Sunday, August 20, 2017

Google goes offline for developing countries


A new initiative from Google helps make online materials available offline through physical kits, allowing developing-country developers to work even when the internet doesn’t.

Google announced at the beginning of December it would enable developers to access about 30 GB of certain materials – videos, software development kits (SDKs), documents and more – offline through DVDs and thumb drives. Targeted at “software developers or students of software development in regions of the world where steady access to the internet is expensive, unreliable or non-existent”, Google has already spread upward of 2000 kits across India, Bangladesh and Sub-Saharan Africa, the company said.

With blackouts and internet outages a common trope in Myanmar, the country seems a prime candidate for the program. But a kit hasn’t come its way just yet. Ko Ye Lin Aung, Google Developer Group Yangon community manager, said the corporation has been busy with the holidays and filling far-reaching orders. So he and friends took matters into their own hands.

Instead of waiting for the postman, they decided to work around a workaround and download and disseminate the information themselves. “We put it on memory sticks and then we distributed it,” he said.

“Even in our offices, the internet is slow most of the time and fast like one hour a day ... and some of the time, there is no internet at all,” he continued. “[With] offline content ... we don’t have to wait for the internet.”

Ko Ye Lin Aung and his friends put the contents of the kits on sticks and dispatched them to campuses around Myanmar. Delivery took a more circuitous route than usual, as the resources made their way by physical roads rather than the information superhighway.

“I just sent the memory stick with an express bus,” Ko Ye Lin Aung said. “We’re sending the

offline content with the offline process. That’s the traditional way.”

Though winding, it’s a path people will find familiar as the web has yet to trump offline measures in some other industries.

“If you want to send money, there is no online banking,” he continued. “You just send [with] people or banks or something like that.”

Ko Ye Lin Aung said about 15 people have requested the offline content – most of which he has already sent.

Items on the DVDs and thumb drives include Google Cloud Platform documents with SDKs for App Engine, the whole Android website with Android SDKs and more, documents on material design and web fundamentals, Udacity online learning videos and other content, the company said.

Google also suggests kit users put the content to good use, highlighting hackathons, viewing parties and self-study.

“You will no longer have to worry about ... spending 30 minutes to watch a 10-minute video tutorial on the latest API due to constant buffering,” the company said in a post on the Google Developers Blog.

Crucially, the kits provide developers what they need to begin manufacturing apps: SDKs.

“If I want to make an Android app, I need the Google SDK,” Ko Ye Lin Aung said, adding that materials in the software kit mean developers don’t have to start from square one. “If you don’t have the SDK, you cannot do anything.”

While helpful, offline content can’t compete with real-time aspects of the internet. The kits are up-to-date as of August 2014, the company said – any updates past that time won’t be incorporated.

Though not the be-all, end-all, “it’s a point where you can get started,” Ko Ye Lin Aung said. “After that, we have to move on to update the stuff and you can continue because you already know how [stuff] works.”

Despite limits, Ko Ye Lin Aung said people are enthusiastic and excited.

“They need a starting point and they need the stuff, so we gave [it to them],” he said.

“We told them, ‘It’s all your own. Take your time and learn whatever you want with the stuff, build stuff and if you need anything, just tell us. We will support you but we might not be able to tell you the whole thing.’”