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Google Looks to Asia for the "Next Billion" Web Users

Steven Millward

Image by Nobuyuki Hayashi; At Google Singapore. Click to enlarge.

With developed nations close to the saturation point in terms of web users, Google is looking to Asia for “the next billion” netizens. These will be, said Google representatives today at an event in Singapore, in emerging markets (especially Asia) where 500 million new users will come online between now and 2015.

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG - News) points out that, of its 16 Asia offices, almost half are in emerging markets. There’s one each in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and four in India. Asia already has one billion netizens - many getting online solely on budget phones - but there are many more to come.

This will mean, says Google Singapore in a factsheet issued today:

The global marketplace for ideas will grow from two to three billion people — that means a billion more people contributing and benefiting from the world’s best ideas, talents and more. […] This will also mean incredible new business opportunities as a billion new potential entrepreneurs, small business and consumers expand their markets and the global market.

And so the search engine giant is looking closely at Asia to offer up much of that next billion - as is Nokia with its similar mantra. To prove that Asia is at the center of all this potential web growth, Google’s Asia team cites this snippet from the World Bank:

Explaining how to take the web mainstream to the next billion in Asia. (Image:Nobuyuki Hayashi). Click to enlarge.

In 2011, around 2.2 billion people had the Internet while 4.6 billion did not — half of those who don’t have the Internet now live in just five countries, all in Asia: India, Indonesia, China, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Here’s the state of internet penetration among the main markets in South and Southeast Asia:

  • India: 125 million Internet users - 10% of population
  • Indonesia: 43.6 million Internet users - 18% of population
  • Vietnam: 31.1 million internet users - 35.4% of population
  • Philippines: 27.5 million Internet users - 29% of population
  • Malaysia: 17.6 million Internet users - 61% of population
  • Thailand: 16.4 million internet users - 23.7% of population

Google is facing challenges in some of those countries - such as Vietnam, where Google doesn’t have a country office. A Vietnamese-Russian joint venture search engine, called Wada, launched last month. And it’s likely that China’s Baidu will push into the search engine market in Thailand and Vietnam in the future.

Of course, Google is already doing plenty to get new web users onto its services - such as its recent telco tie-up in the Philippines to allow feature phone owners there access to Gmail, Google search, and Google+ without the need to pay for a data plan.

[Images courtesy of journalist Nobuyuki Hayashi (@nobi) on Twitter]