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Google to roll out its digital learning platform to 23 million students and teachers in India’s Maharashtra state

Google has partnered with one of the largest states in India to provide its digital classroom services to tens of millions of students and teachers, the search giant said today, as it makes a further education push in the world’s second largest internet market.

The company, which recently announced plans to invest $10 billion in India, said it had partnered with the government of the western state of Maharashtra that will see 23 million students and teachers access Google’s education offering at no charge.

Thursday’s announcement follows a recent survey by the Maharashtra government in which it had sought teachers’ interest in digital classroom alternatives. More than 150,000 teachers signed up for the program in less than 48 hours, Google said.

Maharashtra is the worst hit Indian state by COVID-19, with more than 460,000 confirmed cases. The state, like others in India, complied with New Delhi’s lockdown order in late March that prompted schools and other public places to close across the nation.

“All of us had questions regarding the future of education. We have come a step closer to answering these questions due to the pandemic,” said Uddhav Thackeray, chief minister of Maharashtra, in a statement.

Varsha Gaikwad, the education minister of Maharashtra, said the partnership with Google will help her department roll out tech solutions to students in about 190,000 schools.

“Our goal is to make Maharashtra the most progressive state in education by making effective use of online resources, platforms, bandwidth and technology, using the power of the internet to reach out to the masses and bridge the gap in education,” she said.

The pandemic, which has brought several sectors to their knees in the country, has accelerated the growth of startups that operate digital learning platforms in the country. Byju’s, Facebook -backed Unacademy, Vedantu and Toppr among other startups have amassed tens of millions of new students since March this year.

Google is providing students and teachers with a range of services, including G Suite for Education, Google Forms for conducting quizzes and tests, access to Google Meet video conferencing services and Google Classroom, which enables educators to create, review and organize assignments, as well as communicate directly with students.

The company said it has also made Teach from Anywhere, a hub for educators, in Marathi, a very popular language in the state of Maharashtra.

“Our teachers and schools have the huge responsibility in shaping the future of our new generation, and we continue to be honored to play a role in offering digital tools that can enable more teachers to help even more students stay firmly on their journey of learning, during these times and beyond,” wrote Sanjay Gupta, country head and vice president of Google India, in a blog post.

The company has rushed to work with educators in India in recent months. Last month, Google announced that it had partnered with the Central Board of Secondary Education, a government body that oversees education in private and public schools in India, to provide its education offerings to more than 1 million teachers across 22,000 schools in India.

It also unveiled a grant of $1 million to Kaivalya Education Foundation (KEF), a foundation in India that works with partners to provide underprivileged children with education opportunities from Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm.

Google’s global rival, Facebook, also partnered with CBSE last month to launch a certified curriculum on digital safety and online well-being, and augmented reality for students and educators in the country.

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Google unveils Maps, Search and YouTube features in India to help people combat coronavirus

Google has launched a website dedicated to coronavirus updates in India and tweaked its search engine and YouTube to prominently display authoritative information and locally relevant details about the pandemic from the nation’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the company said on Monday.

Additionally, Google is also showing more than 1,500 food and night shelters in about three dozen cities in India on Google Maps and Search to guide people in need, it said. Millions of migrant workers in India recently started to head to their home towns as their work disappeared after New Delhi ordered a 21-day lockdown across the nation last month to fight the spread of the infectious disease.

People can also find these locations by asking Google Assistant about “food shelters,” for instance, in English and Hindi. Assistant is available to users on smartphones, KaiOS-powered feature phones and through a Vodafone-Idea phone line. (The company said it is working on supporting additional Indian languages.)

The Mountain View-headquartered giant, which counts India among one of its key overseas markets, said it has published COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports to help health officials in the country in their decision-making. The reports capture how traffic and movement across public places such as parks, transit stations and grocery stores have changed in the country in recent weeks.

On Maps, Google has also introduced Nearby Spot on Maps to help people in the nation find local stores that are providing essential items such as groceries.

YouTube and Search are showing consolidated information including the top news stories, links to MoHFW resources, as well as access to authoritative content on symptoms, prevention, treatments and more, Google said. YouTube has additionally also launched a ‘Coronavirus News Shelf’, feature atop the homepage that provides the latest news from authoritative media outlets regarding the outbreak.

In recent weeks, Google’s Pay service, as well as Walmart’s PhonePe and Paytm, introduced simplified ways to donate to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fund to fight the coronavirus. Google said people have used its payments service to donate north of $13 million to date.

More to follow…

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