So, what is Google doing in Africa?

I read this article on Ratio Magazine and it’s a good read about Google in Africa. The author starts out with some solid points:

I’ve always found it difficult to keep a straight face when corporate execs tell me they are not interested in making money. This happens all the time in Africa, and the subtext I suppose is that “good” companies do not publicly chase bottom lines in poor places… I would argue that other companies operating here need to give profit a chance.

This issue of profit in poor places is a much larger discussion that has been going around for awhile of course. But after this opening, things get a bit murky as the article goes in to general initiatives to date. I was left wanting a bit more or maybe something more focused on something more specific. This was not to be though and it brought up the big question as to what exactly Google is doing in Africa.

To be honest, I haven’t a clue. They seem to be all over the map with enough money to burn that they can put it in to a multitude of programs and see what sticks. This would fall in to line with their general approach to development as it is founded in engineering and iteration to solve a problem. But at the same time, I thought about it a bit more and it doesn’t really seem like Google is a bit more adrift in Africa than anywhere else. In their defense, I do enjoy the fact that they’re trying so many things and as Erik pointed out, they’re trying things like Google Maps in Kenya and seeing where they go. Undoubtedly a great deal of innovation will come out of this. How much local innovation will be killed off due to the massive influence of Google remains to be seen. But, these are exciting times.

I’m just rather annoyed by and reminded by this Ratio article that again, I want to know more. There is a tool that is so vastly underused by Google in Africa, it’s rather annoying and that is their Google Africa blog. I mean, according to Google Reader, this blog only has 250 subscribers (FeedBurner claims over 1,600 which I don’t believe), which for an official Google blog is pretty paltry given that the official blog has 605,000 readers. The blog is not often updated with at most four posts a month. Then there is the fact that other blogs scoop this official blog on stories. How are other people scooping Google on their own news?!!

It makes me feel that the person in charge of this blog must get paid to write four articles a month or something, because that’s all you’ll see out of it and really, there’s a great deal more going on than a little update once a week. This should be a massive hub, a go-to spot for all of us who want to hear about Google in Africa, but it isn’t. I’ve seen them link to sarticles where I keep track of the statistics and the clicks on their links bring in nearly no one indicating that there are few people actually reading this blog. I mean, it’s great that there are a number of other blogs out there telling us about what Google is doing, but shouldn’t we get it straight from the coder’s mouth?

To me, it seems like they need to have more than one author on that blog, update it more frequently, and not worry if it appears that they’re all over the place with their current strategy. Any of us who follow what they’re doing in the least can see this and it’s okay. I think that I speak for a good number of us in saying that we want to hear more. Innovation is cool and exciting. Tell us about it and more often!

2 Replies to “So, what is Google doing in Africa?”

  1. hi miquel,
    very interesting article – and I agree with you the google/africa connection needs to be explored further, A small thing though, your mention of Google Africa blog, links to the main google blog, not their Africa one. Just thought you may want to know.
    How is everything otherwise?

  2. Ah, thanks for pointing out that goof in the links. Fixed now.

    Otherwise, things are fine. Just got done making the long trip back to California. Not enjoying being nine hours behind everyone again.

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