After committing $10 billion to India under its digitisation fund, Google is now making efforts to further localize its services with the help of fresh investments in technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence to bring more Indians online and use its services.
The company is also enabling India’s startup ecosystem to develop new solutions based on its technological advances.
Google on Thursday launched a range of new Indian language-specific features across its various products, as more non-English speakers come online in the country. India has over 600 million internet users in India, but only a fraction of this population is fluent in the English language.
Sanjay Gupta, Country Head and VP, Google India said that the company had adopted a three-point strategy to drive internet adoption with its new initiatives.
“The first is investing in machine learning and artificial intelligence efforts to become better in language understanding at our research centre in India and make these technological advances we have made, accessible to everyone across the ecosystem. Next is to invest and deeply partner with innovative local startups who are building solutions to cater to the needs of Indians in local languages,” he said at the L10n India virtual event.
The executive said that the country had added over 100 million new Internet users from rural India in just the last two years.
“Every new user coming online is an Indian language user, and we are committed to playing a part..the addition of these features is part of Google’s effort to solve challenges around consumption, communication and creation of content in local Indian languages on the internet,” he said.
Under its three-point strategy, Google’s India research team has now developed a new machine learning model, Multilingual Representations for Indian Languages or MuRIL, specifically aimed at scaling across Indian languages. It also supports transliterated text such as when writing Hindi using Roman script, which was something missing from previous models of its kind.
The search giant claimed that MuRIL, which currently supports 16 Indian languages as well as English, will be the next big evolution for Indian language understanding, forming a better foundation for researchers, students, startups, and anyone else interested in building Indian language technologies.
“MuRIL has the highest coverage for Indian languages among any other publicly available model of its kind,” Google said.
Google is also making it easier for Indian users to toggle their search results between English and four new Indian languages: Tamil, Telugu, Bangla and Marathi. It introduced this ability first for the Hindi language in 2016.
“…since the launch of this Hindi chip and other language features, there has been more than a 10X increase in Hindi queries in India,” the search giant said.
Google will also start showing relevant content in Indian languages even if the local language query is in English, for bilingual consumers. The feature is expected to roll out over the next month in five Indian languages including Hindi, Bangla, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu.
The US-based company has also upgraded its Maps service, which now supports nine Indian languages, allowing Indian customers to search for places, get directions and navigation, and interact with the Map in their preferred local language.
The company has also introduced its Google Lens’s Homework help service in Hindi, especially targeted at Indian students. It said that India is the biggest market for Google Lens. over 3 billion words were translated in India with Lens in 2020.
“…Internet in India is the sum of the work of millions of developers, content creators, news media and online businesses, and it is only when this effort is undertaken at scale by the entire ecosystem, that we will help fulfil the truly meaningful promise of the billionth Indian coming online,” Gupta said.
Google is separately in talks with Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel to pilot high-speed internet using light beams under the project Taara to bring connectivity to remote areas of the country where deployment of optic fiber and wireless network is challenging.
Google recently picked up 7.73% stake in Jio Platforms for $4.5 billion and is jointly developing affordable 4G and 5G smartphones which Jio will launch starting next year.