South Africa will host the FIFA World Cup in 2010, for which large numbers of people are expected to visit the country. Naturally there will be a great demand for information from these visitors before undertaking the trip. Keeping this in mind search giant Google has decided to concentrate on providing better search technology through mobile phones in South Africa.
Computers are not commonly available in the African continent. Even in South Africa, which is relatively better off than most African countries, only 22% of mobile phone users have computers. Stafford Masie from Google’s local office in Nairobi said in a media briefing that a lot of locals who had worked abroad for Google had “come home” to launch the local branch. Most of these employees are sales personnel and will try to make advertisers divert some of their funds from TV and radio ads to online ads.
Google is looking to hire as many locals as possible to ensure the success of this venture. According to reports on AllAfrica, they also intend to start offices in Ghana, Tanzania, Nigeria etc. When Google was first launched in the late 1990’s their avowed aim was to organize all the information in the world and make it universally available. Since only about 20% of all the information is online as of now, it is imperative that this information be made available to everybody.
According to Douglas Merrill, V.P. Engineering at Google information accessibility in Africa will have to be acheived through mobile phones. Since most of the searches done in Africa will be through mobile phones, Google intends to find new and better ways to conduct these searches. Methods such as voice entry or SMS entry of keywords are being looked into. They also want people to be able to study maps and receive directions via SMS. All of this will require a lot of hard work and efforts in the near future.
The services in Africa will initially be available in Afrikaans, Sesotho, Zulu and Xhosa; they will contain information about South African culture, tourism, traditional medicine etc. Google also hope to be able to help educate the local people by bringing in information and creating awareness about different parts of the world.