You’re probably familiar with the frustrations of a mobile app that won’t load quickly while you’re driving down a highway, or a phone that loses connection when your train dips too far underground. But while we’re busy taking our iPhones and unlimited data for granted, a lot of the world is still struggling to get online.
Google has increasingly recognized that its Southeast Asian market is poles apart from its Western one — there, the internet is still a novelty. Today, the company announced that it is setting up a new engineering team in Singapore to zero in on problems unique to the region. This latest addition joins the engineering hubs in Mountain View in the United States, Sydney in Australia, and Hyderabad in India.
The gap between the modern and developed world is starkly illustrated by Singapore and its neighbors. The city-state of Singapore is as modern as it gets — a hyper-connected, business-driven metropolis. But its surrounding region is plagued with weaknesses; from cheap devices to low speed internet to language barriers, the internet is not friendly to the people of nearby Indonesia, Philippines, and India.
"To get closer to the next billion users coming online."
By setting up shop in Singapore, Google wants "to get closer to the next billion users coming online and to develop products that will work for them," according to Caesar Sengupta, VP of the Next Billion Users Team at the company. Google has already increased accessibility, such as providing free high-speed Wi-Fi in India and enabling Google Maps and YouTube for offline use, but now it has to ensure ease of usage. Earlier this week, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, reached a deal with the Indonesian and Sri Lankan governments to go forward with Project Loon.
By leveraging on the talent of the region, Google will aim to address issues that hit closest to home. In fact it recently acquired an engineering startup, Pie.co, to kickstart its presence in Singapore. The tech giant is looking to train up to 100,000 Indonesian developers to focus especially on native language content development. To do so, they will work with local universities, conduct mentor-led study groups, and also translate Google’s own free Udacity courses into Bahasa.