Sunday, November 28, 2010

Being Thankful

I have a confession to make. It's not easy for me to say, because I try always to be grateful for my life, through the ups and downs regardless. But on Thanksgiving last week, sitting in my hotel alone, eating the same dinner I had eaten for days before, and working away on my project for work, I'll admit it: I was pretty miserable. It was the first time that I had been away from home on Thanksgiving, and while the holiday may not mean a lot to many American families, it always has for mine. Tonight though, maybe a few days late, I was blessed to be invited into the home of some fellow American expats, people I didn't even know before, for their version of an expatastic American Thanksgiving. I can't even express how thankful I am.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Our Strategy in Africa Part IV: Looking Toward the Future

No matter how much resources Google, or any other company, pours into Africa, our bets will never pay off unless we keep an eye out for the long term. How can we help develop not only an Internet ecosystem in Africa, but also one that's sustainable? In this final installment of my series on Google's strategy in Africa, I'd like to put the spotlight on one specific initiative that's been underway for many months aimed at achieving this very goal: Google's G-Africa events, run by none other than my friend and colleague, Bridgette.

Friday, November 19, 2010

What Will Our Legacy Be?

What motivates today's young leaders? What factors from our collective youth have given this generation its unique character? What legacy will our generation leave behind? These are the questions David Burstein, author and founder of Generation18, is trying to answer. Last Friday, I had the pleasure of speaking with David over VC from Ghana about my work, his background, and our opinions on where this generation is headed.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Landed in Lagos, the Heart of Nigeria

Today is day three in Lagos, and day two of a national holiday for the Muslim celebration of Eid al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice. As a result, I haven't seen too much, but I do have some initial observations about this city that garnered such polar reviews. But first, some background. With a population nearing 160-million, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the eighth most populous country in the world. It's largest city, Lagos, alone has roughly one-third the population of all of Ghana. When I told people I was coming here, I got the full range of reactions, from "Oh Lagos is a real city; have fun!" to "Good luck buddy, see you in the next life." I was intrigued. How could one place evoke such different opinions? One thing I knew for sure was that in West Africa, Lagos is certainly a place whose reputation precedes itself.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Conjuring Stability from Chaos

Would you believe that in the five months since I graduated college, I haven't stayed in any one place for more than three weeks at a time? At the beginning, it was easy. I was traveling around Europe with friends or bouncing around between a few of the places I consider home, places that I have solid friends and family to visit and enjoy. Africa has been its own challenge. This post is my attempt to tackle one of the great challenges I face in this chaotic, ever-changing life: the lack of permanence, the lack of any routine, fundamentally, the lack of stability.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Our Strategy in Africa Part III: Making the Internet Relevant and Useful

Did you know that Africans represent 14% of the world's population and yet only 2% of the Internet users? With numbers like that, it shouldn't be surprising that there isn't much African content online or very many products aimed solving African problems. Thus, we hit a bit of a chicken-and-the- egg problem. Because there are so few Africans online, there is very little useful or relevant content, and because there is so little useful or relevant content, there's very little reason for Africans to get online in the first place. We're hoping to shake things up, and here's how we're going to do it.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Google Tech Talk in Kumasi: Meeting Bright and Motivated Students

We arrived about ten minutes late after getting thoroughly lost driving around the campus of KNUST, Kumasi's science and technology university. Fortunately, in Ghana, ten minutes usually isn't late at all. It was my first time giving such a talk to university students, but it felt like a natural thing to do after being on the other end of so many at Cornell. To our surprise though, when we got into the lecture hall, there were already about 50 students eagerly waiting for us.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Life's Getting Better All The Time

This post is adapted from an email I sent to some friends and family a few days ago. My apologies to those of you reading it twice.

I was sitting in my apartment the other day trying to think of a song that adequately summed up my experience over the last few weeks since I got back to Africa, and this was the first thing that popped into my head: "It's Getting Better All the Time" by the Beatles. I have to admit, it's getting better. Life here wasn't easy from the start; in fact, it was really damned hard. But so much has changed in such a short period of time. Since visiting my colleagues in Europe, I have a deep understanding of my job and what's expected of me, and more importantly, I feel like I'm being effective at it. What's more, all of a sudden, I have a thriving social life here. I had no idea how easy it would be to make friends once I broke into the social scene. Last Thursday night alone, I was invited to four different functions ranging from an expat mixer to an MIT alumni gathering. Hard to believe only a matter of weeks ago, I didn't know a single soul.