Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai: ‘Online has been a lifeline in Southeast Asia’

Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai: ‘Online has been a lifeline in Southeast Asia’

Speaking at Singapore Fintech Festival 2020, CEO of Alphabet Inc and its subsidiary Google Sundar Pichai highlights that “online has been a lifeline in Southeast Asia” and eight out of 10 people have revealed that “technology helped them navigate the pandemic.”

Central to Google’s core mission of organising the world’s information and making it universally accessible, Pichai continues to say that while products like Search, YouTube and Maps helped people all over the world endure the uncertainty, Covid-19 accelerated the adoption of digital tools across the board.

The Southeast Asian internet economy is now on the verge of a massive transformation, especially with the launch of Google Pay in India and the impact it has had on financial inclusion. A recent Google, Temasek and Bain & Company report showed that a staggering 40 million people in the region connected to the internet for the first time this year, four times as many as in 2019.

“These digital trends aren’t just happening in places like Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. More than half of first-time users were from outside metropolitan areas, which shows huge promise for closing the urban-rural divide,” Pichai says.

Pichai adds that while the coronavirus has sped up the use of digital tools, it has also exposed how many people remain unbanked, with the Alphabet CEO shedding light on a huge portion of African households and the “millions of women entrepreneurs who lack the same access to opportunity as their male counterparts.”

This digital divide must be closed: through expanding connectivity with Google’s subsea cable infrastructure between Western Europe and the West Coast of Africa and providing affordable devices, financial inclusion will rise.

However, while with Google Pay, small business owners can keep track of transactions, accept payments remotely and build relationships with customers, there remains a need for financial education and partnerships with non-profit organisations.

“Building a more inclusive digital economy will require the same spirit of collaboration. A place to start is digital trade in Southeast Asia alone. It's estimated that expanding business and trade through technology could add $1 trillion to overall regional GDP by 2025 and it will help entrepreneurs grow across borders, leading to more jobs, better services and new opportunities,” Pichai explains.

He concludes: “Our goal for the post-Covid world is to ensure the benefits of technology can be shared, as widely and equitably as possible. If we can do that, 2020 will be remembered not as the end of the world, but the beginning of a world that works better for everyone.”


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