Google pulls off surprise with unveiling of new PH office

After years of anticipation, Internet giant Google formally opened on Wednesday, Jan. 23, its Philippine subsidiary – its fifth office in Southeast Asia after Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

. Photo shows (from left) Narciso Reyes, Google Philippines country manager, Usec. Manuel Quezon III of the Presidential Communications and Development and Strategic Planning Office, and Julian Persaud, Google Southeast Asia managing director, aim for the Google-themed pot during the ceremonial pot breaking ceremony to formally launch Google Philippines in Taguig City on Wednesday

The opening came as a surprise to the local tech industry, which has been expecting a local Google office for years but never saw its fruition until Wednesday.

“It took us a while, but today is a good time to come in [to the Philippines],” said Julian Persaud, managing director of Google in Southeast Asia.

The local launch, held at the Blue Leaf Events Pavilion in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City, was kept under wraps from the local tech media who were merely invited to a “grand Google event.”

At the event, the search giant cited the growing influence of the Philippines, particularly its social media-savvy Internet users, as one of the main reasons for the establishment of the local office.

Persaud noted that the country has over 33 million Internet users and 1.5 million broadband subscribers, making it as the second top Internet user in Southeast Asia, sixth in Asia, and 17th in the world.

Undersecretary of Communications Manuel L. Quezon III, who spoke in behalf of Pres. Benigno Aquino III, cited the government’s online efforts as a way to improve governance and enhance transparency.

“Our different government agencies, through the help of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office, are setting up their respective social network accounts to engage and better serve the public,” Quezon said, quoting Aquino.

The official also noted that in November 2011, during the World View interview series sponsored by Google and YouTube, Aquino expressed the need to harness the new technologies to benefit the country.

At the launch, the company also introduced Narciso Reyes, a US-educated Filipino digital advertising executive, as its first country manager.

An Internet veteran with over 16 years of digital experience in Asian and US markets, Reyes worked with online companies such as DoubleClick, LycosAsia, Wired, and Friendster.

Google executives had a hard time, however, answering questions from the media regarding the current local headcount under Reyes and the number of workers they plan to hire. The company’s office is located in Makati City.

The officials were also not able to give concrete details on the company’s immediate business plans, particularly in Google’s mobile devices unit, saying they “have nothing to announce except the opening of the local office”.

The executives stressed, however, that its local partners will continue to offer cloud computing apps and services to enterprises such as banks and mobile operators.

It also emphasized the fact that the Department of Education has made the leap on to the cloud with Google Apps for Education. Since then, it said, major Filipino universities — Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University and University of Zamboanga – have followed DepEd’s lead.

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