India could lead world in creating open and connected stacks

India connected stacks
Google CEO Sundar Pichai. REUTERS/Jim Young

Sundar Pichai, the chief operating officer Alphabet and Google, said that India could be “a shining example” for creating open and connected stacks, and the company will be a constructive partner to the Indian government.

India already working with stacks

“I think India can be a shining example. Look at what India has accomplished with the UPI, Aadhaar and the payments stack, and you will see the value of having an open, connected stack which works. And that is what the internet is. Having responsible regulation which preserves all of this are some of the core elements,” Pichai told the Economic Times in an interview during his recent visit to India.

“India will stand to benefit a lot as it will be a successful exporter in this digital economy. So, I think it’s a balance, and that’s what I see in a lot of the proposals (by the Indian government). We will be a constructive partner,” he added.

Google is currently working with Reliance Jio, Airtel and a number of startups to bring affordable internet access to millions of Indias. “Improving 5G connectivity has been a big part of the focus of the digitisation fund,” Pichai said.

The company had previously invested in Jio and Airtel through its digitisation fund. It is now focused on startups and will further make investments through its fund.

“I think AI offers an opportunity for many more. We want to make sure we are using the India Digitisation Fund to contribute there with a focus on sectors like agriculture and healthcare,” he said.

Google concerns

Google was recently penalised by the country’s Competition Commission of India twice for abusing its market dominance with Android and its Play Store billing system. Pichai, however, expressed concerns over the regulations and CCI’s orders.

“I am definitely concerned by some of the aspects of the ruling. I think it can really set back user privacy and security. It’s important to make sure that we work hard to protect users through it all. We will very respectfully engage.  There is a legal process as well, and our teams are evaluating the next steps. It is important that we are able to continue to provide Android in a way that works for India well. I will be open to feedback as well and make sure we are working through it,” he said.

Pichai said that Google invests a lot in Android, which is used by many OEMs (original equipment manufacturers). “It has powered this digital revolution, including bringing access to hundreds of millions of users. Developers have used it to scale. So, I think it is functioning well.”

Google, he said, is investing a lot in the metaverse, adding that computing will continue to evolve.

“We have been thinking about it (metaverse and augmented reality) for a while. You already see us build the next-generation augmented reality (AR) experiences into our services, be it multi-search Google lens or maps with an immersive view. These are all AR experiences, taking into account the real world. Obviously, down the line, we will have computing form factors which will evolve beyond phones. That vision of AR we are excited about. We think about it as a platform like we have done with mobile,” he added.

India drafting lots of tech regulation

India is currently drafting a lot of tech regulations, such as the Telecom Bill, new Data Bill and the overall revision of the IT Act. Pichai, while commenting on these steps, said that given the scale and role that technology plays in society, governments, including in India, have the right to ensure citizens’ security and privacy.

“I think it makes sense. We see this around the world. It’s important for India to think this through. We want to be responsible and constructive partners. We have been here a long time and are committed to India for the very long term. It’s important to me that we are a responsible local company in the context of helping India through its Digital India vision,” he added.

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