The landscape of the internet is in flux and according to Google the future of cyberspace will look very different to what it does right now.

The vice president of Google’s Next Billion Users team, Caesar Sengupta, penned a blog this week which takes a look at what the current state of the internet is and how users in developing countries are shaping the net.

“The future of the internet is in the hands of the next billion users—the latest generation of internet users to come online on smartphones in places like Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and Nigeria,” writes Sengupta.

The VP says that internet denizens in these regions have never used a computer and may never use one. For this reason Sengupta says applications of the future will need to appeal to a generation of users who grew up using smartphones instead of computers.

Another way the internet is changing is through ubiquitous computing.

To peel away the jargon for a second Google is talking about having natural interactions with your smartphone. So for example, instead of typing “weather forecast Johannesburg” into Google you hold down the home key and say “Do I need an umbrella in Johannesburg today?”.

“Because the breakthroughs that make ubiquitous computing possible rely on cutting-edge work in artificial intelligence, we tend to think that advances will start in the most prosperous parts of the world and expand from there. But we’ve found with the Google Assistant, for example, that the next billion users adopt cutting-edge technology astonishingly quickly,” explains Sengupta.

The next billion users are early adopters that not only know how to use a smartphone but actively make use of services that are backed by artificial intelligence. There is however a problem which needs to be dealt with immediately – localisation.

The internet is predominantly English, as much as 50 percent of the content online is in English and this changing.

“You should not have to learn English to use the internet. The next billion users expect more content in their languages. And video is turning out to be the medium where they create and enjoy this content,” says Sengupta.

“Going forward, we believe the demand for local content will reverse the language imbalance, leading to an internet more inclusive of the entire world’s language diversity.”

Google is building tech with these learnings from the next billion users in mind in a bid to stay at the cutting edge of technology.

We do wonder however whether Google will find any success in regions such as Africa where in its absence the internet users have made a plan to get what they need from locals who know how to make it.

[Source – Google] [Image – CC BY 2.0 anna carol]


Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.