From 2010 to 2015, we estimate that one billion people from emerging markets will get online for the first time. While these new web users will be unlike those from developed countries in many ways, including the fact that they’ll probably access the web for the first time from a mobile device, they’ll share with the first two billion Internet users the desire to preserve and promote their culture and grow their businesses online. On Monday we held a press event in Singapore to discuss this shifting Internet landscape and what Google is doing to support these new citizens of the web.

Nelson Mattos, Vice President of Product & Engineering for Europe and Emerging Markets, talked about efforts to make the Internet faster and cheaper to drive adoption. This includes Free Zone powered by Google, in places such as the Philippines, which provides free access to Google Search, Gmail, and Google+ on feature phones. Nelson also talked about new tools to make it easier to get more local information onto the web, including Google+ pages for businesses, and Trader, which lets SMBs post goods for sale without needing a separate website.

Lalit Katragadda, Country Head, India Product, later spoke of the need for a more visual Internet experience, like that offered by YouTube and Google+ Hangouts, and how these services will make the Internet more engaging across language and cultural barriers. He also talked about how crowdsourcing will be critical to building a web that will be relevant and useful for these new emerging market users. Google Map Maker, for example, relies on citizen cartographers to map their world, and since starting in India as a way to make better maps of the subcontinent, it has become an important part of crisis response including efforts from the United Nations.

Finally Adam Smith, Head of YouTube in Asia Pacific, discussed how online video gives emerging market users a voice and helps spread and preserve culture. Telugu content lovers no longer have to be in India to watch their favorite Tollywood films or vegetarian cooking videos. And PSY — from Korean local star to the most-watched YouTube video of all time in just six months — shows how global culture now better reflects the true diversity of the globe.

With a billion more Internet users coming online, the global marketplace for ideas will grow from two to three billion people — that means a billion more people contributing and benefiting from the world’s best ideas, talents and more. “Gangnam Style” proves that the next big global entertainment phenomenon can come from anywhere.  Next time, it might be from India’s Bollywood or Tollywood film industries. And what about the next Khan Academy? With many of the world’s best education systems located in Asia, it is a safe bet there is plenty to learn from the next billion people coming online.  

Or, it may not be entertainment or education at all  — it may be a world-changing business insight or a better way to prevent the spread of disease.   The Internet's about to get a lot larger, while at the same time bringing us all closer together.


Posted by Julian Persaud, Managing Director, Google Southeast Asia