News / Africa

Google Expands Reach in West Africa to Tech-Savvy Youth

Google's Tidjane Deme and Eugenie Rives open a developer's conference at University Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar
Google's Tidjane Deme and Eugenie Rives open a developer's conference at University Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar
Julia Ritchey

West Africa's Internet penetration level remains one of the lowest in the world, but a booming market for mobile phones has more tech companies sensing opportunity.  U.S. search giant Google has set up offices in several countries in the region and is encouraging a new generation of tech-savvy Africans to lead the way in fostering Africa's burgeoning tech movement.

About 1,000 developers and entrepreneurs traveled to the University Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal, this week for a Google conference.

The conference is one of three planned for West Africa this year, as Google seeks to promote its products while at the same time educating developers and entrepreneurs about creating their own business opportunities.

The country manager for Google Senegal, Tidjane Deme, says his primary goal is to educate Africa's future tech leaders.

“At the end of the day we want to get them, first, excited about doing stuff online," said Deme. "We think they're not using all their talents now online to create content. We want them to learn about these tools and use them, and we want them to give us all the feedback we need to do more with them.”

He said when Google first started in Senegal, it was difficult to get a hold of the developer community, which was spread out and not connected. Early events by Google attracted maybe 150 people, but the community is now starting to come together.

A monthly get together of what Deme describes as “hardcore” Google enthusiasts meets to discuss ideas and work on projects. He says a new chapter is going to be started in Thies just south of Dakar.

Binta Coudy De, a 21-year-old IT student is a member of the Google Tech group in Dakar. She's creating an application on Senegal's Goree Island, the UNESCO World Heritage site that used to serve as a slave port and is now a major tourist attraction. She says she likes using Google's products because they are free.

“I'm a student," said De. "I don't have any money to deploy my applications on the Web. So Google is here for that.”

Deme says he hears this complaint a lot, about the difficulty of financing projects and of logistics, especially in a city where electricity, and thus Internet outages, are frequent. He says he's working with developers on these problems, but wants them to be less motivated by profit.

“First of all what I've been telling them: You are talented, you develop, but right now you don't put stuff online," he said. "You develop a website because someone pays you to do it. You 're not developing your own projects, you're not developing for mobile. We need to show them the opportunity once they see, they'll go and grab it.”

Mobile growth is particularly important on a continent where cell phones represent more than 90 percent of telephone lines, according to telecommunications research group BuddeComm.

A computer science engineer Hovi Kokouvi Amen, who works with Google on a project called Mapdroid, says he thinks the biggest obstacle for Senegal, and Africa on the whole, is access.

He says for there to be a tech revolution, Internet access must be expanded. Internet penetration in Senegal hovers around 7 or 8 percent of the population, and no one can benefit from the new technologies if they don't have access to it.

Google insists it is not looking to turn a profit now, or in the future, in Africa, but of course, if Internet and mobile tech growth continue that could one day change.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs