Google CEO Sundar Pichai has announced during the annual ‘Google for India’ event that the company will invest approximately $10bn (£8bn) in India over the next five to seven years.
Modi is interested in digital transformation throughout the country; his ‘Digital India’ campaign, for instance, aims to improve telecommunications infrastructure and digital literacy such that all citizens can access public services electronically.
Pichai paid tribute to the country’s digital transformation, commenting that while he was a child in India he had to wait for technology to reach him, while today “a whole new generation of technologies are happening in India first”.
In a blog post, Pichai wrote: “India’s own digital journey is far from complete. There’s still more work to do in order to make the internet affordable and useful for a billion Indians, from improving voice input and computing for all of India’s languages, to inspiring and supporting a whole new generation of entrepreneurs. I’m excited to announce the Google for India Digitisation Fund. Through this effort, we will invest […] approximately $10bn into India over the next 5-7 years.”
The money will be available for investment in local tech businesses, partnerships and infrastructure spending. Funding targets will be sorted into four broad categories: language services (there are 22 official languages in the country); digitisation support for businesses; tailoring products to the specific needs of Indians, and AI for “social good” in areas such as education, health and farming. The aim of this investment is to ensure that India does not only benefit from the next wave of innovation, but leads it, Pichai said.
Pichai wrote: “This is a reflection of our confidence in the future of India and its digital economy. We will work towards enabling affordable internet access to every Indian in their own language.”
Other announcements included an expansion of Google Pay in the country and the development of basic, low-cost smartphones as a bridge between “dumbphones” and smartphones.
The Google for India event – which has run yearly since 2015 – tends to mark major announcements by the company for the subcontinent. Last year, Google announced that it would launch a new AI lab in Bengaluru, Karnataka state.
Major American tech companies, including Apple and Facebook, have been increasingly focused on the Indian market, with Apple planning to open its first Apple Store in the country next year.