DPM Lawrence Wong at Google for Singapore event

Marking its 15th anniversary in the nation, Google also announced the completion of its third data centre facility as well as a partnership to co-create AI solutions. Reporting by Priya Sunil & Aditi Sharma Kalra.

In its first-ever Google for Singapore event, Google marked its 15th anniversary in Singapore by announcing a range of new initiatives including:

  1. Updates to its Skills Ignition SG programme,
  2. Completion of its third data centre facility in the nation,
  3. Online safety training for parents and children,
  4. Public-private AI partnership,
  5. US$1mn grant to Mandai Nature through Google.org, it's philanthropic arm.

In his opening speech, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, commented on the company's growth in the nation: "It was a natural decision to expand to Singapore. It's a country that is such an important hub for technology, trade and ideas. It's also a place that shares our optimism about technology, and the ways people can use it to make their lives and communities better."

He continued: "Having grown up in India, it's inspiring to see Asia play such an important role in shaping the future of technology. And Singapore has been core to that progress. We've appreciated the chance to work closely with the Singapore government and our industry partners focused on shared priorities."

Singapore's Deputy PM and Minister for Finance, Lawrence Wong, was the guest of honour, where he shared: "In tackling the COVID-19 pandemic together, Google has been a steadfast partner, because over the last two-and-a-half years, we've had to make significant adjustments to our lifestyles - we've had to study from home, learn from home, work from home, find new ways of connecting with one another virtually.

"And in that, technology has been a big enabler. Google has stepped forward to find such solutions."

He added: "We've also had to reach out to seniors, different groups in the community to embrace technology, in particular to SMEs as well to get on board their own digitalisation journey so that they can make better use of digital tools to continue doing business even in the midst of lockdown and restrictions. So we are very grateful to everyone in Google for working closely with the government in tackling the pandemic."

Details on the announcement made on 23 August 2022 (Tuesday), and attended by HRO, are shared below.

Updates to Skills Ignition SG programme (SISG)

Launched in 2020, with support from EDB, IMDA and its industry partners, Google provided updates and enhancements to this programme at the event. These include:

1. Enhanced traineeship programme for 60 Singaporeans. To meet current industry demands, selected trainees will undergo a 12-month full-time training programme in digital marketing or professional cloud architecture, up from the previous duration of nine months. They will receive mentorship from Google employees, a more comprehensive development plan, and a higher stipend to match the rising market rates. This programme continues to be in partnership with IMDA under the TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA) initiative.

2. Digital marketing and e-commerce certificate - This is a new certificate that will be added to Google Career Certificates, the fifth in the series, aimed to enable learners to acquire new skills outside traditional learning environments.

3. Expanded employer consortium to 37. Previously, SISG graduates could benefit from direct access to job opportunities from 16 local companies, gathered by Google to form the 'Employer Consortium'. The consortium has now increased to 37 companies. The Monetary Authority of Singapore has also supported this effort by helping to reach out to a range of financial institutions.

Completion of its third data centre facility

With two data centre facilities already present in Jurong, Google had first announced its intention to build a third data centre facility in 2018, bringing its long-term investment in Singapore data centres to US$850mn. At the event, it was confirmed that this third facility is now completed and in operation. 

A commissioned report assessed Google’s recurrent investment and operations in its data centres in Singapore to have generated US$216mn in economic activity in 2020.

Google has also invested in technical infrastructure, including a network of data centres, cloud regions, and subsea cables. Having started out with 24 employees at its first office on Collyer Quay, Google’s APAC headquarters now has 3,000 employees serving Singapore and the wider region.

Commenting on Singapore’s significance to Google, Scott Beaumont, President, Google Asia Pacific said: "Singapore is at the centre of the world's most dynamic region, with digital and tech innovation central to its growth strategy. It was a natural step to make Singapore Google's Asia Pacific headquarters, invest in the country, and power the rest of Asia Pacific."

He added: "It's clearly rewarding for all of us to be able to contribute our knowledge, our capabilities to the country, but it's possible only because this is a place which is looking beyond the horizon and looking for ways in which technology can succeed and exist in everyday lives together. We are definitely going to build a stronger shared future."

Online safety training for parents and children

Given how the time children are spending online has increased, Google will be partnering with the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the Media Literacy Council, in support of the Digital for Life movement, to train 50,000 parents and children on online safety in the next 12 months.

This initiative to keep young users safe online will involve:

  • Bringing the Be Internet Awesome (BIA) curriculum to primary schools,
  • Sharing BIA internet safety resources with educators, and
  • Bringing the Google Online Safety Park to selected schools including CHIJ Katong and West Grove Primary to provide an interactive learning experience, with the aim of nurturing confident navigators of the online world. 

Speaking on the importance of online safety, Ben King, Country Managing Director, Google Singapore, said: "It's really our goal, to develop knowledge and confidence, especially within vulnerable communities, and in particular, our elderly and also our young children."

He added: "We hope through initiatives like Google's Online Safety Park and by working closely with deeply committed partners to build digital literacy within the community, we can build a safer, more inclusive digital future for all Singaporeans."

Public-private AI partnership

In line with its initiatives to support digital progress, Google Cloud and the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDGG) have announced a partnership to co-create AI solutions. Led by SNDGG’s National AI Office, this is the office's first public-private AI partnership.

Sherie Ng, Country Director, Singapore and Malaysia, Google Cloud, explained: "Google Cloud will be partnering with SmartNation and digital government groups in collaboration in three areas. First, we have to co-create solutions in areas like finance, sustainability, and healthcare.

"Second, we'll be running AI competency programmes to develop public sector capabilities that we will be running the development of AI ethics and governance framework together with the National AI office. This will complement the wider national effort by IMDA.

"Finally, it's such a privilege for us to be the first technology company to enter into a partnership of this nature. We will continue to invest in contributing to Singapore's next phase of digital development."

US$1mn grant to Mandai Nature through Google.org, it's philanthropic arm

Yolyn Ang, Managing Director, APAC Business Development, Google shared context into this investment: "A major challenge for nonprofit organisations in tackling the ongoing climate crisis has been the lack of credible data and evidence to inform where and how to implement programmes at the pace and scale required."

To address this, Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org, will provide US$1mn grant funding (approx. SG$1.4mn) to Mandai Nature, which was established by Temasek and Mandai Wildlife Group. This is the first sustainability-focused grant through Google.org in Singapore.

With this funding, Mandai Nature will support the Southeast Asia Climate and Nature-based Solutions (SCeNe) Coalition comprising eight environmental and conservation non-profit organisations that aims to accelerate investment into climate solutions that benefit nature and people, in Southeast Asia.

Over the next one-and-a-half years, the Coalition will use the funding in three areas:

  • Develop an open-source web-based mapping tool to identify geographies in Southeast Asia that hold the key to carbon reduction, host rich biodiversity, and are home to local communities.
    • Google employees will also volunteer their time to share their expertise with the Coalition to build the initial stages of the tool.
  • Share information from ongoing projects to demonstrate and promote best practice in design, implementation, and monitoring of nature-based solutions.
    • These learnings will be published in a report to provide guidance and recommendations around nature-based solutions in the region.
  • Communicate widely about and raise investment for at least three nature-based solutions projects in Southeast Asia.

Lead image / Journalist's own (featuring Singapore's Deputy PM and Minister for Finance, Lawrence Wong)

Follow us on Telegram and on Instagram @humanresourcesonline for all the latest HR and manpower news from around the region!