×

How Google is trying to reach the ‘next 1 billion’

Internet companies are all jostling to reach the "next 1 billion" people in emerging markets, and for Google, its mapping technology is one of the key pushes.

The U.S. search giant is trialing an offline version of Google Maps in a bid to push the service to areas where internet connectivity is poor.

"What is maps for the next billion users? One of the key things there is how do you make maps work offline because if you're in India or Indonesia, there's a lot of network connectivity issues and it's intermittent," Aparna Chennapragada, head of product at Google Now, Google's personal assistant technology, told CNBC in a TV interview.

"So how do you actually adapt maps to a situation like that? And that's the other thing that we are focused on."

The feature was teased earlier this year at Google I/O, it's annual conference.

While the Google executive could not give more details on how this product might look in the emerging market, she said that it would need to feel comfortable for each different country. In India for example, where there are limited road names and people navigate via landmarks, Google Maps will need to reflect that.

Google Maps mapping vehicle in New York.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Google Maps mapping vehicle in New York.

"Most of the Indian streets are really not marked, and there's all these landmarks, but that's how intuitively people actually navigate. So, let them reflect that reality," Chennapragada added.

Emerging markets are a key focus for tech players looking to go beyond their current markets and tap an increasingly connected population. Facebook for example has an initiative called Internet.org which aims to bring a handful of internet services to emerging markets. It is also testing drones to bring connectivity to remote parts of the world.

As well as Maps, Google is present in emerging markets through its Android mobile operating system (OS), which is the dominant mobile OS in developing countries.

Through this, it is able to push its software and services such as Google Maps. And last year, Google launched Android One, an OS aimed at being installed on very low-cost handsets.

Clarification: A spokesperson for Google said that their employee misspoke regarding where Maps was being tested. Separately, the story also incorrectly stated how its functionality would work.