By GABEY GOHbytz@thestar.com.my
KUALA LUMPUR: By all accounts Google's vice-president for product and engineering (emerging markets), Nelson Mattos, has an interesting job. Part of it involves travelling around the world, meeting local communities and essentially asking: "What can Google do to help?"
On his first visit to our country recently, he noted that Malaysia has similar characteristics to other "aspiring markets." "I use 'aspiring' over 'emerging' because the spectrum of emerging markets remains wide and in this case, aspiring refers to developing economies on the cusp of becoming developed, of which Malaysia is one," he said.
What defines a developed and fully realised Internet-based society to him boils down to three main areas, which are low barriers to Internet access; a high amount of local content and a large, vibrant community of local developers and users.
When gauging Malaysia's barrier level to Internet access, Mattos said one issue highlighted to him during his visit here, is the high cost of bandwidth.
He said cost only forms one part of the puzzle. Other considerations, such as the population's access to the latest Web-enabled devices and the level of broadband penetration, must also be taken into account to get the overall picture.
And when it comes to local content on the Web, he said Malaysia is not far behind in this respect. He is impressed with the quality and variety of the locally-produced content.
To illustrate where Malaysia stands in this area on a global scale, he shared that the country has 5x more local content than India, 10x more than the Philippines, and 20x more than Indonesia.
Given the large local appetite for content, Google intends to further aid in the delivery of content from its properties, such as YouTube, by speeding up its deployment of Google Caches in the country, according to him.
Installed within the networks of local Internet service providers (ISPs) and operators, a Google cache is a piece of equipment that stores content from sites such as YouTube locally.
This both speeds up the user experience because the content does not need to be pulled from overseas-based servers, and also results in operational savings for the service providers because of lower access charges to international gateways.
"This means local users don't have to kill time by going for coffee each time they download a YouTube video," Mattos said.
He said Google also embarks on a variety of other initiatives, all aimed at addressing one or all of those three main areas.
In expanding its network here, Google has done more than localise its popular consumer offerings, namely YouTube, Maps, Traffic and Transit. The most visible campaign has been the Get Malaysian Businesses Online initiative, launched last November.
In partnership with industry regulator the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, .MY Domain Registry, and training specialist iTrain, Google has invested RM10mil into the campaign.
Since launch, about 22,000 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have already kickstarted their online presence, with the target being 50,000 SMEs by year end.
The company has also launched technical communities and the Malaysian Google Business Group (GBG), and it works with partners such as iTrain to educate small businesses on how to leverage off an online presence, and for certification courses.
The largest event Google has on its Malaysian calendar this year is an expanded edition of its Google Developer Day, slated to take place in October. This includes programmes focused on building web, mobile and enterprise applications.
Mattos said that this year will see the event's scope addressing not just developers but IT professionals and business users as well.
With its focus on engaging and training these three groups, he said, Google Developer Day will include HTML5 and open-source technologies, and will not be restricted to Google's own technologies.
He declined to provide additional details but said the event's agenda will be driven by community feedback on needs and curiosities.