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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.

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Written by aheavens

April 10, 2008 at 1:37 pm

Posted in education

Google is Moving in East Africa

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White African

7 Month old Google Kenya is starting to interact with the local hackers and devs. Just this Tuesday they sponsored the local Tuesday Skunkworks event, giving some of their thoughts on Kenya specifically. My friend, and fellow Kenyan blogger, Bankelele was in attendance and took notes.

Highlights. Google is…

* Mapping Kenya
* Partnering with the largest mobile carrier (Safaricom) and giving free email accounts to all subscribers
* Partnering with universities to make inroads with their web-based office applications and associated services
* Encouraging local content providers to get online (ex: NTVKenya on YouTube)
* Fighting for more bandwidth for all Kenyans
* Working with legislatures to create the right atmosphere to get the right internet infrastructure

Read the rest, and get more detail, on Bankelele’s blog.

It’s interesting to see how Google continues to look at new markets and move ahead in them, without any real profit there yet. Meanwhile, their main competition on the global level on the web (Yahoo!), doesn’t. Interestingly enough, Yahoo has had the mindshare and marketshare in East Africa, but didn’t capitalize on it. They basically left the door open for Google to come in and steal it all away… and they are.

Written by aheavens

March 6, 2008 at 5:49 pm

Skunkworks: Nairobi March 4

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Bankelele

A Skunkworks (blog) meeting yesterday was hosted by (7 month old) Google Kenya, and it was attended by an interesting mix of engineers, webhosts, designers, admins, bloggers and rivals of Google, – who all listened as Google employees explained their aps and maps.

some scribbled notes

– There’s an ongoing Google East Africa competition for students to develop gadgets for Google (closes March 17)
– They are mapping the country with Google map’s – started with Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Nakuru, with a Kenyan team, doing the mapping work, using the tools. Ideally the next step will be for maps to stream into local yellow pages
– Safaricom have the largest customer base of any kind in Kenya – 8 million strong – and so Google partnered with them to give all their subscribers free e-mail. Many people’s introduction was and still remains, accessing an email account.
– Ushaidi was cited as an examples of enhanced use of a Google platform
– Google in Africa for the long term, with an altruistic motive of sharing local content & information – and currently get less than 1% of revenue from Africa. They helped NTV set up a Youtube platform that has been a big success in terms of Kenyans abroad now able to watch local news online. They monetize in three ways – videoads, adsense, search box advertising. Kenya/Africa needs to get more local content up. Already some local web sites are making good money off adsense that is enough to sustain their online operations.
– Hot point #1 was bandwidth; or the performance of connectivity, service providers and other operators. They are known in the industry for short-changing consumers who are not wary and in the face of a regulator (CCK) who does not seem to care. There was a call for users to take the initiative, to test bandwidth speeds, and identify those with superior speeds and those who were short-changing consumers (a model from Australia called Whirlpool to test broadband was mentioned as a model that could be used to do this)
– Hot point # 2 was the lack of investment in infrastructure/or the wrong kind of investment. Examples: There are 4 ethernet cables in Nairobi, but no cooperation between providers. Government is building data centers, but with no servers there. Local loops are not benefiting end users. It would be nice of government required new building developers to also install connectivity in buildings
– Other challenges with local advertising – does it work? Yahoo never advertised in Kenya; yet have more e-mail accounts through word of mouth. Google is working with universities to give them free e-mail as a way of building a long term relationship. There’s also a move to alert local advertising companies to the presnce of local site to advertise on.

There were many other conversations but they were drowned out by sounds of mouths slurping pizza slices and mshikaki’s.

Written by aheavens

March 4, 2008 at 6:16 pm

Google goes to Africa

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Kenya and Rwanda get Google Apps

By John Oates The Register

Google has done a deal to offer students in Kenya and Rwanda access to Google Apps – its online selection of products including Gmail.

Lecturers and students at Rwanda’s National University, the Kigali Institute for Education, and Kigali Institute for Science and Technology will all get access to Google’s online applications – Google Docs, calendar and spreadsheets. In Kenya some 50,000 students and staff at the University of Nairobi get a Gmail account.

Google is trying to sell its online apps package to small businesses for an annual per seat charge of $50. The company offers an education version of the package free to schools and colleges.

Google Apps does not support local languages like Swahili or Kinyarwanda.

The deals are Google’s first in sub-Saharan Africa although the company promised more to come in its blog entry.

Written by aheavens

March 20, 2007 at 2:23 pm

Google Apps now south of the Sahara

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Posted by Francoise Brougher, Business Operations Team Google Blog

Tens of thousands of university students in Rwanda and Kenya are now on their way to using Google Apps. As a result of two separate partnerships that we’ve signed today with the Rwandan Ministry of Infrastructure and the Kenya Education Network, nearly 20,000 students from the National University of Rwanda, the Kigali Institute for Education and the Kigali Institute for Science and Technology, plus 50,000 more from Kenya’s University of Nairobi, are joining their colleagues at Northwestern, ASU and around the world with access to Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, and Google Docs & Spreadsheets under their university’s domain for free.

Offering Google Apps in Africa means more to us than connecting students and teachers to conduct that special exchange of ideas, innovation and creativity so unique to universities (we should know). In Africa and in the developing world, it also means doing our part to make sure that everyone has access to the same services wherever they live, whatever their language, and regardless of income.

We can’t be more delighted about our Google Apps partnerships with Rwanda and Kenya, and there are more to come.

Written by aheavens

March 19, 2007 at 2:26 pm