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#TechPage Feature: Getting the next billion users

The Google Next Billion Users (NBU) event took place in Lagos, Nigeria.    Supplied

The Google Next Billion Users (NBU) event took place in Lagos, Nigeria. Supplied

Published Mar 15, 2019


Google is making way for the next billion users by bringing technology to them.

Earlier this month, the company showcased a number of products in Lagos, Nigeria, at their Next Billion Users (NBU) event. The products are tailored to fit in with people from emerging markets .

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“Our mission is to organise the world’s information. We want to make Google universally accessible and useful. Not just some parts of the world, but the whole world,” said Google’s country manager for Nigeria Juliet Ehimuan-Chiazor.

She said about 50% of the world was offline and, according to Internet World Stats, only 36.1% of Africans have access to the internet.

“These offline people are spread around the globe, but you have a concentration in the emerging markets, like India, Indonesia and countries in Africa. When we think about the next billion users coming online, they are going to come from these markets in the next few years. That’s why we have this focus on them.”

She said attributes of the users in these markets were different from the users in more mature markets.

Google’s country manager for Nigeria Juliet Ehimuan-Chiazor. Supplied

“For example you can’t assume data connectivity - it’s not always reliable or available. The high cost of data is relative to income. They're largely mobile and there isn't enough local content.

“What we have done is to focus on innovating specifically for this region, so it’s not only a question of innovating for a different part of the world and trying to localise it here, but actually building markets that solve the local problems and challenges.”

Ehimuan-Chiazor said Google built some products that are first to the emerging market like Datally, that enables users to control and save data and files - allowing users to manage space.

“A lot of these low cost phones that our users have, have low storage. So users are very conscious of how much space various applications are consuming.”

She added that the key focus was to look at the core products available and how they can be better used.

“We have seven products that have over a billion users around the world like YouTube, Search, Maps and Android Chrome, so for the next billion users of these products, we need to think differently based on the challenges they face.

We are adapting these products and creating versions that are more tailored to those needs.”

Featuring a combination of lightning talks and walk-through demos, visitors to the NBU event had a chance to learn about and experience the eight products Google has announced in Sub-Saharan Africa to date - Google Go, Gmail Go, Android Go, Maps Go, YouTube Go, Datally, Files by Google, and Google Station.

Google Go: Launched in Nigeria in April 2018, Google Go was designed specifically to provide a vastly improved and better way to browse the internet. It is available on Android to users in Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria.

Gmail Go: With Gmail Go, users are able to access a light, fast and smart inbox that keeps their messages safe and organised, allows them to read emails, both online and offline, and includes 15GB of free storage.

AndroidTM 8.1 (Go Edition): Android Go, also referred to as Android Oreo (Go edition), is the slimmed down version of the Android operating system released for entry-level phones.

Maps Go: The app is designed to run quickly and smoothly on devices with limited memory.

YouTube Go: Launched in 2017, it tackles challenges faced by YouTube users in countries like Nigeria, such as data costs and connectivity. It enables users to preview videos before they watch them, choose what resolution videos to watch and share videos instantly without using data.

Datally: This is a smart and simple app that helps smartphone users understand, control and save data.

Files by Google: Formerly known as Files Go, it is an app that helps smartphone users manage their files and storage space, find files faster and easily share them with others.

Google Station: Google Station is a platform that makes it easy for venues, system integrators, businesses and ISPs, with access to fibre to set up, maintain and monetise their wi-fi networks. Google Station was launched first in Africa, in Lagos in July, 2018, followed by a second launch in Abuja in December, 2018. Other countries will follow in the near future.

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