Google has shown a liking for Taiwan. In 2013, the U.S. search giant opened a data center in the island. Five years later, it welcomed more than 2,000 engineers in Taiwan as part of its acquisition of the majority of HTC’s smartphone design division for $1.1 billion. In the same year, Google announced plans to hire 300 more people in Taiwan while training 5,000 students in artificial intelligence.
Now, Google is eyeing Taiwan again to help train more tech talent, with an eye toward advancing some of its digital tools and hiring trainees, analysts believe.
Google keeps coming back to Taiwan because it offers the tech giant a relatively low-cost, but highly educated space for research and development in Asia, analysts say. The island is also seen as a shelter from the U.S.-China trade dispute as well as safe from government prying into proprietary technology.
“Many of these reasons go back to the same issues, like security in terms of U.S.-China trade relations and using the best mix of available resource and still sort of gaining a presence and maintaining a presence in this part of Asia,” says Tony Phoo, Taipei-based senior East Asia economist at Standard Chartered.
This month, Google added Taiwan to a Ph.D. fellowship program that offers $10,000 stipends and mentoring for computer science students. Last month, Google announced that it would train 8,000 university graduates in Taiwan to increase “digital power” on the island that’s already been a hardware hub for decades, according to local media reports.
Those trainees, all with less than three years work experience, will join Google’s digital talent exploration program. Specifically, training through the end of this year will leave trainees with certification in Google digital marketing tools. “We’ve been investing in Taiwan’s talent for many years,” says Tina Lin, Google’s Taiwan general manager. “This year we embarked on a program to train 8,000 fresh grads to give them the kind of digital marketing skills that we’ve heard companies really need to support them in their digital transformation journey.”
Google will consider hiring some of the trainees itself, says Song Seng Wun, an economist in the private banking unit of CIMB in Singapore. “Many will be employed by Google,” he says. “The rest can still be connected back to the company in the future.”
Google will tap into Taiwan’s “talent pool” for product and service development while marketing digital tools to the island’s B2B and B2C customers via the training, certification and software development, forecasts Stephen Su, general director of the Industrial Economics and Knowledge Center at the Industrial Technology Research Institute in Taiwan. “Taiwan has a large base of hardware engineers and industries which can complement Google [and] which require closer integration of software and hardware,” Su says, naming AI and robotics as examples.
The U.S. search giant ultimately wants a relatively low-cost and secure base in Northeast Asia, says Standard Chartered’s Phoo. Costs, including labor, run higher in Japan and South Korea than in Taiwan. The island has made power supplies more stable in the past two years, he adds.
Taiwan already offers cheaper labor and rent while “turning out excellent engineers to feed a decades-old, globally-recognized electronics contract manufacturing industry and chip industry,” says Mark Natkin, managing director of Beijing-based IT research firm Marbridge Consulting.
China is not an option since Google closed its Chinese search engine in 2010 over hacking and censorship efforts. “You would probably on that front not consider China to be among the best of choices,” Phoo says.