Google today announced a couple of new significant moves as it plans to refocus on development in southeast Asia. It will build its first engineering team dedicated to the area, in Singapore, and has promised to help train up to 100,000 developers in Indonesia within 4 years, in a bid to get more content out in the country, using its own national language(s).
Almost certainly, the big part of this renewed focus is the new engineering team in Singapore. Google notes that it faces several problems in southeast Asia. First-time Internet users in countries like Indonesia, the Philippines and India often have to deal with poor/slow Internet connections. What’s more, many have so little relevant content in their own language, it makes the experience almost redundant. By kicking off a new engineering effort, it can build solutions to these bespoke problems.
To kick-off its engineering team effort in Singapore, Google acquired local Slack-like startup Pie.co and is offering a number of programs for existing engineers and students. Students looking to become engineers are being invited to join a 12-week Australia-based internship program, while other engineers from abroad who have ties within the country are being offered an opportunity to go back to Singapore.
Why Singapore? Caesar Sengupta, Vice President of the Next Billion Users team explains it in the blog post as follows:
In many ways, Singapore feels like the best place to do this. It is hyper-connected, with some of the fastest Internet speeds in the world. And, it sits at the center of a region with half of the world’s current Internet users, and more new Internet users coming online every day than anywhere else in the world.
Through our new engineering team here, coupled with work being done by many Google teams around the world, we hope to continue advancing our mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
Adding to this engineering team in Singapore, Google has also committed to help train developers. Indonesian President Joko Widodo is visiting the company in Mountain View today, and Google has offered support in helping to train up a generation of software developers. The target is 100,000 Indonesian developers by 2020.
Google notes that its target will be reached using a three-prong approach.
First off, it will partner with universities to reach senior year computer science students, offering them a full semester curriculum focussed on creating Android apps.
Secondly, Google’s Udacity courses will be translated into Bahasa Indonesia. These courses are free and can be taken anywhere, from any device. Translating these courses in to a local language will make it easier for the country’s aspiring developers to get going with building their app ideas. Or, at least, that’s Google’s hope.
Lastly, Google plans to hold Developer Study Jams. They’ll host these intensive study groups across five cities; Bandung, Jakarta, Semarang, Surabaya and Yogyakarta.
Equipping developers with training to help them create world-class apps is just part of the equation. We’re also helping them promote their apps to reach more people and giving them an additional boost to really get their businesses off the ground. Our annual Google HackFairs bring together developers to showcase their apps, highlighting exciting Indonesia-born innovations, while programs like Launchpad equip them with skills ranging from marketing to UI/UX design and how to pitch a business idea. Through our Google Developer Groups (GDGs), we’re also providing them with a community of like-minded individuals in six Indonesian cities.
While these announcements are important, they’re not the only programs planned and launched in the southern parts of Asia. Project Loon, it’s air-based LTE network boosting solution, is likely to be used in Sri Lanka, while it has also started rolling out fast, open and free Wi-Fi networks at several Indian train stations.
In short, these are developing markets, and Google wants to get involved to help them develop faster.