Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai on Monday announced a Google for India Digitisation Fund through which the company will invest Rs 75,000 crore, or approximately $10 billion, over the next five to seven years to drive digital transformation in the country.
“We’ll do this through a mix of equity investments, partnership investments, and operational, infrastructure and ecosystem investments. This is a reflection of our confidence in the future of India and its digital economy,” Pichai said during the Google for India virtual conference.
The fund will focus on four areas that are important to India’s digitisation.
These include enabling affordable access to the internet and to information for every Indian in their own language and building new products and services that are deeply relevant to India’s unique needs including consumer tech, education, health and agriculture.
The Google for India Digitisation Fund will also focus on empowering businesses especially small and medium businesses as they continue or embark on their digital transformation.
Another area of focus will be leveraging technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI) for social good, including digital literacy, outbreak predictions, and support for rural economies, Pichai said.
Giving a special address at the event, India’s Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad expressed hope that with this new fund, Google will also focus on promoting the country’s startups further.
“There is immense scope for Google to deploy artificial intelligence and undertake new initiatives in the field of agriculture, weather prediction, healthcare in the wake of Covid-19 challenges and most importantly in digital education,” Prasad said.
“Today, India’s app economy is growing very powerfully, but we must not just download apps. It is important also to upload apps from India,” the IT minister noted.
Google also announced new initiatives as part of its ongoing efforts towards the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Now more than ever, to survive and grow, every Indian business must be a digital business. And we are investing in helping Indian businesses go digital and helping Indian workers learn, grow and find better jobs,” said Caesar Sengupta, GM & VP of Payments and Next Billion Users, Google.
He announced a new initiative with Prasar Bharati, launching an edutainment series on Doordarshan on how small businesses can adopt digital tools and adapt to the current situation, using examples of real life Indian businesses.
Talking about the “Spot Platform” on Google Pay, he shared that the Google Pay Nearby Stores Spot which was introduced in March this year to improve offline merchant discoverability and to help people find shops near them to see what essential food items are in stock, has been used by more than two million users.
To support people who are looking for work, he shared that the Job Spot on Google Pay, now allows for remote interviews and remote work listings so that people who are unemployed can secure employment and income more quickly during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Google also announced a partnership with CBSE to train over one million teachers in 22,000 schools across India by the end of 2020, to deliver blended learning that combines the classroom approach with online learning, using free tools like G Suite for Education, Google Classroom, YouTube and more.
To support underserved low-income communities, Sapna Chadha, Senior Country Marketing Director, Southeast Asia & India, also announced a new Google.org grant of $1 million to Kaivalya Education Foundation (KEF) as part of the Global Distance Learning Fund.
Using these funds, the KEF will work with the Central Square Foundation and TeacherApp to train 700,000 teachers to deliver virtual education for students so that they can continue learning at home over mass media such as TV and radio, wherever smartphones or internet access are not available.
“Google’s efforts to bring technology and thereby, knowledge and learning to students in every part of the country is commendable,” Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’, Union Human Resources Development Minister, said while speaking at the event.
“The Internet has emerged as a lifeline during the pandemic, which needs to be strengthened and we welcome Google’s initiatives like free access to learning resources, as well as their collaboration with CBSE to train 1 million teachers on tech-enabled education,” he said.
At the event, Google also shared updates on the work it has been doing since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak in India.
Google said it has seen over two billion searches on Covid, across different languages on Google platforms in the last two months.
The Google CEO on Monday also interacted with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a wide range of subjects, particularly leveraging the power of technology to transform the lives of India’s farmers, youngsters and entrepreneurs.
In the virtual meeting with Pichai, the Prime Minister also discussed the new work culture that is emerging during the Covid-19 crisis.
“This morning, (I) had an extremely fruitful interaction with Sundar Pichai. We spoke on a wide range of subjects, particularly leveraging the power of technology to transform the lives of India’s farmers, youngsters and entrepreneurs,” Modi said in a series of tweets.