Thursday, October 28, 2010

Introducing Google Baraza

Yesterday, Google launched its newest Africa-centered product in Ghana, and I had the opportunity to play an active role in the festivities. Google Baraza is a community-based Q&A service that was created specifically for the African continent. As I've outlined in my previous posts on Google's strategy in Africa, one of the big obstacles to a thriving Internet ecosystem in Africa is the lack of locally relevant content. Baraza lets African users work around this issue by posing their questions  directly to other Africans and encouraging a community of users who both provide and acquire value from the product. At this point, you're probably wondering what makes Baraza special/different from all the other Q&A services out there, why the name Baraza, and most importantly, what sort of launch activities I got to participate in yesterday.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Perched at a Tipping Point: Let the Price Wars Begin

Over the last several weeks, technologists in Africa have begun to see an extraordinary phenomenon starting to take place across the continent. Price wars have begun. In Kenya, consumers have seen a 30% reduction in broadband prices, a 50% - 75% drop for calling, and a shockingly high 94% decrease for SMS. Similar trends have emerged in Ghana last months with the first real price war in calling and SMS and bandwidth prices plummeting by up to half. But this sudden new occurrence begs several questions: Why now? Who will benefit? And how does Google fit in?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Home, Sweet Home

On Monday night, I landed once again in warm, muggy Accra, but unlike the first time, this time I was greeted by a feeling I hadn't at all expected. Arriving in Accra Monday night, I felt like I was home. Sure, gallivanting around Europe had been fun, and sure, I had been reluctant to give up all of the Western luxuries, but I have to admit it; I'm starting to see the virtue in the whole concept of home, even if it is fleeting.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Our Strategy in Africa Part II:
Eliminating Barriers to Access

A few weeks ago, I outlined Google's overall strategy in Africa and mentioned that three posts would follow doing deep dives on each of the central components: access, relevance, and sustainability. This entry will tackle the first issue. Access is still a monumental hurdle, and probably the most significant one, to developing a thriving Internet ecosystem in Sub-Saharan Africa. High quality connectivity is extremely expensive and very hard to come by. Google has a plan for helping the people of Africa overcome this challenge though.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Life in High Contrast

This last week and a half in Europe has been hard. Hard for a number of reasons, not the least of which including food poisoning, not staying anywhere for more than a few days, and not knowing my way around. But more profoundly, these last several days have made me realize that I live life in high contrast and just how much my perspective has changed from my short time in Africa.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Venturing into the Night

The dirt road was dark and uneven, and I had been walking for some indeterminably long time. I had tried to follow the directions given to me: turn left on Oxford Street and keep going on Papaye Down, but as anyone who has lived in Ghana knows, most roads here do not have commonly known names. I had walked, and walked, and walked. A hair salon, a mobile phone voucher hut, a series of makeshift homes... Nope. It was nearly 8:00; they were all shut up, and I was sure I was lost.