View Full Version : Google Conference in Lagos

May 15, 2011, 01:32 PM
Source: http://www.234next.com


At the recent annual Google conference in Lagos, Nigeria, Joe Mucheru spoke to Funmilayo Ajala about Google's plan for the African market.

Can you expatiate on Google coming to Nigeria, and what do you hope to achieve in the long and short term?

Google's mission is to organise the world's information makes it universally available and Africa today represents a significant part of the world's population, 15 percent of the world population but only two percent of the Internet population.

The current strategy we have is to see that number increase from two percent to a larger number. So we have initiatives, access and as I mentioned, relevance and sustainability to reduce or remove the barriers that exists that are currently stopping people from going online.

Those are the activities that we are working on and in the long run, we hope that there is going to be revenues generated out of Africa, out of Nigeria. But for now, the primary focus is to see increase in users and usage of the Internet so that is what we are currently working on.

You mentioned that it's all about the data and not the money. It is a common knowledge that Google is the largest advertising company in the whole world and not a search company. Can you explain how the search and advertising are interwoven and which one takes priority for Google?

Focus on the user and all others will follow. What we are as a company is a search company and so we organise the world's information so that it becomes easier for people to find what they are looking for. And I think for Africa that is one of the biggest need, either been found or finding what someone is looking for. So we do very well in terms of search, then when it comes to advertising, we provide relevance.

For instance, when someone searches for furniture, the individual will be able to find advertisement that are relevant to furniture and it is only when the person click on the ad to show that they are interested in it that it becomes a transaction. So in this case for us, they are much intertwined, but it's more about relevance. We don't give you information that you are not looking for. So when you are searching for specific products like a holiday, the only ads you will see are travel ads and holiday ads that are actually relevant.

You mentioned that your main priority is Internet accessibility in Nigeria, which companies are you partnering with right now to achieve this?

The key thing is about partnership. We are partnering with the different players in the Internet space to make sure that there is more usage of the Internet. So as more investors become aware of this opportunity then they actually invest more. There are more investments going into the cables and you've seen their operators now competing with each other by rolling out 3G services. In terms of the last mile, you've seen a lot of cables being built across the different states but mostly between Abuja and Lagos. So that infrastructure is being put in place and so we partner with different operators in terms of working together at the exchange point by providing information on best use cases.

We provide Internet engineering support and as you've seen in this event, working with developers also, creating the value added application that can be used on this infrastructure that is being built. There are many prom approaches that are actually being developed right now that is bringing in more usage and more infrastructure.

This conference is leading to a number of startups, following the tech news lately; Google has been acquiring quite a number of startups, what is Google's plan in aiding tech entrepreneurs in Nigeria?

I mentioned Umbuno which is one of the projects that Google is working on. Umbuno is a platform you can turn your tech idea and vision into a business.

It is really about trying to get tech hubs built which is bring all the players together, Angel investors, Venture Capitalists. The key issue has been more awareness, people have not been aware of what the opportunities are. I think as more awareness comes into play then people will start investing in that space.

When we look at Google in terms of its investments and how we acquire, I think that's something that's ongoing throughout and it goes on across the world. So there is a team of people who just hunt around for business opportunities for investment and I can't say that we are or we are not doing anything in Nigeria in that space. But I know that there are businesses that are doing successfully well here in Nigeria. Nollywood Love has actually done quite well. But I don't believe that exit in two years is primarily the end game, I think this market is just beginning and I think it's going at a certain exponential growth, anyone that exit in two years would have left a lot of money on the table.

Does Google have any plan of setting up tech hubs where tech entrepreneurs who don't really have money to build up capitals can come in and work, meet, network because of the challenges they do face?

As mentioned earlier on about the Umbuno project. It is about showing examples of successful startups, working together here with a community of Angel investors, Venture capitalists, working with them in the tech hub which then we allow that community to grow so that you can have the investment, you can have mentorship going on, you can have actual money and acquisitions and aggregations actually happening within those tech hubs. So there have been quite a few that has appeared in Africa already. Kenya has Afrilabs, iHub, and South Africa has some of the labs as well. So various have appeared and we've seen it as an interesting model and we are supporting that. We are putting in some money towards supporting some of these hubs. Not really in building them but more in terms of partnering with the Angel Investors and Venture Capitalists to invest in the key businesses.

How has your presence in Nigeria contributed to the Google market worldwide, is there a percentage?

I think for us, we love people being online, we love people getting on to the Internet. Three years ago, Nigeria was having about 11 million users and now it is 44 million users. So that is a huge number that has actually come online. Nigeria has contributed largely towards our mission of seeing more users coming online and more users' usage.

How often do you plan to be doing this kind of event?

For now, it is on a yearly basis. Like last year we met with about 3, 000 developers, which is a significant number, and we've seen more at this event. Hopefully we will have more at next year's. We will continue to give support.

What is Google's plan to aid small and medium scale business by passing onto them the knowledge of what Google tools can do for their business?

There is a whole initiative in the education sector, which is talking about the Google ambassadors from the universities. That is the workforce that goes out to educate people. There is the Google Access University programme where we provide bandwidth and Google apps services to universities. We expect that this year the programme would have reached 100,000 students. They are Google ambassadors that go out to talk to different businesses on how to use the Google products, there is the one we call ‘getting Africa businesses online' which last year we got about 200 businesses together and we are able to show them how they can build their online presence, they got domain names, they got their businesses online, created a website. There is a community that is growing and developers are also coming in and seeing business opportunities in the community. This type of event brings them together; there is a whole lot of conversation and engagement that is ongoing. That is how we are engaging.