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Googling the future

PHUKET: Ariya Banomyong, Country Manager of Thailand for Google, made his first business trip to Phuket last week to deliver a seminar to the International Business Association of Phuket (IBAP).

By Jody Houton

Saturday 19 May 2012, 01:59PM

Ariya Banomyong, hard at work building the blocks of Google Thailand

Ariya Banomyong, hard at work building the blocks of Google Thailand

How did you come to work for Google?

I was born and raised in France, and educated there and in England. I came back to Thailand around 11 years ago and worked for the True Corporation. I have always been in the technology/IT industry and been in mobile communications for most my life.

I joined Google in 2011. I have seen the rapid change in the way Thai people access the internet, movies and other online content.

Are there any Google services exclusive to Thailand?

We try to localise the services wherever we’re based so that’s its country-specific, and actually Thailand was a first for broadcasting our first Google Ad for TV. I think this shows the importance of not neglecting the offline world in promoting the online one.

While Google Street View is a huge success, rival MapJack utilises a backpack camera that lets them go to places not accessible to cars. Do you have any plans to launch a similar service?

In Thailand we have a large task ahead of us... We have Street View currently in just three places: Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket. We’re working with Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), which shows the importance and benefits that it can provide to the tourism market.

As a picture can tell a thousand words, we have launched a new project entitled ‘The Miracle’, where we have asked residents in Thailand to identify 10 locations they feel should be promoted and we will then send a trike around the country to take the footage. This is something we will be promoting and is already part of our Street View mission.

Thailand is a highly litigious country with many off limit topics, what are your policies on this?

Well... being Google we support freedom of expression all over the world. Having said that, sensitive content or offensive content can be censored or taken down.

We allow our users to flag inappropriate content and requests by government (and others) are also common but are handled by headquarters in the U.S., all of which can be seen in our regularly published transparency reports.

Google Plus seems to be growing very slowly. Do you think it or any other social networking site can ever be a real competitor to Facebook?

Sure, there’s a tendency to compare it to other social networking sites, but Google Plus actually has over 70 services, so we like to see it as more of a social platform. Our idea is to create one server-combined user experience. This is to put everything together so it can be accessed quickly and easily. Then make it country-specific and easy to access.

Google flights launched last year but is only operational in the U.S. When can we expect it to cover flights within Asia?

It will be hopefully be coming soon. Google flights will make it easier to find the flight details and information you need. Some people want to save money, while some have different needs and wants, like to perhaps fly business class.

Google is already very much part of cloud computing. How fast is that growing in Thailand?

Cloud computing is a great system of being able to access your documents no matter where you are. An easy example of this is when using your Android phone and you buy a new one, by simply signing in to your Gmail account it will transfer all your contacts instantly and automatically.

Thai people realised the benefits of such technology with the recent floods and when they lost their computers they also lost all their data and important documents. When they relocated that had to start all over again. But if they had used cloud technology this could’ve quite easily been avoided.

What are Google’s current priorities in Thailand?

Our long term missions are to make sure we expand and provide information in Thailand and we want people wherever they are to be able to access the information. E-commerce in Thailand is not as strong as it is in other places, but we believe this will change in the future.

Research has been conducted which suggests that the internet is the most trustworthy medium for accessing information. In the floods, for example, people were finding that the hourly news reports weren’t providing sufficient enough information, and at times (were) inaccurate, so they were going to the internet to find out.

How hard is it to follow Google’s motto, ‘Don’t be evil’ and not exploit users?

We put users’ personal information pretty high on our priorities, and you can always opt in or out of receiving tailored or personalised ads. As part of the data liberation association, all information can be retrieved from Google.

Have you ever thought about why the Google homepage is blank and without banners and ads?

This is mainly so that everyone can access the page quickly and easily without fuss. Internet speeds differ according to location, so we wanted the customer experience to be pretty uniform no matter where people are accessing it from. Ads are also clearly labelled as such.

What is the future of computing in the ‘Post PC’ age?

This year, 2012, will be the year of the tablet as 2011 was for the smartphone. Thailand will also have caught up with the rest of the world within three years with regards to the percentage of smartphone users.

The future of computing is dependent on the consumers’ needs. Companies are constantly striving to catch up with consumers.

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