by quickly reading PDF pages and pulling out error-free text, while it will become easier to access this content as Google makes its feed multilingual. On enabling more learning for this audience, Google announced that it will offer read-out options or definitions, which are one in every 35 searches coming out of India. Also, for a lot of regional web pages there will be the option to listen to the content and not just read it.
Caesar Sengupta, vice-president of Google’s Next Billion Users initiative and Payments, said Tez has so far facilitated $30 billion worth of transaction value in a year with 750 millions transactions from its monthly user base of 22 million. He said while the Tez app is rebranded as Google Pay a lot of global features will become available in India and features developed here rolled out to other markets. He said 1.2 million small businesses are already using Tez which offers them searchability and visibility on maps. “The Bhim UPI had 17 million users before Tez and since the integration there has been 14x growth for the platform,” he said, adding how Google is trying to get 15,000 offline retail stores on board before the Indian holiday season.
“We are not a bank, but work very closely with the banking partners. When payments started working very well some of the banks came and said ‘we have the capability to offer loans to many more people, many more customers, and we’d love to work with you to figure out how to get them to more users,” Sengupta explained Google Pay’s entry into the loan segment. Sengupta said this will enable Google Pay to become a very effective and efficient channel for driving financial inclusion. But who get’s the loan will be based purely on the data available with the bank, he clarified to indiaexpress.com.
Earlier, Rajan Anandan, Google’s VP for India and Southeast Asia, started the event by announcing a $1 million support for the Kerala floods from Google. Google Tensorflow head Anitha Vijayakumar said they were working closely with the Ministry of Water Resources to bring in early warning systems for floods. Anandan said while India now has 390 million Internet users, there has been a four-fold growth in rural users. “About 45 per cent of online uses will be women in the next three years,” he said.
There has also been a significant upgrade in the ecosystems with 70 per cent of the smartphones being shipped now offering over 2GB of RAM and 80 per cent devices offering at least 16GB storage, he said. Even as this happens, the feature phone users in India is redefining the internet by triggering a 270 per cent year on year growth in voice and pushing video fuel over 75 per cent of all mobile data consumer in India. In fact, while the average data consumption is now 8GB per user, about 95 per cent of the video consumption that drives this number is in local languages.
The other interesting announcement was in the sphere of maps, where Google Maps announced an initiative to provide Plus Code identification for a million homes in Kolkata over the next year. Also, turn by turn navigation will not be available on the lighter Google Maps Go version.
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