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Google launches new features to aid Pakistan’s anti-virus response

Amid lockdowns during the Covid-19 crisis, tech giant Google has launched various features and incentives to ease load on telecommunication providers and to support remote learning and access to correct information in Pakistan.


. Current Affairs Digest by Dr Safdar Mahmood

According to a Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) press release issued on Wednesday, Google introduced new features and resources for users in Pakistan to help them stay informed and connected, support small businesses and to contain the spread of misinformation on its platforms

Last week the PTA had observed the internet usage in the country had increased by 15 per cent following varying lockdowns across Pakistan. The increase, it said, was observed due to a spike in online activities by educational institutions and businesses as well as a ‘work-from-home policy’ adopted by organisations and individuals.

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Google searches related to coronavirus now show an “SOS Alert” banner, followed by news from mainstream outlets and information from recognised health organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and National Institute of Health (NIH).

 

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The coronavirus resource hub provides a comprehensive overview of the pandemic, information about its symptoms and measures, as well as current statistics and answers to common questions.

Work from home

Google has also introduced sharing of tips and resources for remote workers and students so that they can improve their productivity in the work from home (WFH) environment.

These tips and features include a new collection of distance learning solutions, training and resources to help teachers and students stay connected. For instance, Google has allowed free access to “advanced” features for Hangouts Meet and anyone who uses it G Suite platform. This means users will be able to put up to 250 people on a Hangouts Meet call — an entire class or group of classes can join a lesson simultaneously. The user can live-stream for up to 100,000 viewers within a domain so that they can do a virtual school assembly or stream a lecture.

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 Plus, one can record meetings and save them to Google Drive. When students can’t join a lesson, they’ll be able to access the content later.

Google has also launched speech-based reading app “Bolo” that uses machine learning to help children read aloud confidently, using their own voice. The app is available in Urdu language as well.

Internet traffic concerns

Globally, Google has decided to work with governments and network operators to minimise stress on the systems. The platform has decided to temporarily change the quality of all videos on YouTube to standard definition.

Similarly, Netflix has also reduced its traffic on telecommunications networks in Pakistan by 25 per cent while maintaining the quality of its service. This will be applicable for 30 days and will be re-evaluated after the duration ends, according to the PTA.

Pakistan has 76 million 3G/4G subscribers and 78m broadband subscribers. The PTA figures show that Google’s YouTube is the most visited website in the country with around 93m monthly visits, followed by “google.com” and “google.com.pk’ at 76m and 51m visits a month, respectively.

Posted on January 23, 2020

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