Google has begun construction of a new data centre in Hong Kong, the first of three planned for Asia as the Web giant expands to meet the region's growing thirst for information technology.
The facility, Google's first outside the United States and Europe, will cost US$300 million and is being built on 2.7 hectares (6.7 acres) in the Tseung Kwan O industrial estate in Kowloon, the firm said on Thursday.
"We're working as quickly as we can get to this facility operational so we can keep up with rapid growth in capacity demand across the region," said Simon Chang, Google's Hardware Operations in Asia, at the groundbreaking ceremony.
"We're targeting early 2013 to start bringing the facility online," he said, according to a statement.
Two other data centres -- which usually house computer and telecom systems with high security and backup power supplies -- are also planned for Singapore and Taiwan.
The firm has said the Taiwan facility will cost over US$100 million but has yet to release any figure for Singapore.
Google figures show Asia has the fastest growing number of Internet users in the world.
But the US company faces stiff competition, particularly in China where domestic search engines like Baidu are popular and censorship last year forced it to move its Chinese search engine overseas.
China has the world's largest internet population with 485 million users.
A study released by the Economist Intelligence Unit in September said Asian economies are closing the gap on the West in terms of their IT competitiveness, as they strengthen copyright protection and implement regulatory reforms.
The study said the US retained its position as the world's most competitive IT industry, but seven Asian economies made it to the top 20, including Singapore, which ranked third overall, as well as Australia, Taiwan and Japan.
Explore further: When a selfie is not enough: India abuzz over 'velfie' craze