Google pilots digital assistant-enabled vaccine booking; partners SIDBI for financing micro-enterprises
Google on Thursday made a slew of announcements, including the rollout of Google Assistant-enabled vaccine booking and partnership with SIDBI for Rs 110 crore financing for micro-enterprises, as part of its efforts to drive digital inclusion in the country.
Speaking at the seventh edition of Google for India, Google India Country Head and Vice President Sanjay Gupta said these announcements underline the company's focus on innovations that will help new internet users in India get easier access to information in Indian languages, create more natural ways for local language speakers to interact with the internet, and support to India's small businesses and youth.
Gupta noted that last year, Google had launched the USD 10 billion Google for India Digitisation Fund and these new announcements will ''bridge more gaps and further broaden the inclusive base of India's digital economy so that the advantages of this crucial transformation are accessible to everyone".
Minister of State for IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar said the government's priority is to connect the 1.2 billion citizens of the country and to ''deliver an open, safe and trusted and accountable internet to all those Indians who are online''.
''We will, in addition, deliver global standards cyber laws and a framework or legislation and jurisprudence to enable both the consumer and for investors making investments in our digital economy,'' he said, adding that one of the elements of its plan is to increase digital adoption across the country and make that a vehicle of inclusion.
''We also believe that to have a trillion-dollar economy it is important to focus on skilling and talent development and the entire ecosystem of human resourcing and capabilities that India needs to be a significant digital economy player in the world. We are making a conscious effort to involve all stakeholders in policymaking,'' he noted.
Outlining its new initiatives, Google said it has partnered with the Central Pollution Control Board to bring the latest Air Quality Information, and Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) to launch weather alerts for extreme climatic conditions, both of which are now accessible on Google Search.
Searching for "Air quality near me", or "Air quality in Noida" will show real-time AQI information from the nearest station.
Google is also piloting its first-ever Google Assistant-enabled, end-to-end vaccine booking flow in India that will guide users through the process of booking a vaccination appointment on the COWIN website with voice guidance in eight Indian languages at each step. Google has worked closely with COWIN to enable this integration, where even a relatively new internet user will now be able to easily book a vaccine appointment. This feature will be available in Chrome on Android and will begin rolling out in early 2022.
The number of Indians using voice queries daily is nearly two times the global average, and one-third of Google Assistant users in India are communicating with it in local languages - which indicates the growing adoption of voice features for accessing the internet.
Google is also launching a new feature in Search that will give users an option to access web pages from other languages and view them in their preferred local language. This stems from a key challenge with local language queries and the lack of adequate local language content available on a topic to deliver high-quality results.
Now, when searching in a local language, if Google is not able to locate websites that have information in that language, it will find pages that may be in other languages and translate them into the language of the user's query. The US-based company is also launching -- first in India -- a feature that will enable people to hear search results out loud, making it easier for users who prefer consuming information by listening. The feature is already available on the new JioNext phone, and will now be expanded for other users. Aimed at expanding voice-driven experiences in local languages, this feature will be available in Hinglish and five Indian languages, including Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Telugu, and Tamil, and will be extended to other Google Search experiences in the future.
Google has also joined hands with the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) to launch a USD 15 million (Rs 110 crore) financial assistance programme, enabling Indian micro-enterprises to avail loans of Rs 25 lakh to Rs 1 crore at competitive interest rates. The programme - which will prioritise women-owned businesses and those engaged in the production of equipment for fighting the pandemic - aims to help Indian micro-enterprises make investments in their business operations, such as purchasing new machinery and equipment, production infrastructure, and working capital requirements. ''This programme brings a corpus of Rs 110 crore to small businesses and crisis response related to COVID-19 to reinvigorate the MSME sector in India. This also marks SIDBI's launch of a paperless journey to its customers from onboarding to the disbursal stage,'' Sivasubramanian Ramann, Chairman and Managing Director of SIDBI, said.
Google has also announced the launch of one lakh scholarships for Google Career Certificates collaborating with Nasscom Foundation, Tata STRIVE and SafeEducate, which will help in identifying underserved learners across the country for a free enrolment to a Google Career Certificate of their choice. The certificates are available via Coursera for IT support, IT automation, project management, data analytics and UX Design, and the initiative is aimed at expanding the base of digitally-trained talent that is ready for job opportunities in high growth areas.
Google has also joined hands with an initial set of companies that recognise the certificates.
Along with Google India, Accenture in India, Tech Mahindra, Wipro, Genpact, Times Internet, and Better.com will recognise the certificates, and more will be added to the employer pool. Google Pay has also announced an industry-first and a first for Google globally, the additional option of selecting Hinglish as a preferred language on Google Pay.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)