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.

Google is working on eliminating barriers to access on two main fronts. The first is through a technology called Google Global Caches. Basically, GGCs are servers that can be installed at ISPs or Internet Exchange Points that cache frequently accessed public content like YouTube videos. This means that once the data is accessed once, it is then stored locally so that when another user goes to access it, the traffic doesn't have to cross the globe to the nearest data center. By doing this, Google improves user experience by reducing latency when accessing Google services and also lessens international bandwidth requirements for internet service providers. It's a win-win situation for everyone: ISPs don't incur as much of the costs of international traffic, users get their content faster, and Google gets to provide higher quality services to consumers.

The other major initiative Google has been taking is the University Access Program (GUAP). GUAP is a a program wherein Google works with universities to foster a community of effective Internet users among the faculty, staff, and student body. From our perspective, the hope is to build a new generation of Internet educated African citizens who can then spread their expertise to the masses. To do this, Google works with the universities to provide contributions for infrastructure including wireless access, bandwidth, international bandwidth; affordable laptops, email and the full Google Apps suite, all with expert guidance/consultancy. Again, it's the sort of program that's win-win for everyone involved. The universities get to better prepare their students for the world, the users have the ability to be more effective, and Google sees more people using the Internet and its products.

To sum up Google's strategy in this domain, basically folks have been very clever in devising programs that serve every party involved, whether it's an ISP, a university, or a user. It's these kind of initiatives that dominate Google's strategy in Africa. We're constantly asking the question, "how can we make a positive impact while also moving forward with Google's long-term goals?" It's not a question that has a lot of easy answers, especially in Africa, but fortunately for us, we've got a lot of good people thinking about it.

No comments: