Google in Africa

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Archive for April 2008

Google Gadget Competition in East Africa Begins

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Rebecca Wanjiku, IDG News Service

Google has kicked off the inaugural gadget competition for students in East Africa and will announce a winner in August.

In the next four months, Google expects students enrolled at universities in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Burundi to work on their ideas and submit functioning gadgets on July 14.

A large number of students from the region registered and submitted their gadget ideas by April 4, the deadline for submissions, according to Louise Welch, Google’s project manager for Global University Programs

“We have enjoyed broad participation from students and universities across East Africa. We cannot release exact numbers for confidentiality reasons, but we’ve had robust participation across the board,” Welch said.

While the competition seeks innovative gadgets that can be used globally, it is also encouraging the development of gadgets for local use.

“There is no formula to what makes a good gadget, but there are certainly things to think about when creating one. Does it provide useful and frequently updated information? Or does it provide service that people will need to use frequently? Is it diverting? Fun? Attractive?” Google notes in the advertisement sent to participating universities.

The gadgets will be judged on their functionality, including gadget completeness, cleanly written code and technical sophistication. Ease of use and design scalability of design and originality are also judging criteria.

The categories the devices can win include best education specific gadget, most technically sophisticated gadget and gadget most likely to get international traffic

Students participating in the competition will receive a Gadget Winners Certificate, a Google shirt, pen and notebook. Five students will receive a US$350 stipend and one student will receive a $600 stipend.

Regarding use of language, Welch was noncommittal about whether Google is encouraging development of gadgets that can use local language or whether all gadgets must be in English. Ethiopia’s national language is Amharic and Tanzania uses mainly Kiswahili, which is also widely used in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.


Written by aheavens

April 10, 2008 at 1:37 pm

Posted in education

UNHCR and Google Earth unveil programme for humanitarian operations

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GENEVA, April 8 (UNHCR) – Representatives of the UN refugee agency and Google on Tuesday unveiled a powerful new online mapping programme that provides an up-close and multifaceted view of some of the world’s major displacement crises and the humanitarian efforts aimed at helping the victims.

The “Google Earth Outreach” programme gives UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies the ability to use Google Earth and Maps to highlight their work on behalf of millions of refugees and other populations of concern in some of the world’s most remote and difficult areas.

“It’s absolutely fantastic. The potential for us and the potential to serve our interests and to serve the refugee interests round the world is quite substantial and we need now only seize the opportunity and move ahead with it,” Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees L. Craig Johnstone told more than 250 staff and invited guests at a launch ceremony in the atrium of UNHCR’s Geneva headquarters. “I think we will all be beneficiaries of it at the end of the day.”

Johnstone said the pilot UNHCR layers, which went live on Google Earth Outreach earlier Tuesday, made it possible for staff and clients to zoom in on specific refugee situations. He said the tool would be particularly useful in extending UNHCR’s outreach and visibility as well as for its own internal administration.

The UNHCR layers, which were compiled by technical and editorial staff within the agency’s communications service, currently focus on three of the refugee agency’s global operations – Chad/Darfur, Colombia and Iraq – but plans are under way to expand.

“In 2008, we are going to spread around the world and try and capture all of the major sites and make sure that they are all available so that people can see what the actual situation is on the ground,” Johnstone said. “It will make it possible to bring that suffering [of refugees in harsh environments] to people, so people can understand where the responsibilities actually are,” he added.

“We’re very excited to participate with UNHCR,” Rebecca Moore, manager and founder of Google Earth Outreach, told the audience, before giving them a demonstration of the tool and showing them some of the new UNHCR layers. “The idea is to take an abstract concept – refugees in some country that people have never visited and may in fact never visit and take them there virtually – so that they can get an intuitive understanding of what the real issues are,” she said.

Google’s outreach programme provides humanitarian agencies with the skills and resources to use Google Earth and Maps to highlight their work to a mass audience. The agencies can overlay text, audio and video information onto Google Earth in the so-called layers, enabling them to explain and illustrate their humanitarian work to a worldwide audience.

Moore said she was “very impressed” by UNHCR’s layers. These show three levels of detail. The first provides an overview of UNHCR itself and takes the user on a journey to Chad/Darfur, Colombia and Iraq operations. The impact on neighbouring countries is also explored, and refugee camp locations are highlighted on the Google Earth maps.

The second layer brings the user even closer to the life of those in exile, exploring such elements as refugee health, education, water and sanitation. Pop-up windows linked to precise geographical points in camps and refugee communities provide written explanations, photos and videos of specific needs and operations. The third level, the “macro-view,” takes the online visitor right down to the local level within a refugee camp, allowing examination of schools, water points and other infrastructure found in a typical site.

UNHCR’s technical experts say that as it grows, the Google Earth programme will allow UNHCR and its humanitarian partners to build and share with each other a visual, geographic record of their joint efforts on the ground to help refugees. This could include, for example, cross-border mapping of population flows as well as the location of displaced people in relation to their places of origin – useful data in logistical planning for eventual repatriation operations.

Also speaking at the Geneva launch was the Afghanistan-born photographer Zalmaï, himself a former refugee. “It’s our duty to give them some hope,” he said, as haunting images from his recent trip to Afghanistan appeared on a big screen behind him.

Google Earth has enjoyed spectacular success since its launch in mid 2005; some 350 million people around the world have downloaded it to date. Moore and other humanitarians in Google developed the idea of the Outreach programme, which has attracted great interest since its launch last year.

By Leo Dobbs in Geneva

Written by aheavens

April 8, 2008 at 9:01 am

Posted in Google Earth Outreach

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Stafford Masie Presents Google South Africa’s Hot New Trends

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the e of Marketing

longtail eMarketing was able to get Stafford Masie, recently appointed as South Africa’s Country Manager for Google, to come and talk to a select few about new Google eMarketing offerings. The presentation, held at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, was aimed at educating attendees about the latest trends happening at Google.

Most importantly, we needed to hear – from the horse’s mouth – what Stafford Masie had to say about the latest trends with regards to Google Maps, Google Gadget Ads, Google Mobile Search, YouTube and other Google features that will soon be available in South Africa.

As always it is difficult to make notes of everything being said, so here are the highlights from our notes taken from the presentation.

Stafford started off by giving a little history on Google and said that Google’s aim is to 1.) educate people about everything online and 2.) to assist wherever possible. So, as Google’s Country Manager, Masie and his team of experts want to bring the Global Google solutions to South Africa.

think faster, better broadband!

Yes! Google South Africa is involved in trying to improve broadband locally and promise that in 18 months time, South Africa will go from the most expensive (and slow) broadband to the cheapest and fastest broadband connections in the World. According to Masie, this is what he is most passionate and excited about, getting South Africa up to speed with the rest of the world when it comes to broadband connections. That got me excited and pretty much every person in the room, I am convinced about that!

Hopefully low broadband costs will account for up to, and over, 20% penetration of the South African population.

Before I get into more detail about the future local Google services, here are some statistical information that Stafford mentioned regarding Google stats for both South Africa and international:

* 13% of total internet traffic in South Africa during the 4th Quarter of 2007 was spent on YouTube
* A 708% growth was recorded in this quarter
* Gmail is the leading free email service
* 90% of people use Google as their preferred Search Engine

In light of the above, Stafford addressed marketers and digital agencies and mentioned two very important points:

1. End user generated content or end user content generation
* YouTube provides 8000 minutes of video which is published worldwide per minute
* 84% of all internet activity is about people publishing content
* The internet today is not about taking, it is all about giving, sharing and participating
* Everyone is encouraged to experiment and engage!
2. Moment of relevance
* Knowing when someone wants something at the right time and to present them with what they want
* Google is #1 in mobile internet share and “click to sms” to come via ads which will deliver targeted ads when asked for
* Above 60% CTR in online video ads, again with the end user in mind, served at the right time
* Refining Search Engine Result Pages with Google Co-op – giving the user more than what they asked for

Stafford stressed again that online should never be ignored and that both the above mentioned points are crucial for everyone, especially marketers and digital agencies.

Finally, and in very short time, Stafford highlighted the exciting things to come from Google in South Africa and also services that we can make use of:

* Google Maps will be the biggest thing happening in a very short time with the local – Exciting developments in Maps such as virtual billboards on street view level and updated map gadgets.
* Mobile search will soon allow click to SMS on inline ads
* As faster and cheaper broadband will be available in South Africa, more people will be online, greater target markets and audiences.
* Google co-op is a new service allowing for refined search within search results
* YouTube channels is a unique way of making use of user generated content when users are provided with a platform or medium
* Syndicated search should be utilized more

Ok, so in a nutshell, that highlights Stafford Masie’s presentation on Google South Africa. Feedback that longtail received from many attendees was that it was informative and eye-opening. People loved Stafford’s enthusiasm and vision to educate and help wherever possible.

Be sure that longtail endeavors to provide further updates to many of the above mentioned solutions and also future events, so keep on “watching this space”.

Written by aheavens

April 3, 2008 at 6:04 pm