Google’s approach of rolling out their technology gradually throughout the world showed great success when conquering western markets and seemed to work OK for africa aswell. No other search engine had it’s user interface translated to Zulu, Afrikaans and Xhosa years before they opened an office in South Africa or any other African country and still today there’s no competition within sight.
Back in the very early Google years using voluntary user contributions with their Google in your Language service and is constantly adding new languages. But there seemed to be weak spots where Google was not able to roll out it’s infrastructure on a global level in other fields, because they involve too much professional local knowledge and infrastructure and this is where I was delighted to see some real progress in the last months:
Google Mapmaker allows people to edit and contribute to maps in countries where no professional map making company has gone before. The (infrastructural and marketing) power that honorable open source map projects like openstreetmap did not have meets usability and the result is great map data for all countries in Africa.
Today there was now the big news (via TC): Google launches SMS based services for the ugandan internet community. Some of these services like Google Trader (think of Craigslist/gumtree/kijiji simplified and via SMS only) are build exclusively for Google Africa and I’m sure we’ll see them rolled out and succeed in many african markets soon. The initiative carries the Google logo, but was initiatiated by the Grameen Foundation and MTN and they describe it as:
“The suite of five mobile services, provided using Google SMS Search technology and the MTN network, includes Farmer’s Friend, a searchable database with both agricultural advice and targeted weather forecasts; Health Tips which provides sexual and reproductive health information, paired with Clinic Finder, which helps to locate nearby health clinics and services; and Google Trader, which matches buyers and sellers of agricultural produce and commodities as well as other products. The services are SMS-based and designed to work with basic mobile phones to reach the broadest possible audience.”
My personal perspective is that education driven by technology is going to be the THE MAIN source of development in Africa and I love seeing google use it’s market power to help development to those who need it most. I’m looking for ways how I can personally contribute my knowledge to efficient projects in this area and I urge anyone with the killer idea how to bring knowledge to Africa to share his ideas… Not only this video shows that it’s going to be the mobile phone that’s going to bring development to Africa: