(Bloomberg) – Alphabet Inc.’s Google has completed its third data center in Singapore, bringing its investment in such facilities in the city-state to $850 million as it competes with tech giants Singapore. Amazon.com Inc. to Meta Platforms Inc. for greater weight in Asia.
Since opening its first office in Singapore in 2007 with 24 people, Google has grown its local staff to 3,000 people and built infrastructure, including undersea cables linking the financial hub to the United States and beyond. . As it celebrates its 15th anniversary in Singapore on Tuesday, the company said it is deepening its collaboration with the country, from training 50,000 parents and children in online safety to a partnership on artificial intelligence with the government.
“Asia as a whole sees technology as a way to jump, catch up or accelerate,” Scott Beaumont, president of Google Asia Pacific, said in an interview in Singapore. “We see a lot of opportunity from the perspective of Google as a platform company, how we help provide the tools that allow these entrepreneurs and developers to bring their ideas to life.”
The company faces challenges across the region. In India, where it has pledged to invest $10 billion, the government is increasingly tightening its grip on online content and the country’s antitrust regulator has branded Google’s charging system for app developers of “unfair and discriminatory”. In South Korea, the communications watchdog said this month it would investigate Google and Apple Inc. over potential breaches of the country’s in-app payment rules.
Here is a partial transcript of Beaumont’s interview, edited for brevity:
Q: What are your thoughts on the App Store situation in South Korea?
A: The vast majority of developers pay nothing. We have created a structure where smaller developers automatically contribute less. There’s an operational burden: the work we do to analyze apps in the Play Store and make sure users are safe, to make sure the money is going to the right pockets, that there’s no no scams.
It would be nice to come to a solution where we can move on. We will work with the KCC (Korea Communications Commission) to help them figure this out.
Q: What are the main challenges Google is facing in Asia?
A: In Asia there are local differences and this is one of the things we are constantly working on. We need to think about how we personalize, modify and localize our products, so that they make sense in all these different contexts. There must be a fair balance between this incredible diversity of Asia.
Q: There have been various antitrust issues in India, and the government has tightened its grip on online content. What is Google’s approach to this?
A: Basically, when it comes to things like antitrust, we’re going to see regulation in the tech space. We are trying to make sure that we can engage with governments in the region on that basis.
Q: Google invested a lot of money in four short video apps in India, after the government banned TikTok in the summer of 2020. What is Google’s strategy?
A: Time will tell how these investments will materialize and how close these relationships will be over time. In the short term, we are really happy with the results on both sides – what is being catalyzed in India, but also the knowledge and partnerships it has helped us develop.
Q: Google’s undersea cable projects, called Echo and Apricot, are expected to launch within the next year or two. Why choose Singapore as a hub and how do you see this connectivity helping the whole region?
A: Without these very solid pipes connecting the United States to Asia, Asia to Europe, etc., many islands will not have access to the Internet. Singapore is an important hub to help manage this distribution. The cables will connect Singapore to the rest of the world, and then move that distribution to the rest of Asia as well. This is to help sustain demand today, but also to consider what that demand will be in the future.
Q: Is the company concerned about operations in Taiwan given the geopolitical tensions and is there a contingency plan?
A: If we had a problem with a data center in Singapore, we would find a way to route that traffic through other data centers within the network. Likewise, if there is a problem with the data center in Taiwan, we will do the same. What we would like to do as a global company is look at all of our operations and make sure we have contingencies and redundancies in place. We need to think about how we set up and make sure we can fluctuate with various events in different places.
For example, it happens that submarine cables are bitten by sharks. We’re trying to think about what we would do – if we lost this cable, how we should route the traffic, and how we can prevent it from happening again.
Q: Tell us about Google’s collaboration with Singapore.
A: Singapore’s strength lies in collaboration, especially in the area of AI. For example, instead of just having a simple set of ideas for how AI should be governed and how we should legislate for it, Singapore is looking at use cases – in areas such as finance and health care – to understand how regulation looks. They zoom out to capture the commonalities, rather than trying to legislate from 50,000 feet and create something that doesn’t make sense in each of these individual areas.
We hope that the solutions created with the Singapore government will then serve as good practices to be used in other areas. We’ll look to show that and say, “Hey, look at Indonesia, or India, here’s a really good example of how you can work with us.” This will be an indirect benefit that we hope will come from this collaboration.
Q: What is your greatest achievement as President of Google APAC over the past three years and what do you hope to accomplish in the years to come?
A: One of the things where I think we’ve made a lot of progress is in the area of diversity and inclusion. When I took office, the leadership of the region was largely represented by white western men – I know I am one. But now when you look at the national leadership team that we have across the region, it’s almost evenly split by gender.
We think about diversity across many different dimensions, including local talent, gender, people with disabilities, ethnicity and sexuality. I think we’ve made huge strides in creating an environment where hopefully everyone feels like they belong or we’re on the right track to do that. (The proportion of female leaders at Google in the Asia-Pacific region increased from 20.8% in 2021 to 27.5% in 2022, according to the Google Annual Diversity Report 2022.)