Will there be a Google office in Pakistan any time soon?

ISLAMABAD: After the COVID-19 pandemic, people have increasingly started using online platforms and digital services. This has also increased the need for localising the offices of digital giants in Pakistan, such as Google.

To get an insight into the possibility of a Google office in the country, along with other security and data-related details, The News spoke to Google’s Regional Director for Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka Farhan S Qureshi.

Q. What are your future plans related to Pakistan, will you open an office here?

A. We’re always exploring opportunities but have nothing to announce regarding office opening at this time. We, however, continue to invest our resources into Pakistan to drive the country to unlock its digital potential from our partnership with NRSP to train women and youth regarding digital literacy, work with local YouTube creators to showcase their talents around the world, and upskill Pakistani developers so they can compete in the global market.

Q. What is the general trend of conducting searches through Google in Pakistan?

A. Every year Google releases the list of top trending searches that had a high spike in traffic over a sustained period. This is called Google Year in Search. From 2021, search trends show that Pakistan is a cricket crazy country. The top searches of 2021 are from Pakistan’s cricket series with South Africa and England followed by the highlights of the games of ICC T20 World Cup and Pakistan Super League. We also saw that there’s a big demand for both local and international movies and TV shows, with “Squid Game” and “Khuda Aur Mohabbat” topping the charts. Lastly, we have seen a phenomenal rise in the creator ecosystem in Pakistan. Creators are sharing high-quality content, and are building a local and international following alike.

Q. How do you ensure data protection? What’s placed to ensure that data security is not breached?

A. All Google products are built with strong security features that continuously protect your information. We work hard to protect you and Google from unauthorised access, alteration, disclosure, or destruction of information we hold. We use encryption to keep your data private while in transit. We offer a range of security features, like safe browsing, security checkup, and two-step verification to help you protect your Google account.

Q. Google has not initiated any developmental and capacity building projects in Pakistan. Why?

A. We’re proud of the work we’ve done to help digitise Pakistan. There are things we do to support education in Pakistan such as in 2020, we launched the CS first programme in collaboration with the Ministry of IT and Telecom, the Telecom Foundation, and the Virtual Universities. In 2021, we expanded the programme, and now nearly 400 teachers and students across 13 cities in Pakistan have been trained in our free CS first curriculum that makes coding easy to teach and fun to learn. To support digital education and remote learning during the pandemic, we rolled out our free Google Workspace for Education tools across the 400+ schools in the Islamabad Capital Territory.

On Digital Responsibility front, we provided the National Rural Support Programme (NRSP) with a $475,000 grant from our philanthropic arm, Google.org. Using the grant funds, and building on a successful pilot project run in 2021, NRSP will scale up its “Internet Zabardast and Internet Dost” programme throughout Pakistan in 2022. Through these projects, NRSP aims to train 18,000 women in rural areas in how to use smartphones to access the internet. In addition, NRSP will educate 25,000 schoolchildren on how to be safe and confident explorers of the online world

We’re also excited to see the impact that our platforms like Google Play and YouTube have on the developer community and creator ecosystem here. Companies like Hazel Mobile have turned developers like Mohsin Ali and Waqas Ahmed into multinational companies. Research from AlphaBeta, a strategic economics consultancy, found that the annual economic value presented by Google’s applications and platforms in Pakistan is worth Rs1 trillion ($6.3 billion) for businesses and Rs210.2 billion ($1.3 billion) for consumers.

AlphaBeta also estimated that over 410,000 jobs are supported in the economy through the use of Google Ads, AdSense, and YouTube. These jobs are created through the use of Google products that enable businesses to expand their customer base and increase revenue, thereby leading to increased hiring demand.

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