Google Assistant, the digital assistant from the global search giant, is available to users through their smartphones, laptops and smart speakers. Earlier this year, the company partnered with KaiOS to bring Assistant to some feature phones with internet access. Now Google is going a step further: Bringing its virtual assistant to people who have the most basic cell phone with no internet access. It’s starting this program in India.
At an event in New Delhi on Thursday, the company announced a 24×7 telephone line that anyone in India on Vodafone and Idea telecom networks (or Vodafone-Idea telecom network, as Vodafone owns Idea) could dial to have their questions answered. The company said it tested the phone line service with thousands of users across Lucknow and Kanpur before making it generally available.
Users will be able to dial 000-800-9191-000 and they won’t be charged for the call or the service. Manuel Bronstein, a VP at Google, said through this program the company is hoping to reach hundreds of millions of users in India who currently don’t have access to smartphones or internet.
Even as there are more than 500 million users with access to internet and about 450 million with smartphones in India, more than half of the nation’s 1.3 billion people remains unconnected.