India and similar developing countries in Southeast Asia and Africa are where Google expects the “Next Billion Users” to come online. Given the different environments, the company is optimizing and creating new products to suit those needs. Today, Google announced and expanded a slew of India-specific features, including Station, Google Go, Assistant, and more.
Google’s announcements this year have focused on three goals, starting at a basic level of “Making the internet work for more Indians.” Google Station is expanding from originally covering rail stations and then key areas in a city to villages, and towns. Ten million people in the state of Andhra Pradesh will gain access to high-quality internet access.
Google Station is partnering Andhra Pradesh State FiberNet Limited to cover over 12,000 villages, towns and cities in the state of Andhra Pradesh, potentially reaching 10 million people. This will provide high-quality internet access to areas that have never been connected before, from hospitals to villages.
Meanwhile, Google Go’s text-to-speech feature that reads webpages aloud through natural language processing and speech synthesis is launching today. It reflects how new users coming online prefer listening to articles over reading text. It supports 28 languages, including Hindi, Bengali, Malayalam, Marathi and Tamil.
This new functionality is related to Google’s next goal of making products more relevant to Indian users. At a basic-level, this means making more Indian-language content available to them as that currently only totals one percent of what’s available in English.
Working with Indian news publishers, Google’s project Navlekhā uses an AI tool “render any PDF containing Indian language content into editable text, making it easy for print publishers to create mobile-friendly web content.”
It also provides Indian language publishers with free web hosting with AdSense support, so they can immediately start monetizing their content. Publishers will also receive training and support, and a branded .page domain for the first three years.
In apps, the Google Feed will be able to display news stories from both English and Hindi sources, as well as determine which types of stories users prefer. Google Assistant is adding support for Marathi and seven more Indian languages in the future. Meanwhile, Google is adding voice control to India apps from third-party developers like Where Is My Train, Airtel, and Hello English.
The last goal coincides with Tez being renamed to Google Pay, with the former’s features making their way to the rest of the world. More broadly, Google plans on “Taking the best of India to the rest of the world.”
We believe that many of the innovations and features we have pioneered with Tez will work in other countries. To take Tez beyond India, we will be unifying all of Google’s payment offerings globally. As a first step, Tez will now be called Google Pay.