Smartphone availability and low data costs may make the internet more accessible to Indians
Sundar Pichai, Google's CEO, stated on Thursday that the company is continuing to work closely with partner Jio on a project to produce an affordable smartphone, adding that work on the project is underway.
Google purchased a 7.7 per cent share in Jio Platforms for Rs 33,737 crore last year. It had also signed a commercial agreement with Jio Platforms to collaborate on the development of an entry-level, low-cost smartphone.
"We are focused on building an affordable phone... we are committed to making progress on the project and we are working with them (Jio)," Pichai said in a virtual conference with select reporters from the Asia Pacific. He did not divulge other details, including possible launch date and pricing.
The availability of affordable devices, as well as low data rates, may make the internet more accessible to more individuals across the country.
Last year, Google unveiled the 'Google for India Digitisation Fund,' which included an investment in Jio Platforms. Pichai announced plans to invest Rs 75,000 crore ($10 billion) in India over the next five to seven years to assist boost the country's digital technology adoption in July of last year.
"Google is also looking at new opportunities to deploy funds from its $10 billion India Digitisation Fund (IDF), and will make some announcements later this year," Pichai said on Thursday.
Pichai stated the pandemic has highlighted the importance of technology in people's life when discussing the influence of Covid-19 on these projects.
"...We realise the importance technology plays, and be it building products like Google Meets or working to make sure all of this works well on their (telecom operators') networks and bringing more affordable access to smartphones and computing, it's just deepened our efforts there," he said.
The executive, who was born in India, also discussed some of the revelations made earlier this month at Google's flagship I/O 2021 event. The company had unveiled a raft of new features, including new privacy settings, AI tools, and the release of the first beta of Android 12, all of which will be rolled out across its devices throughout the year.
Pichai said it is still early days when it comes to the ethical use of artificial intelligence (AI) tools in technology, and that the company is approaching the matter by being transparent, sharing and publishing research, and promoting AI principles, among other things.
"Over time, we'll have to figure out responsible AI regulations, which promotes innovation but balances it with responsible oversight...We should never lose sight of the benefits AI is going to bring, just like technology has always brought tremendous benefits and work hard to address the downsides and mitigate it, I think that's a construct all of us have to do globally," he said.
Pichai added that Google intends to be a "responsible partner" and thought leader in this area.
"We are all investing in privacy-preserving, I think we all need to improve practices across the industry, and we are working to do that on the web and mobile. We need to meet user expectations," he said.
Pichai mentioned that there is premium (paid) content as well as free ad-supported material, all of which are available to users.
"...We just need to give users tools and controls, choices and newer techniques by which we preserve their privacy," he added.