I learned a number of interesting facts over the last weekend at BarCamp Abidjan, mostly from the Google Africa team that was there. It turns out that despite being spread across multiple countries on the continent, their staff totals 23 people. Most of these seem to be working in outreach and communication of Google brand projects, but there are a few in the mapping department as well.
Maybe there are some coders too, but I didn’t meet anyone who fessed up to being a hardcore coder. I got the gist, based on the conversations about the various Google products that seem to be targeted towards the African market that these are developed in the famous 20% time of other staff in other countries, which means they’re not developed by those using them firsthand. In general, this isn’t the worst thing in the world as you can apply a good deal of theory and construct artificial testing environments (code wind tunnels if you will.) But I can tell you that actually living in the market your application is working to serve shows you endless shortcomings as well as unknown strengths. Google needs more coders in Africa.
To that end, I learned a very interesting and potentially brilliant setup in that CEO Eric Schmidt wants there to be the same percentage of developers in each country of the world as those countries stack up for internet users in the world. I don’t know what the current amounts are of coding staff in the US, but under this plan, only 40% of Google’s development staff would eventually be in the US as 40% of the current internet users are in the US. It’s quite a genius tack that I applaud and hope will eventually become a reality… especially in Africa. This also goes a long way to explaining why there are only 23 staff here as African internet users are less than 1% of the total in the world. They could still use a few more hires though.