The African continent is the next big frontier in internet growth according to Google executives.
Less than 20 percent of the people living in Africa are online, yet the region is considered one of the next big hot spots for Internet growth, according to two Google executives who visited U.S. Africa Command on March 29, 2012.
“Google has a huge interest in Africa,” said Tom Wojszynski, a senior enterprise account manager for Google who deals with military issues. “Africa by far has the smallest percentage of Internet users in the world but it’s also the fastest growing.”
Google, with 33,000 employees worldwide, had almost $40 billion in revenue last year. Seventy percent of Internet searches worldwide are on Google. Products such as Google Earth and Google Maps are widely used throughout the Department of Defense, including at U.S. AFRICOM.
Wojszynski and Michelle R. Weslander Quaid, Google’s chief technology officer for the federal government, were at AFRICOM to highlight the company’s work in Africa and to talk about how Google services might be further used by the command.
They met with General Carter F. Ham, AFRICOM’s commander, and held a roundtable discussion with senior officers from the command’s directorates.
Of specific focus at the roundtable was cloud technology, which allows multiple users to store and access the same information on a remote server. That, in turn, allows the information to be accessed from anywhere with multiple types of devices, including laptops, tablets and smart phones.
The challenge of cloud technology for military uses, as several attendees at the round table discussion pointed out, is that much of the information users need to share is housed in classified documents.
Quaid acknowledged that hurdle and said some commands are working to make sure information is more accessible, but that the military culture can be difficult to change.
In Africa, Google has employees in Accra, Ghana, Johannesburg, South Africa, Nairobi, Kenya and Dakar, Senegal. Wojszynski said that more than 50 percent of access to Google products worldwide is via mobile devices such as smart phones. But since smart phones are not widely used in Africa, Google and other companies are developing apps that can be used on more basic devices.
This is not new or surprising. It has been previously talked about on here. Google has been very proactive in expanding throughout Africa. From Kenya, to South Africa, Google has been focused in increasing access to the internet and software development. By focusing on its Africa programs on getting more Africans online, the company is betting that by developing an accessible, vibrant and self sufficient Internet ecosystem on the continent many more Africans would come online. Key among its strategies to develop the continent’s Internet ecosystem is to increase the amount of local African content online. One such example has been putting Nelson Mandela memorabilia online to wider audience.
To do this effectively, the company has launched initiatives such as the Get African Business Online (GABO) initiative last year as a pilot to a select number of businesses in Nigeria. The initiative targeted small and medium scale enterprises and empowered them to set up an online presence for themselves to promote their goods and services.
In addition, the company is working with Universities across Sub-Saharan Africa to help expand their bandwidth capacity through its University Programs providing much needed Internet access to student populations across the continent. For instance, last year, the company launched its university access initiative at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka where Nigeria’s Vice President Namadi Sambo launched the campus’ new wireless network, intra-campus fibre and trans-national fibre connection to MainOne, an under sea cable system in West Africa. Similar access launches have since occurred at other universities in Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria among others where in addition to bandwidth capacity, participating universities get free deployments of Google Apps for Education on campus. Africa is ripe for an internet growth expansion.