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20 years of Google: There’s something for everyone here

Google users cut across the educational, economic and urban-rural divide.

india Updated: Aug 26, 2018 09:48 IST
Poulomi Banerjee
Poulomi Banerjee
Hindustan Times
Google,20 yearsof Google,Google users
Many use Google to search for music and videos. The voice command makes it easy for even those who find it difficult to key in their requests.(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Twenty-year-old Preeti works in the housekeeping department of an office in New Delhi. Her job is to keep the ladies washrooms clean. As she works, she and her co-workers listen to old Hindi film songs via Google search on her mobile. “We are not educated. We don’t understand many of the other functions and apps. My kids have shown me how to give a voice command to listen to a particular song and that’s all that I can do,” says Sundari, one of Preeti’s colleagues.

Shashi Kumar has been a professional driver in Delhi for 25 years. “Half of Delhi was built in front of my eyes,” he says, with a laugh. There’s little that he doesn’t know about the city. Still, a few months back, while on his way to pick up a client, he got onto Google Maps to find the exact lane. “It does have its use. Especially, for night drivers and cabbies,” says the driver who is employed with a corporate house and mostly has a set list of passengers.

But he points out a few issues he faced with the app. “Maps may not always show when a road is blocked for repair. Sometimes one of the gates to a residential colony or apartment may be locked, or used for exits only. Maps won’t show all that,” he explains.

Read: 20 years of Google: ‘You have full control over your data...’

Google users cut across the educational, economic and urban-rural divide. A research scholar may use it to check for a certain book in an online library, a taxi driver finds Google Maps helpful and thousands use it to watch or listen to videos and music. “Google has an amazing algorithm which learns fast and adapts to the user,” says cyber law expert Prashant Mali. “The search engine interface is simple. You just type in or speak what you are looking for. Also, it is intuitive. It guesses that’s what the user is looking for,” he adds.

The very ease with which Google can be used may, however, lead to problems for users, especially if they don’t know how to protect themselves. “Google is intrusive. It is creating and preserving a profile of the user based on his or her usage pattern. Those who are not very educated are unaware of this,” he explains. Given the wide range of users in India, Mali suggests it would be a good practice for Google to have digital awareness classes in local languages for its users. “It will be a good CSR initiative,” he says.

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First Published: Aug 26, 2018 09:36 IST