Rapid technological advances and the advancement into the era of mobile in Africa are the biggest trends seen in the last 10 years.
This was stressed by all the speakers at Google Africa’s 10th birthday celebration. Luke Mckend, country director for South Africa at Google, who believes that the success of Android on the continent is one of the biggest achievements in the mobile space for the company, cites infrastructure challenges as the biggest problem that still needs addressing. “The challenge remains still the infrastructure related to connectivity,” he says. “You can look at it as a really simple problem, it can be solved by just laying cables, but elsewhere in Africa electricity is a primary problem. Connectivity is certainly the biggest challenge but there are a whole host of infrastructure challenges that run parallel with the access issue”.
A two-tier internet economy
Mckend describes the South African market as a very interesting space and refers to it as a two-tier internet economy. He explains, “On the one hand you’ve got a relatively mature internet user community who have been online for a long time and a lot of them behave similarly to what you find in Europe … On the other hand we also have a number of the connectivity and infrastructure and pricing issues that people experience in the rest of Africa”.
Promoting inclusivity and bridging the skills divide
With this landscape in SA, Mckend believes the big challenge for the country and the question the digital industry needs to ask itself, is around the inclusiveness of the digital growth path. Google has invested in a number of projects related to deep internet infrastructure as well as ones that bridge the digital skills divide. Mckend sees the payoff of all of this as an Africa that participates more fully in the digital economy on a global basis.
The next big thing in tech
Voice, machine learning and assistive technologies are all areas that Google is investing in and working on. At its birthday celebration the company had on display various tech items, some which are available in SA and others which are still coming to the market. Google Home (left) is a voice activated product that syncs with televisions to allow voice control of programming, while attendees also had the chance to try virtual reality headsets, another element that is being hyped as a must-invest in technology.
To see the live tweets that were posted during Google Africa’s 10th Birthday celebration, follow Michael Bratt on Twitter @MichaelBratt8 and check out his timeline. A story around the event will go up on the site early next week.