The #MyGoogleStory campaign aimed to encourage Africans to share how they use Google’s technology in their everyday lives. File picture: Matt Rourke/AP

As Larry Page said, the perfect search engine would understand exactly what you mean and give you back exactly what you need, be it directions in a new city, a real-time stock quote, a set of pictures, an answer spoken aloud or something out on the web.

Google has become so synonymous with search that it’s become a verb. Google Search has also evolved significantly since it first launched in the late '90s, delivering more and more on Larry Page’s vision of the perfect search engine. 

In addition to search results, Google Search today provides weather, stock quotes, maps, sports results, time zones and health information, for example, all at the top of the results page, saving you the hassle of clicking into a web page to find the answer.

Google recently concluded its first sub-Saharan Africa social media campaign, asking Kenyans, Nigerians and South Africans to share their stories about Google Search and Maps under the #MyGoogleStory hashtag on social media. The #MyGoogleStory campaign aimed to encourage Africans to share how they use Google’s technology in their everyday lives and proved that when it comes to technology, Africans really do use it day in and day out, for all sorts of things. Below, we’ve highlighted a selection of the stories submitted by South Africans during this year’s campaign.

“In 2017,” says Tracy Ellis, “my husband Craig and myself decided to uproot our lives in SA and move to Germany. Sounds wonderfully exciting, and believe me it was. But there was just this tiny thing... not one of us spoke German! No problem right? Wrong. In small Düsseldorf, this was a huge barrier . Think about it... no way to read signs, no way to talk to people, not being able to communicate with officials, now way to even understand how much money we should be giving the cashier.

“Enter Google... if I told you that I spend 50% of my day holding out my phone or peeking at my phone screen, this is not an exaggeration. I use Google every day of my life non-stop. It's AWESOME. I use Google Maps for train schedules, directions and distances. I use Google Translate to look at signs live, read official documents and translate work emails on my Mac. I use Chrome on my phone and Mac as my default browser because it translates all the websites for me, you think most websites are in English but they not because the cookies read the countries and automatically switches them to German. Shopping... not a problem with Google Shopping to compare my prices.

“So yes... Google's products are literally a must-have in my life along with lip-ice and wet wipes. Yes, often we have a huge laugh over the translations when they go wrong, especially the live microphone translation... believe me, accents are a problem here. Just picture a scene from Allo Allo (René versus 'French' policemen) and you just might have a clue.”

Isaac Masoleng shared how Google Maps saved the day by getting himself and his fellow interns to their first clinical rotation at a hospital in Thembisa on time after the human navigating had gotten them hopelessly lost.

Albi Denoon found a new career thanks to search - she heard a TV clip of someone making teapots out of clay, Googled until she found the company name. From there she started working with paper clay and today she specialises in sculptures.

Google taught Denzil Lewis how to change the headlights on his girlfriend’s car, which included removing the bumper. He’s since learnt how to service his own car. 

Günther Kriel Googled Scotland’s national animal. “It’s a unicorn,” he says, “I wish I was lying but this is a true story.”

“I only studied for my BCom Honours economics paper using Google, I got a distinction,” says Tina Ramlakan.

Lisle Nel changes her Google language preference when her daughter plays with her phone to stop her surfing the ‘Net.

Google helped Tshepo Baloyi find a good college to attend, and, he says, “I’ve found more information to guarantee me a pass.”

Chanelle Willemberg used Google search to find out more about NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which recently plunged into Saturn’s atmosphere, melting and breaking apart after 13 years of zooming around Saturn and its many moons. “This was quite interesting,” she says, “as the probe that may have discovered a potential habitable moon (one of Saturn’s) will no longer exist.”

People came to us with their stories and we are humbled,” says Google SA communications and public affairs head Mich Atagana. “People are really good at living, loving and learning. Tech is for everyone, it shouldn't get in the way but rather it should help people organise their lives, navigate, communicate, and free them to have the time to do the really important things in their lives.”  

* In partnership with Google Africa.