In May 2018, India found a new hero – Shrinath K. A porter at Kerala’s Ernakulam Junction railway station, the story of how he managed to clear the Kerala Public Service Commission (KPSC) exam by studying using free WiFi available at the station became a symbol, not only of Shrinath’s grit and perseverance, but also the power that technology holds to herald change in a country like India.
With this video narrative, Pankaj Gupta, Director of Engineering, Google Pay, set the tone for his talk on ‘The transformative power of technology on India and next billion users’ at the recently concluded TechSparks 2018. Shrinath, Pankaj said, epitomises these next billion users in India, people who are at the bottom of the economy and do not have access to resources that the privileged, the middle class, and urban India enjoy. What they do have though is access to technology.
“In this case, the technology that brought people like Shrinath one step closer to their dreams is Google Station, which has now been installed in 400 railway stations across the country and has 800 million people using it every month. Google Station, which was developed for India, has now been rolled out in many other developing countries across the world,” explained Pankaj.
Google Station is a service from the tech giant that allows partners to roll out Wi-Fi hotspots in public places by providing them with software and advice on hardware to turn fibre connections into Wi-Fi. It was implemented in India in September 2016 and has now been launched in Mexico and Indonesia with plans to roll it out in other countries as well.
Pankaj gave an overview of how Google built products and also touched upon key features in the popular Google products designed and developed for the next billion users at its core.
These include YouTube Go, an app for offline viewing and sharing, Files Go, a storage manager that helps free up space on the phone, find files faster and share them easily offline, Datally, an app that helps users to save data, Neighbourly, an app that makes it easier for people in the same area to get reliable and relevant answers to local queries, and the two-wheeler direction feature in Google Maps.
“These products are as relevant for the world as they have been for India, because embracing technology helps to drive progress and we see millions of success stories that testify this belief. More importantly, we have seen how India inspires India and technology has been an infectious and ardent enabler.”
Pankaj highlighted that today, seven of Google’s products have more than a billion users each, even though many might be unaware that they are all Google products. This includes products like Google Maps, Search, Play, YouTube, Chrome, Android and Gmail.
“When products achieve a scale of this kind, they become platforms that help individuals to innovate and businesses to grow.” The Director of Engineering at Google Pay reiterated this statement through real-life examples of how individuals have leveraged a public platform like YouTube to grow. This included the example of a former oil rig worker from New Zealand who built a prosthetic eye for his three-year-old partially blind daughter after watching YouTube videos and a self-taught makeup artist who now has a four million subscription base.
Driving home Google’s conviction in the power of technology to drive transformation, specifically for a country like India, was a video that showcased how Indians across the country from Channapatna in Karnataka to Rajasthan, from age groups and diverse professions are powering the story of a new India using technology.
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