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

Analysis: China Raises Hong Kong Rhetoric to Tiananmen Level

A front-page commentary in The People’s Daily called the current demonstrations 'chaos,' the same word Party officials used 25 years ago to describe the Tiananmen Square protests More

US Airstrikes Anger Syrian Civilians Fleeing Their Homes

Pentagon officials say they have seen no credible evidence of civilian deaths caused by US airstrikes against Islamic State militants More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid