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

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states 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.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid