Google in Africa

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Africa: Google Starts Recruitment Plan to Up Clout

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All Africa

Internet search company Google Kenya’s Nairobi office is searching for five senior executives for its African operations, laying the foundation for a looming market share battle on the continent.

The Nairobi office serves as the company’s African headquarters. The five senior managers are expected to complement nine other senior level appointments who are already working in the continent.

Advertisements posted on Google’s website indicate that the company is looking for people with local expertise in marketing, logistics as well as technical support.

Google is also searching for office leads in Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria and Senegal.

Some of the positions were advertised and filled early last year, but the company says the current recruitment should help strengthen the company’s operations.

The move comes amid increasing finding that emerging markets such as Africa are poised to become the next frontier of growth for global Internet companies.

Less than five per cent of the African population is currently hooked on the Internet.

Locally, Google appears to be pursuing a low key strategy, with its most notable achievements so far being a partnership with tertiary educational institutions to support students.

It has also entered into an agreement with mobile phone service provider Safaricom to offer e-mail and data services to Safaricom’s subscribers.

The service is expected to offer the first formal Internet experience for millions of rural Kenyans. This partnership has also offered Safaricom a platform to launch a local version of Google Maps to add to its growing portfolio of Internet based services.

Google is currently realigning its global operations following revelations that software giant Microsoft has made a $44.6 billion bid for Yahoo!.

Written by aheavens

February 5, 2008 at 1:31 pm

Posted in expansion, tactics

New life for network equipment

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Posted by Urs Hoelzle, Senior VP, Operations on Google blog

We take the Internet for granted throughout the U.S. and the westernized world; these days we expect to be “always on.” But in large parts of the globe, this isn’t yet so.

The Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC), a non-profit organization based at the University of Oregon, is working to change that, by bringing potential recipients of computing and networking hardware together with potential donors. By coordinating these donations, the NSRC undertakes projects to connect Internet-neglected areas in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, the Caribbean and elsewhere–and they’ve done so since 1992. (Read about their accomplishments.)

Over the years they’ve found that the most difficult–and most useful–equipment to obtain is routers, switches and wireless equipment. In many cases, a single, relatively inexpensive piece of hardware is the critical factor preventing a network from becoming operational, but in developing areas, networking hardware can be difficult or prohibitively expensive to obtain. We’re pleased to support the NSRC by donating our decommissioned networking hardware. Thus far, we’ve heard that some of our retired switches have been sent to universities across Africa and in Guyana and Thailand. More will be shipping out in the coming months to universities and research institutes in, among others, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Afghanistan and Vietnam.

If your company would like to give financial assistance or hardware, or if you want to look into volunteering, please get in touch. It will truly help connect the world.

Written by aheavens

January 26, 2008 at 2:35 pm

Posted in equipment

Google.org Announces Core Initiatives to Combat Climate Change, Poverty and Emerging Threats

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Reveals its plans for philanthropy; announces new grants and investments

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (January 17, 2008) – In its continuing effort to use the power of information and technology to help people better their lives, Google.org today rolled out five core initiatives that will be the focus of its philanthropic efforts over the next five to ten years. Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), will collaborate with experienced partners working in each of these fields, investing its resources and tapping the strengths of Google’s employees and global operations to advance its core initiatives.

Today’s announcement includes more than $25 million in new grants and investments to initial partners. The resources come from a commitment by Google’s founders to devote approximately 1 percent of the company’s equity plus 1 percent of annual profits to philanthropy, as well as employee time.

“In their first Letter from the Founders (2004), Larry Page and Sergey Brin said that we wanted to ‘make Google an institution that makes the world a better place.’ The work of Google.org will help us do that by applying Google’s strengths in organizing information and scaling technology to these complex issues,” said Sheryl Sandberg, VP Global Online Sales & Operations, and Google.org Board member.

Added Dr. Larry Brilliant, executive director of Google.org, “These five initiatives are our attempt to address some of the hard problems we as a world need to face in the coming decade. We have chosen them both because we think solving them will make a better, fairer, safer world for our children and grandchildren – and the children and grandchildren of people all over the world – but also because we feel that these core initiatives fit well with Google’s core strengths, especially its innovative technologies and its talented engineers and other Googlers, who are really our most valuable assets.”

Google.org joins a community of like minded groups working to make the planet and population healthier and more equitable. Google.org’s five initiatives and initial partners include:

Predict and Prevent

Google.org supports efforts to empower communities to predict and prevent events before they become local, regional, or global crises, by identifying “hot spots” and enabling a rapid response. Rapid ecological and social changes are increasing the risk of emerging threats, from infectious diseases to drought and other environmental disasters. Google.org is initially focused on Southeast Asia and tropical Africa. In Southeast Asia, a hot spot for SARS and potentially bird flu, Google.org is working with partners to strengthen early warning systems and build local capacities to prevent the next pandemic. Initial grants include:

$5 million to InSTEDD (Innovative Support to Emergencies, Diseases and Disasters) to improve early detection, preparedness, and response capabilities for global health threats and humanitarian crises. InSTEDD will work with the community of relief and response organizations, governments, academia and top scientists around the world to address gaps in information flow with software and other technology-based tools and services. Acting as an innovation laboratory, InSTEDD aims to support the humanitarian community in preparing for and responding to global public health emergencies, working together towards a safer world. For more information, see http://instedd.org/.

$2.5 million to the Global Health and Security Initiative (GHSI), established by the Nuclear Threat Initiative to prevent, detect, and respond to biological threats. Google.org’s support will help GHSI to strengthen national and sub-regional disease surveillance systems through workforce training and better laboratory capacity in the Mekong Basin area (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Yunnan province, China). For more information, see http://www.ghsi.org/.

More than $600,000 to Clark University, with equal funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, for Clark Labs to develop a system to improve monitoring, analysis and prediction of the impacts of climate variability and change on ecosystems, food and health in Africa and the Amazon. This system is a prototype platform to deploy global environmental, health, and development data, information and analysis tools that the global community can freely access over the Internet. For more information, see http://www.clarklabs.org/.

Inform and Empower to Improve Public Services

Google.org works with partners to improve the flow of vital information to improve basic services for the poor in India and East Africa. In many countries in the developing world, essential public services are failing, especially for the poorest members of society. Google.org supports efforts to provide information to empower citizens and communities, providers, and policy makers to improve the delivery of essential public services such as education, health, water and sanitation. Initial grants include:

$2 million to Pratham, a non-governmental organization in India, to create an independent institute that will conduct the Nationwide Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) as well as large scale assessments in the education sector. Our goal is to expand these types of assessments to other sectors. For more information, see http://www.pratham.org/.

$765,000 to the Centre for Budget and Policy Studies, a Bangalore-based analysis group, to create a Budget Information Service for local governments to facilitate better district- and municipal-level level planning in India. For more information, see http://www.cbpsindia.org/.

$660,000 to the Center for Policy Research, an action oriented think tank based in India, to increase the debate and discourse on issues of urban local governance and urban service delivery. With the rapid expansion of cities in India, our goal is to provide policy makers the necessary information to make more informed decisions. For more information, see http://www.cprindia.org/.

Fuel the Growth of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises

Google.org supports efforts to lower transaction costs to invest in SMEs, create opportunities to access larger financial markets and make investments in this sector. SMEs are critical for inclusive economic growth and job creation in the developing world, but lack the capital and tools necessary to succeed. Many micro-enterprises and most large businesses have access to capital through microfinance institutions, banks and capital markets, but SMEs remain extraordinarily underserved, creating a “missing middle.” Google.org wants to help increase the flow of capital to “the missing middle” by tackling some of the root causes that prevent these firms from becoming profitable investment opportunities. Technoserve is an initial partner:

$4.7 million grant to TechnoServe to provide general support to expand Technoserve’s efforts to support enterprises, spur job creation, and strengthen poverty alleviation programs globally, and to develop and implement a business plan competition to support entrepreneurs in Ghana and Tanzania. For more information see, http://www.technoserve.org/.

These three new efforts join two climate change related initiatives announced earlier this year:

Develop Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal (RE<C)

This cross-Google collaboration has set a goal of producing one gigawatt of renewable energy capacity that is cheaper than coal, within years not decades. The initiative, known as RE<C, was launched in November 2007 and will focus initially on advanced solar thermal power, wind power technologies, enhanced geothermal systems and other potential breakthrough technologies. For more information on Google’s commitment to a clean energy future, see http://www.google.com/renewable-energy. As part of the RE<C initiative, Google.org is supporting strategic investments, including:

$10 million to eSolar, a Pasadena, CA-based company specializing in solar thermal power which replaces the fuel in a traditional power plant with heat produced from solar energy. eSolar’s technology has great potential to produce utility-scale power cheaper than coal. Google announced its intention to work closely with eSolar in November, and has now closed the investment deal. For more information, please visit http://www.google.com/corporate/green/energy/esolar.pdf.

Accelerate the Commercialization of Plug-In Vehicles (RechargeIT)

RechargeIT is a Google.org initiative that aims to reduce CO2 emissions, cut oil use and stabilize the electrical grid by accelerating the adoption of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and vehicle-to-grid technology. Google.org launched a $10 million request for investment proposals this Fall, and will invest amounts ranging from $500,000 to $2 million in selected for-profit companies whose innovative approach, team and technologies will enable widespread commercialization of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, electric vehicles and/or vehicle-to-grid solutions.

Unlike conventional philanthropies, Google.org is a hybrid organization, giving it the flexibility either to make direct grants or invest in for-profit companies that might yield returns. Google.org can also lobby public officials in favor of policies supporting its goals.

Additional Google Giving
Beyond the grants and investments announced today under Google.org’s core initiatives, Google will continue its philanthropic work through programs to leverage Google products for non-profits, including: Google Grants™, which donates free ads to non-profits; Google Apps™, which provides free, web-based services to non-profits; and contributions from departments including Google Earth™, which offers mapping to monitor events such as the crisis in Darfur.

About Google.org
Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google, uses the power of information and technology to help people improve their lives. We develop and invest in tools and partnerships that can help bring shared knowledge to bear on the world’s most pressing challenges in the areas of climate change, economic development and global health. For more information, visit http://www.google.org.

About Google Inc.
Google’s innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day. Founded in 1998 by Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google today is a top web property in all major global markets. Google’s targeted advertising program provides businesses of all sizes with measurable results, while enhancing the overall web experience for users. Google is headquartered in Silicon Valley with offices throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia. For more information, please visit http://www.google.com.

Conference Call Information

Google.org’s call begins today at 9:00 AM (PT) / 12:00 PM (ET). To participate, call 877-604-9673 in the United States or 719-325-4905 for calls from outside the United States, and use the confirmation code 4699562. A replay of the call will be available beginning at 3:00 PM (ET) today through midnight Thursday, January 24th, 2008 by calling 888-203-1112 in the United States or 719-457-0820 for calls from outside the United States. The required confirmation code for the replay is 4699562.

Media Contact:
Jacquelline Fuller
Google
press@google.com
+1.650.930.3555

Written by aheavens

January 17, 2008 at 9:47 am

Posted in Google.org

Tagged with ,

Entrepreneurs pitch their businesses

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Posted by Rachel Payne, Program Manager, Google.org blog

Last fall, a dozen Google employees served as lecturers, one-on-one consultants, and business plan evaluators for entrepreneurs participating in the Believe Begin Become business plan competition in Tanzania and Ghana. They were very impressed by the participants and winners, and they recognized that entrepreneurs in developing countries rarely get the chance to directly interact with investors to get the funding and support they need for their businesses. Together with TechnoServe, and using FlipVideo cameras, the volunteers filmed the entrepreneurs. Our video production team helped us quickly assemble the videos that now appear on the recently launched Believe Begin Become TechnoServe Channel on You Tube.

On the channel, you will find an inspiring group of entrepreneurs talking about the opportunities and challenges they face running their businesses. In Tanzania, the enterprises that we work with range from selling carbon credits to rebuilding a local high school and running a radio station — businesses that you will have the opportunity to view firsthand on the channel. Perhaps you will be as inspired as we are. People who want to do more to support these small and medium-sized (SME) businesses in Africa and elsewhere, can contribute directly from the You Tube Channel by using the Google Checkout payment option. We hope that sharing these stories will raise awareness of SMEs, provide firsthand accounts of the experiences of entrepreneurs in Africa, and create a direct channel for helping these businesses grow and thrive.

Written by aheavens

January 16, 2008 at 11:20 am

Google Africa Forum

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Marco’s Blog

Google seems to be reaching out to Africa of late and yesterday was a step in the right direction. Yesterday evening I attended the first of hopefully many Google Africa Forums. I was rather lucky to have moved to the Bay Area just in time for this event, which caught my attention when I first heard of it. I’ve been involved in discussions with Google earlier this year about making a move in South Africa in particular.

The event was held at the Google HQ in Mountain View. As you can imagine, just visiting the campus excited. Having worked in the Zurich office last year I kept hearing all kinds stories about the campus and so finally getting to see t first hand was amazing. Although I didn’t get to see much of it from the inside I can tell you that it sure is massive! 10,000 people working there may sound like a big number, but that campus is huge even for that number of people. We have about 4,000 employees at the NVIDIA campus and the Google campus is more than just triple the size.

I couldn’t really take any pictures since it was dark and I’ll hopefully get another opportunity to get a real tour of the campus some time soon (my ex-manager is flying here in a few weeks). Here’s a picture of one of the signs though, just for some satisfaction:

So, what was this event all about? This was the first time Google were hosting such an event so they didn’t have much of an idea of what to expect. They therefore left the topic rather open. All they said in the invitation was:

Come help us understand your perspective on:

* the needs of engineers from Africa (why did you leave and what may make you go back)
* the high-tech landscape and user needs in the region
* how we can best support the region, as Google, and as individuals

One thing that is often underestimated about Africa is its multicultural diversity. Even I can’t fully grasp it, but I do know that it is impossible to work with Africa as a unit. That was my primary criticism of this event and how Google deals with Africa in general. South Africa for one is in a very unique situation, although at least that is understood by most. Take South Africa away though and you are still left with a wide range in the levels of technology in Africa. Kenya is the most advanced technologically after South Africa, but the rest I myself am not too aware of where they lie.

At this event there were about 100 or so people from about 20 African countries. Most of them have been working in the Bay Area for many years. Surprisingly I was the only one from South Africa, besides one other South African Google engineer who’s also from UCT. There were those from Uganda, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Senegal, Egypt and many more.

They had a panel of eight up front. All of them were from different countries in Africa, besides a professor from UC Berkeley who has lived in Africa for 13 years though. The forum was hosted by someone who knew little about Africa and so he got rather overwhelmed by the enthusiasm at some stages. During the first 90 minutes the panel answered a number of specific questions after which the discussion was opened to the floor.

The panellists started by telling how they were helping trying to improve the situation in their home countries. Each one was taking very different action, yet they were all passionate about helping their country. The one was trying to get more content from Africa on the web, another was helping to introduce systems such as number plate identification to identify stolen cars.

Then they answered the question of why they left. Almost everyone responded by saying that education was the main and sometimes only reason for leaving Africa. The woman on the left even said that as a woman wanting to study Mathematics she was told that Mathematicians make bad housewives, and so she left to study in the US. Several other women agreed with her as they had similar experiences. The matter of education doesn’t apply much to South Africa as we have a high quality education system. I would say that only by graduate school does it become beneficial to study elsewhere as our undergraduate programs are sometimes even considered better.

The next question was what would make them go back. This is a difficult question to answer, at least I feel, since often you can only really decide once the change has happened. Some people answered by saying that they simply can’t go back since they would end up with a useless job as job allocations are very poor. Others said they would return if they could be guaranteed a decent job — a similar response, but subtly different. Then came the issue of governments that made it difficult for people to do what they wanted. The best answer in my opinion though was that some people felt they could make a greater impact on their home country from the US. If that is true, then that is excellent!

What about technology in Africa? The answer here varied greatly from country to country. The general feeling, however, was that it is of no use introducing technology into a developing country without educating the people how to use it. There were a couple situations brought up where computers were donated to schools and after a few years it was discovered they were sitting there unused. Many people brought up the topic of Computer Science degrees in which the students never touched a computer. That the degrees are highly theoretical and that, related to the question of why people leave Africa, going to the US they find that they can finally get a practical application of what they studied. Without these practical experiences, however, people cannot develop the technologies in the country.

Finally, the question of what can Google do to help the situation arose. Here again, the answers were drastically different. In countries where the government was a brick wall the situation is very difficult. Many African countries have constant power cuts and those that are better off are seriously lacking Internet connectivity. As bad as the situation is in South Africa, as much as we complain, the other countries in Africa can only dream of what we have. This problem of poor infrastructure needs to be solved before anything can be done about brining technology into the rest of Africa. For those that do have the infrastructure such as Kenya, the people need to be educated. Introducing a bit of new technology is great and all, but teaching the local people how to bring technology to their own country will have a much greater impact. All of these different scenarios Google is capable of helping out. It is only a question of how far they are willing to go with this.

When the discussion was opened to the floor there was an overwhelming number of people that wanted to give their input. There were so many different points of views that I simply cannot remember all of them. A couple people said that perhaps we could learn from the way India has developed, although there were several arguments against that since Africa is facing a different situation. Many people reiterated what had been said by some of the panellists, while some questioned their views. Some people questioned how interested Google really were in Africa, whether this sort of event was just a once off to please some people.

As much as I wanted to have my say, so much of the discussion was about the poorer, less developed countries in Africa and coming from South Africa we face an extremely different situation. We have a good infrastructure, a good education system and a good level of technology in South Africa. However, what we lack is large software companies or anything Computer Science related that we can go to after graduating. There are a few, such as the Amazon office that opened recently in Cape Town, Black Ginger, SKA project and a few more. However, the options are very limited and all the bright people are leaving. Who says I won’t be leaving? If a company such as Google were to open an office in South Africa I wouldn’t think twice before working there. I love South Africa and would dearly love to continue to live there, but with the current lack of opportunities there’s little choice. If you remain behind you get left behind.

This event was definitely very worthwhile. However, it was too short and needed more control over the order of proceedings. They said then and there that they would have more follow-ups. I just hope they stick to their word as this is a great attempt to get Africans to speak up and discuss the problems back home. These people have seen what the US has and so they are in the best position to discuss how things can be improved back home.

Written by aheavens

December 1, 2007 at 1:51 pm

Posted in tactics

First Google South Africa networking session kicks off

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Matthew Buckland

The new Google country head Stafford Masie held an informal get together and networking session for about 60 or so local internet players on Monday afternoon. He said the briefing was off the record, but later made exceptions for bloggers. It was a good session — the first ever held by the new Google South Africa.

It was a marathon of presentations from Googlers Frederick Leuschner, Carmel Doherty, and Ryan Kitching (a South African living in Eire) — and then presentations by internet stats guru Arthur Goldstuck, Quirk boss Rob Stokes, entrepreneur & VC-man Vinny Lingham, Acceleration director Richard Mullins, Richard Simpson from BulkSMS… and then at the end I also gave a presentation.

Like many in this industry, Stafford said he believed that this country is poised for a big, belated online boom. We are about to see the “dam walls crack… I honestly believe that…” And it’s plausible for a country that has been held back structurally as a result of expensive internet and a virtual telecoms monopoly. Of course in recent times this has been changing for the better.

Globally, Stafford believes that the internet was coming of age and that local marketers should see the global audience as their market and not just be restricted locally: “Your audience is everyone around the globe that is connected, South Africa is a market segment of a broader world market segment.”

Maisie said that Google would be making a “big mobile play” in the country — not surprising on a continent that has more mobile users than fixed-line telephone users. Referring to the recent release of Android, Stafford said that mobile will be big news for South Africa, and that he would be selling South Africa to the rest of Google from a mobile perspective.

Google is expected to officially launch in South Africa early next year.

Written by aheavens

October 19, 2007 at 6:10 pm

Continuing to Believe, Begin, Become

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Posted by Stacy Brown-Philpot, Director, Finance – Online Sales, Google – Google.org blog

In partnership with Google.org, Technoserve recently completed the second Believe Begin Become program in Ghana, identifying 10 new winners of its annual business plan competition. As a Google volunteer, I had an opportunity to interact with this year’s participants by teaching a class on presentation skills, judging the final round of the competition, and conducting one on one consulting sessions. I also visited the growing operations of 3 winners from last year and saw firsthand how the Believe Begin Become program has contributed to the success of their business.

I was both impressed and humbled by every entrepreneur I met. They all exhibited a level of energy, passion and enthusiasm that was overwhelmingly contagious. Operating in an environment where sound infrastructure is not a given, poverty is a reality, and health issues abound, they are seeking to create and build sustainable businesses that will change their community and their country for the better.

This year’s top winner of the overall business plan competition, Sheila Ocansey (pictured below, left, with me, right), embodies this energy and passion. With FrutyFresh, she plans to package and distribute quality fresh fruit to local Ghanaian professionals, families, and children. Sheila was thoughtful enough to bring a sample of her product to her oral presentation, something that impressed all of the judges. I craved FrutyFresh fruit for its freshness, quality, and taste throughout the rest of my stay in Ghana. The other top winners include: Darko Abednego, Stanley Adjei, Yaw Agyei-Henaku, Joseph Brenyah, Savior Deikumah, Nikoe Gavu, Mary Koranteng, Daniel Oduro, and Joseph Tettey.

I observed firsthand the promise of what is possible for this year’s winners through visits with three winners from last year. Nicholas Vordzgbe of City Wash launched his mobile car wash service using a highly profitable, environmentally friendly approach to a common activity. City Wash is capable of washing an SUV with just 2 liters of water! His next move includes opening a point of service location and expanding his mobile activities. Isaac Bohulu launched Natural Scientific Pharmaceuticals in a style characteristic of Silicon Valley. In a room that should have been his master bedroom, he is running a government approved production facility for his flagship product, Neemfresh Herbal Mouthwash, made from completely natural ingredients. Finally, last year’s overall winner, Joseph Tackie of MeatyFoods, showed us how a shift in his marketing strategy allowed him to quintuple his revenues in one month. While we sampled the butcher’s spicy sausage, he told us of his plans to open his second store.

The Believe Begin Become program was launched with the hope that we would create an ecosystem of entrepreneurs, investors, customers, and employees that contribute to the growth and economic development of Ghana. Participating in the judging process, seeing the operations in action, and spending time with the entrepreneurs provided evidence that this is exactly what is happening. Participants from last year have become customers and/or suppliers of each other. Last year’s winner was a mentor to at least 3 of the winners from this year. The judges and potential investors have high standards; not only are they funding these businesses, but they are personally engaged and interested in their success. The program creates employment opportunities and causes capital to flow back into communities. With 120 alumni in the Believe Begin Become program, the newly-created alumni association will help fuel and expand on the already growing ecosystem that has been created.

Written by aheavens

October 15, 2007 at 11:26 am