India currently has around 350 million internet users, and the number is expected to grow to 600 million by the end of this decade. However, if Google has its way, the country may well have a billion of its citizens online in the near future. This was revealed at an event in Mumbai by Google’s Vice President for South East Asia and India, Mr. Rajan Anandan, who said that the company is looking at ways to make internet access more affordable for the poorer sections of society who’re yet to get a taste of the capabilities of the world wide web and what it can do in terms of presenting opportunities to everyday citizens.
The company has already been working with the federal government to make low-cost internet access a reality for millions of commuters with its free Wi-Fi project that provides high-speed internet via Wi-Fi at dozens of railway stations across the country. The U.S. tech giant had launched the initiative earlier this year in association with a public sector enterprise called RailTel, and claims to have as many as 27 million daily active users at the 27 stations the service is currently available. The company says it has plans to eventually launch the initiative in at least 100 railway stations across the country.
Google has also been working to empower women in India by getting at least 300,000 of them online within the next three years. In a deeply patriarchal society where women are still struggling to assert themselves and get a fair and equal treatment from their male counterparts in almost every sphere of life, Google will be hoping that its work with underprivileged women will earn it some much needed positive press after the frequent spats with various government agencies over censorship and other related issues.
To make its products and services accessible to a larger cross-section of society, Mr. Anandan said that Google’s upcoming initiatives will be launched in multiple languages in the country, much like its search services that are available in a number of local and regional languages including Hindi, Bangla and Punjabi; the three largest languages in the Indian subcontinent. The company is also believed to be looking at the feasibility of launching its much talked-about Project Loon in the country at some stage going forward.