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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2583

Google offers Our Sunday Columnist a Full Developer Scholarship

BY K. T. Rajasingham

Google has offered a full scholarship to Hemantha Abeywardena, a Sunday Columnist of the Asian Tribune, in order to train him as a mobile web specialist.

Mr Abeywardena, a software developer by profession in the field of education, has been writing his column for the Asian Tribune for well over 10 years, from London, United Kingdom.

Google has made the offer in considering his contribution to the software training realm with an academic website and the integrated Google+ page that has over 20 million views. The website boasts about ten links that come at the top of Google global search.

In addition, Mr Abeywardena has made a mathematical app for Android operating system for Google Play store as well, something that impressed Google to offer the scholarship.

He is currently under training by Google in the latest mobile technology, Progressive Web Applications - PWA.

Progressive Web Applications are apps that fit into any screen size regardless of the device: they are mainly aimed at mobile phones, but will flawlessly work on tables, desktops or even large screens.

PWA, the ‘next big thing’ in mobile apps, is essentially a web application – or a website - that acts as an app on smartphones or tablets. The beauty lies in the fact that they don’t have to be downloaded to user’s phones in order to use them.

With the introduction of the PWA, Google – and other tech giants too - addresses a major customer issue, especially when it comes to saving the available memory; Progressive Web Application do not have to be downloaded to user’s device; instead, the user in question can create an icon on their smartphone or tablet, in such a way that clicking on them take the user to the app that is hosted as a website on the internet.

In addition, a PWA can be shared easily with a link, like a normal website link, something that we cannot do with usual apps.

Progressive Web Applications – PWAs – look like normal apps on your smartphone with app-style navigations and interactions.

Google, meanwhile, takes the accessibility issue seriously: application developers are encouraged to make apps so that even the users with disabilities can use them with minimum hindrance. For instance, the blind, people with motor impairment or any other disability should be able to view web content with minimum hassle.

The following shows the first app produced by Mr Abeywardena as part of the Google scholarship programme: on a mobile device, the restaurants are stacked upon each other in a column; on tablets, they are arranged in two columns and on desktops there will be three columns.

In addition, a blind user can navigate the app with the aid of a screen reader using the tab keys.

Mr Abeywardena says he developed this app so that even the blind can get the information they need about restaurants by pressing the tab key; as the tab key moves from restaurant to restaurant, the screen readers read out the contents in English to the blind user, without keeping the user at a disadvantage due to his or her visual disability.

He says that he was overwhelmed with gratitude for the training offered by a blind instructor / developer at Google as part of the initial training.

This design makes sure Progressive Web Applications work on any device without compromising the user experience.

Progressive Web Applications have brought about watershed moment in apps with the introduction of new programming layer called service worker.

Thanks to the service worker, the Progressive Web Applications can even work without an internet connection – offline! Service workers can save the vital resources in the browser itself, once exposed to the internet, in such a way that they can be used when there is no internet connection as if there was one.

This approach has the potential to bring about a seismic change in mobile app development – and usage, of course – especially in regions where the internet connections do not exist or pretty slow to make use of. In addition, it can bring down the network charges incurred on users by service providers substantially for the usage of data.

Mr Abeywardena says that he intends to develop a few major Progressive Web Apps – and some for Sri Lankans as well - once he completes his training with Google. He is immensely grateful to Google for giving this opportunity, having faced a stiff global competition to achieve it.

- Asian Tribune -

Google offers Our Sunday Columnist a Full Developer Scholarship
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