Google CEO Sundar Pichai with one of the tech giant's quantum computers. Photo: AFP/Ho/Google

Google has decided to invest US$10 billion in India’s digital economy over a period of 5 to 7 years.

Making the announcement on a live-stream event, Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai said: “Today, I’m excited to announce the Google for India Digitization Fund. Through this effort, we will invest approximately $10 billion into India over the next 5 to 7 years.

“We’ll do this through a mix of equity investments, partnerships and operational infrastructure and ecosystem investments. This is a reflection of our confidence in the future of India and its digital economy.”

The 48-year-old India-born CEO said the investment would firstly focus on enabling affordable access and information to every Indian, irrespective of the language. Secondly, India’s unique needs to be met by products and services.

The huge investment will also help local businesses to move towards digital transformation. Also, it will work towards using artificial intelligence in areas such as health and education, etc.

He said India’s digital journey was far from complete and lauded the country’s digitization efforts to make the internet accessible to a vast section of its population through cheap smartphones, affordable data and an extensive telecom network.

“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,” Pichai added.

The Google CEO shared the success of programs like Internet Saathi and claimed it has helped more than 30 million women across India learn digital skills and incorporate them into their lives and communities.

He mentioned the digitization of small businesses in India as “one of the most exciting success stories.” He said that more than 26 million small and medium-sized businesses in India are now discoverable on Google’s products Search and Maps.

The Google CEO also recounted the success of online payment platform Google Pay and said it was now being replicated in other countries. After being launched in September 2017, this digital platform has become the leading player in the country, largely driven by the steep growth in Unified Payments Interface-based payments.

It allows bank account holders to send or receive money electronically without entering their net banking user ID or password. It is an inter-bank transfer system conducted in real-time. And, as it is ‘open’ technology, companies can build applications that help users directly manage transfers from their accounts at banks.

This platform is used by customers to buy train tickets, pay bills and even to purchase lunchtime meals from street vendors. In India, local stores accept digital payments via phone applications.

India has been a key overseas market for Google, where a range of its products and services including Search, YouTube and Android have made inroads with much of the entire online population.

Gaining a foothold in India has also become more crucial for American technology giants that have been largely shut out from doing business in China. Earlier this month, Google said it had abandoned plans to offer a new cloud service in China.

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