Mak­ing in­for­ma­tion uni­ver­sally ac­ces­si­ble

The Africa Report - - BUSINESS - Luke Mck­end

TAR: What are the pil­lars of Google’s ex­pan­sion strat­egy on the con­ti­nent? Google’s busi­ness is pred­i­cated on its orig­i­nal mis­sion, which is to pro­vide rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion to peo­ple as and when they need it, to or­gan­ise the world’s in­for­ma­tion and make it uni­ver­sally ac­ces­si­ble. But in South Africa and the rest of Africa, ob­vi­ously there are a whole bunch of in­fras­truc­tural chal­lenges, there are pric­ing is­sues around de­vices and data. Would you say Google’s main goal in Africa is to grow its au­di­ence? So that’s prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant thing, but let’s take one step be­yond that. One of the things that we’re also say­ing is that grow­ing au­di­ences is im­por­tant but there is a ba­sic dig­i­tal lit­er­acy prob­lem. What’s hap­pen­ing in Africa is that peo­ple are go­ing straight to mo­bile phones, and it’s not the best ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s not as in­tu­itive as it could be. So you ac­tu­ally find that there’s a lot of work to be done around ba­sic dig­i­tal lit­er­acy skills. We’ve launched a pro­gramme last year to ad­dress this. We made a com­mit­ment to train one mil­lion Africans face-to-face. Who do you see as your big­gest com­peti­tors on the con­ti­nent? Peo­ple who spend a lot of time on­line are go­ing to be do­ing lots of dif­fer­ent types of things – whether it’s watch­ing videos, mes­sag­ing, so­cial me­dia – and it’s not [only] about that on­line ex­pe­ri­ence: peo­ple watch ter­res­trial tele­vi­sion. So if you think about the en­tire me­dia land­scape, it’s a highly com­pet­i­tive land­scape with every­one com­pet­ing for the time and at­ten­tion that is lim­ited to the 24 hours you have in a day. From that per­spec­tive, I think the com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment is ac­tu­ally very rich. Peo­ple will still read a news­pa­per in a lot of en­vi­ron­ments; in South Africa ra­dio is an old-fash­ioned medium and it’s ac­tu­ally grow­ing very fast. In­ter­view by M.A.

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