Google and Africa

We all know Google is the best and most popular search engine on the web, and for a number of years has diversified its services and products, ranging from email (Gmail) to Maps, through photo sharing and storing (Picasa Web Albums), just to name a few.

Nearly every Google service is web based, and considerably helps users make communication, business and life easier in general – well, that’s my case. Today, most websites and other internet based services basically require fast internet lines (ADSL, T Lines you name them) without which you will find it difficult to watch videos, download files of considerable size or even enjoy Voice over IP (phone calls though the internet using tools like Skype).

Though Africa lags behind in terms of a general PC and internet usage/penetration, special attention needs to be paid on mobile phone usage on the continent. It is still far cheaper to get a mobile phone today compared to a PC, especially for communications. This is where I think Google is taking Africa in a smooth but efficient way, which however contributes to bridging the digital divide.

Personally, I comfortably use Gmail for mobile and Google Maps on my mobile phone. I read all my emails, no matter where I find myself (provided there is telecom network coverage). The experience is extraordinary when using an 3rd generation mobile phone such as iPhone, Nokia N Series and above or Android. Visit the Google Mobile website to check the compatibility of your phone here. I think a few 2nd generation mobile can be used.

Here are some recent excerpts from the Google Africa blog I find interesting to the benefit of internet users in Africa.

Gmail Inbox Preview: A good reason to get a Gmail email account – A small team of engineers from the Gmail engineering group in Zurich flew over to Addis Ababa and spent a few days at Internet cafes, analyzing the bottlenecks in Gmail and brainstorming around how to improve Gmail’s user experience in this context. Inbox Preview is the first feature resulting from this research. Read the whole article here.

Working on Contextual Mobil Apps – Google is working with the MIT Africa Information Technology Initiative (AITI), an organization that sends MIT students to Kenya to teach a mobile programming course to university students during the (northern) summer. Over the past several months, Google has supported AITI to expand their existing program. And starting this week, AITI will deliver an intensive six-week course at Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya. Students from Strathmore University, University of Nairobi, and Jomo Kenyatta University will attend this program to learn how to develop mobile applications. Read the whole article here.

More African Countries on Google Maps – The next time you visit Botswana, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Nigeria or most of the 50+ countries in Africa, you need not carry with you maps and guides and other travel aids. Google has now launched detailed maps for several countries in Africa – Maps that are searchable and contain rich information of geographical features, roads, landmarks and other attributes. Read the whole article here.

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  1. John Gaynard's Creativity and Innovation Blog Reply

    Thank you for this post, Joe. It seems from what you have written that all the services in Google work well even when there is low bandwidth. I am interested because I will be visiting Abidjan in a couple of weeks. Thanks, John

  2. Joe Ndzulo Reply

    Thanks for the comment John.From reports on Google's activities related to Africa (can be checked on Google Africa Blog), it seem just that way. It may not yet be perfect you know, but Google is definitely working in a way to make it very easy to communicate and access resources via the Internet, which offers far many opportunities.Joe.

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