Companies / September 2016

Reaching The Next Billion Internet Users

As the internet continues to grow exponentially, Google is already focused on capturing the next billion users. And with a significant part of these new users likely to come from emerging markets such as Indonesia, the US giant is integrating more local products into its offering. By Shoeb Kagda

Indonesians have a special relation-ship with their smartphones. In fact many carry two smartphones just so that they can always browse the internet. It is this phenomenon that has propelled Indonesia to be the fifth largest internet market in the world.

The explosive growth in mobile connectivity has in turn fuelled the e-commerce sector, which is expected to exceed $45 billion by 2020. Such potential is exciting digital players such as Google which is rolling out a host of products designed to meet the needs of tech-savvy Indonesians.

And according to a joint research paper by Google and Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek, Indonesia’s online market is growing at 26% annually. In 2016, 2,000 start-ups were registered in the country.

“The digital economy in Indonesia is thriving,” noted Tony Keusgen, Google’s country director for Indonesia at a recent Google event. “The challenge for us is how to make Indonesia more internet-friendly and the internet more Indonesian. “

He noted that the internet and smartphone usage has allowed many small companies such as Traveloka and to thrive. Google, he said, is committed to help Indonesians make more of the worldwide web. “We want to help accelerate the digital economy.”

Just how will the US internet giant hope to achieve this goal? By making the internet more accessible, affordable and relevant to Indonesians, according to Ceaser Sengupta, vice president of product management.

“Smartphones are the great equalizer, giving millions of Indonesians access to incredible computing power for cheaper and cheaper prices,” he said. “Smartphone penetration is still growing but we at Google are always thinking about how we can speed up growth and improve the quality of the internet for everyone.”

Google is incorporating Indonesia-specific applications into its platform. For example, it recently integrated real-time TransJakarta bus data into Google Maps and is working on integration of ride-hailing services Go-Jek and Grab right into the Maps app.

Sengupta added that Google is leading the next billion users initiative and expects a significant number of these new users to come from markets such as Indonesia and India. “There are still significant challenges but we want to make a better and more inclusive internet. Access is critical. This includes affordability.”

To improve internet accessibility, Google provides fast, reliable and free WiFi access at train stations in India. It is also building more products that meet the needs of internet users in emerging economies.

Language barriers

As the internet expands across the world, the language used by internet users is also changing. According to Sengupta, 500 million users use the Google Translate app. Some 2.8 million words are translated every minute from Indonesian to English and back.

To meet the growing need, Google has created a new product called “Visual Translate” which can translate signs and symbols in 20 different languages, including Indonesian. All a user has to do is point to a sign or a word and tap ‘translate’ to get a proper translation in the chosen language. The beauty of the product is that it works offline.

Going forward, Google is working with Gadjah Mada University to create a Javanese voice for its “text to speak” project.

“Google is expanding in markets such as Indonesia and India through its products,” noted Jason Tedjasukmana, head of corporate communications for Indonesia. “We want to expand locally through product mapping on mobile devices because today its all about mobile devices.”

With four million new smartphones activated each day, internet users are fast migrating from laptops to their phones. In Indonesia, mobile users overtook desktop users in 2013. The future of the internet will be mobile-based and Google intends to be at the forefront of the revolution.