Google funds $1 billion ‘African Internet’

By Elias Hazou, CNN By: Tufan Erginçci Click here to read more updates Hospitals and universities in Uganda and Sierra Leone will be among the biggest beneficiaries of Google’s first-ever $1 billion investment in…

Google funds $1 billion 'African Internet'

By Elias Hazou, CNN

By: Tufan Erginçci

Click here to read more updates

Hospitals and universities in Uganda and Sierra Leone will be among the biggest beneficiaries of Google’s first-ever $1 billion investment in Africa.

Named African Internet, the project “aligns with Google’s belief that technology should be a force for good in society.”

The digital giant is hoping its investment will not only spur innovation, but also help create jobs and improve connectivity in Africa.

But, more importantly, it aims to build a vibrant and dynamic digital ecosystem on the continent.

“Africa is one of the world’s most exciting, growing markets, home to a significant number of internet users and innovators,” says Magdalena M. Sow, vice president, Google, EMEA.

“Internet access and digital opportunities in Africa have declined over the past decade, and at the same time, the internet has become an essential ingredient for creating new jobs, access to knowledge and building businesses.”

Google and its backers estimate that about 2 billion people will be online in Africa by 2020.

“African Internet will give our employees the tools they need to create jobs and benefit their communities in a sustainable and impactful way, and we look forward to seeing what the next decade brings,” says Sow.

A sustainable future

On Thursday, Google and French multinational telecommunications company Orange together hosted a summit in Lagos, Nigeria, to discuss how to create a more digital-friendly future.

About 20 African tech companies came together with investors, policymakers and international tech players to discuss how to contribute to Africa’s evolving digital reality, and inspire a digital transformation that will benefit everyone in the continent.

Dozens of startups pitched their ideas to a room of potential investors and delegates, highlighting what is most needed to move Africa forward as a whole.

Digital skills and ethics

The Blackrock Africa Innovation Summit (BAIS) is convened to foster more entrepreneurship in Africa, highlighting the power of the digital economy.

Focus is on unlocking the potential of these companies and how they can contribute to the continent.

During the event, Russian tech company Yandex showcased their proposal for a digital platform aimed at ensuring digital well-being for Africans. The company unveiled a prototype of Global Rescue, a new AI-based application designed to help athletes and concerned individuals during disasters.

Kenyan startup NetMagic presented an automated help desk designed for SMEs, empowering small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) to be more profitable and self-sustainable.

By means of targeted algorithms, the platform helps SMEs maintain a positive communication relationship with their customers, increasing the chances of customers to start buying products and services from them.

However, for innovation to take off, the region’s regulatory structures need to get on board.

Recently, Kenya — the east African country that sits on the east coast of Africa — added “BitPartner” to its existing Innovation Visa program. This newly developed pilot program would allow high-tech startups to export products between Kenya and the United States.

Digital access improvements

The summit has proved fruitful and it’s not just entrepreneurs that have benefited.

“Africa’s startup ecosystem can flourish and grow if we allow open access to Internet and innovation,” says Tomas Casarez, African managing director at IT support company OWORD.

“The internet has changed my life and has been a game changer for me. It has empowered me to pursue an exciting field of tech and professional ambition I didn’t think I could attain, and it has allowed me to connect with new industry influencers, friends and teammates in the US.”

He believes that there is a significant opportunity for economic growth in creating a better Internet experience across Africa.

“Opening up markets and providing free access will help more people take part in the digital revolution, improving connectivity and enabling exponential economic growth,” Casarez says.

Orange’s Shailesh Beria agrees and believes there’s a huge opportunity in Africa’s development of an open platform for connected talent.

“We need to open up our borders to allow high-tech talent to come into Africa to help build smart cities,” says Beria.

“It will allow smart engineers, data scientists, self-driving cars, robot application developers, etc to access software. Connected talent will enhance the quality of our towns and cities and will help drive the creation of a smart and connected Africa.”

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