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WATCH: Google embarks on African investment safari

125 Google Station wifi hotspots have been rolled out in Cape Town’s disadvantaged Cape Flats and township areas.
Nitin Gajria, Google’s Africa director speaking at the Google for South Africa event in Johannesburg. Image: Suren Naidoo, Moneyweb

Global technology giant Google is pumping major investments into Africa, with its most noteworthy new ventures being the rollout of free public wifi hotspots and a new high-speed undersea cable to boost internet connectivity and affordability.

South Africa and Nigeria – the continent’s two biggest economies – are getting a significant share of the investment. Nigeria became the first country in Africa in February to see the rollout of Google Station – Google’s ground-breaking initiative in developing nations aimed at providing fast, free and open wifi to disadvantaged communities.

Now, Google Station has been launched in the Cape Flats area and other townships in Cape Town such as Langa, Khayelitsha and Gugulethu, with some 125 free public wifi hotspots in these locations.

The project was officially announced at the first-ever Google for South Africa event in Johannesburg on Thursday. Several other announcements and updates around Google’s innovations and investments in the education, consumer, technology start-up and internet infrastructure spaces were highlighted.

Speaking at the event Nitin Gajria, Google’s Africa director, said he was “tremendously excited” about bringing the Google Station innovation to South Africa. He said the concept had been first piloted by Google in India in 2015 and is now in operation in several other developing countries such as Brazil and Mexico.

“Google Station has been hugely successful in India and earlier this year Nigeria saw the concept’s first rollout in Africa. We’ve quietly been piloting the programme in Cape Town’s most underserved communities for a couple of months and now we officially reveal this project to South Africa,” noted Gajria.

“By gaining access to information via the internet, we hope that people in these communities will get a more equal opportunity to learn and develop and live more empowered lives. Google Station is now available in over 100 locations across Langa, Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Delft, Elsies River, Philippi and more in the Cape Flats. Besides being underserved, these areas have high unemployment and crime rates,” he adds.

Questioned by Moneyweb on where the next Google Station location would be in SA and how much Google has invested in the project, Gajria was reluctant to comment.

“For us, this is an investment in the future of South Africa and the continent. We have numerous projects and partnerships across several countries in Africa and around the world,” he said.

Google Station’s rollout in SA also follows a Google announcement in June that it would be establishing the Equiano subsea cable from Lisbon in Portugal down Africa’s west coast to Cape Town. There would be a branched connection to Nigeria and future links to other countries along the way.

The planned route and branching links of Google’s Equiano subsea cable from Lisbon in Portugal to Cape Town. The first phase of the major project is scheduled for completion in 2021. Image: Supplied

While Google did not mention the investment value of this privately funded project, it is likely to be a few billion rand. The more than 14 000km West African Cable System, between the UK and Cape Town, reportedly cost around $650 million to build back in 2010.

On the Google Station initiative in Cape Town, the US-based group has partnered with local internet service provider, Think WiFi.

Janine Rebelo, CEO of Think WiFi, says the company is passionate about providing fast, free, reliable, uncapped wifi in underserved communities.

“We want to give people access to more online resources and more opportunities. Through our partnership with Google, Think WiFi will provide unlimited wifi access to communities in townships, public areas, universities, transportation hubs and shopping malls, laying the foundations for broad-based, inclusive participation in the benefits industry 4.0 brings,” he adds.

Meanwhile, also speaking at the event, Google’s head of marketing in South Africa Asha Patel highlighted some of the group’s other community initiatives. She said that last year Google awarded $6 million to 36 non-profit organisations across Africa through the Google Impact Challenge, 12 of which were from South Africa.

“Building on this, Google is today investing $1 million as part of its five-year commitment to non-profits and social enterprises, to support the economic empowerment of girls and women in South Africa,” she said.

Watch: Google Africa director Nitin Gajria speaks to Moneyweb

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Mmmm well if a product if for free, you are the product.

Really hope they budgeted for enough replacement batteries !!!

Google out again to oollect peoples’ data under false pretext like ‘free’ hotspots (you know they will be attracting people on this nonsense like ‘moths to the light’) meanwhile there is no government regulation or not even a stipulation regulating the collection of that information. I would say: ‘Let the buyer beware!’ (Caveat Emptor).

Sheesh… all this negativity in the comments!

I’m glad Google is stepping up to the plate and doing this,and spending BILLIONS putting in a futuristic infrastructure that will benefit everyone (yes, even including them. Fancy that!)

It’s not as if Africa’s nations care much for doing anything positive collectively.

Look at all that positivity from Great Sage Jonnoxx, ‘it’s not as if Africa’s nations care much for doing anything positive collectively.’ Well played, wlth this self defeating clap trap. GTOH dude, who do you think you are kidding, where in Africa have you been? You been to Rwanda lately? I have lived in 20 countries in Africa, and your indiscriminate ‘collective’ smearing of African nations smacks of hypocracy. It won’t surprise me one bit you are living in Africa.

When last did you hear from anyone that Google did any good? Please point to one example where they have used personal data for good. Apart from keeping quiet and sitting by the side lines while Facebook catches all the flak.

Gosh, Bagesuge, did I just stomp on your sensitive nerves with both feet?


A single swallow does NOT make a summer!

Africa is the basket=-case it is ENTIRELY because of the UNIVERSALLY poor decision-making ability of its leaders. This is a SELF-MADE predicament that has got VERY little to do with colonialism or Apartheid. If ONLY those feeble excuses had REAL validity! Then you would have seen an immediate recovery when these shackles had been removed.

Other non-African countries in the East that have thrown off the shackles of British and French and US colonial rule have bounced up and become the Asian Tigers. Vietnam, India, China, Singapore, Philippines etc.

Strange that under even more favourable circumstances (including economic and other generous support) Africa ALONE is so resistant to recovery, eh, BS?

Why would that be a problem so peculiar – and so entrenched – to just Africa, and yet the complete opposite elsewhere in the world?

As for your comments about Google. They are similarly confused and hysterical. And lacking ANY sense of proportion or balance.

Are large companies with wide and subtle international influence, mighty paragons of virtue in every aspect? And must be left untouched and unregulated?

Not at all. They certainly need watching. And – thoughtful – intervention. But let’s not get angry and hysterical, and throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Google is doing a LOT more good on this planet that it’s wild-eyed detractors want to focus on.

They – and others in their field (Microsoft for eg) are at the forefront of pioneering a whole new cyberworld. We’ve never been here before! It really is a brave new (and frightening) new world. Society will have to make up the rules as we go along. many of the times we will not now we have a problem, until it has already started eating us.

The future is messy. It will always be about finding an elusive (and ever-changing!) balance between the supposed benefits to society vs nasty self-advantage gained by companies that can (and to your point, will) exploit their new-found knowledge.

May I suggest you put a few hours in to study the history and development of Singapore. And try to understand why Singapore, which HAS ZERO natural advantages, managed to pull themselves up by their OWN bootstraps. The lessons learned from Singapore are DIRECTLY and IMMEDIATELY translatable to AFRICA. HINT: Singapore is the most-highly educated nation on the planet now. But “education” was NOT the panacea that got them on the road to success.

Can you tell me what the REAL panacea was, BS?

Can I suggest you use the much-maligned GOOGLE (ya know, the company that doesn’t bring ANY goodness into the world) to research your answer to find that out???

=No, My dearest Jannoxx, you did not step on my fragile toes. But it does seem to me that I exposed your hypocritical ‘negativity’ nonsense for what it is, as they say in the South ‘hogwash’. Now you are out here trying diverstion tactics and throwing everything in every direction including the kitchen sink.

You are urging me to read on Singapore…being there and done that. There are other nations like Japan, and Korea and the nascent Vietnam, and China itself. So done that already. I don’t rely on google for history, my learned friend. You do that am sure it’s going to work wonders for you. I read real books and if I can’t find anything I just go to live there for a while to understand whatever phenomemon.

I have argued nowhere in my submission about Apartheid or colonialism, and you are the one raising their spectre. One wonders why. I don’t, I know why you are raising them… and if you hold your face straight at the mirror you can after a few minutes notice who you are looking at. Yes, you, and your deeply seated thoughts that is suggesting that African leaders have failed at this, ‘for some reason.’ And I fancy that you fancy that you know the ‘reason’. And that ‘person’ looking at you in the mirror thinks they have known the answer all along.

Before you get carried away with your line of thinking, might I remind you that all of humanity originates out of Africa. All of it, we started making tools here, and set the template for human development here, we are not at the end of that development chain we were at the forefront of it, lest your silly ideas lead you into the intellectual (of is it lack of it) gutter bin of history.

Since your are so good at recommending Google (that company that does no good that I know of for humanity in general), I wish to direct you towards books that will eluminate you on the nature and character of post-colonial Africa. And speaking of Apartheid, those that speak of Apartheid as a ‘special type of colonialism’. So that you can try to discern, some of the reasons, not all of them, by any stretch of the imagination, as to why Africa may have ‘developed’ or ‘under-developed’ in this manner.

You are arguing that foreign aid ought to have helped Africa, at least that is the thrust of your argument. Are you aware that African countries are actually providing more economic aid to these ‘developed’ nations, be they England, France and so on. Just look at the nature of the post colonial relationship and look at the balance of trade and the expropriation (legal or illegal) of resources from Africa. Ask yourself, who is ‘aiding’ who. We in Africa are keeping your European ancestors homelands afloat.

Remove your blinkers, and see past this jaded glasses of yours. With billions of dollars stolen out of Africa every year, think what we could do with that money. Your European cousins would be working in Africa as slaves! So, don’t kid yourself.

These is no panacea here. Just straight up facts. Dare I also challenge you to understand the nature of the relationship between early colonialists and their meeting with Asians as to their meetings with Africans. You have much to learn, so get started on being a Taliban (knowledge seeker!), and stop horsing around and recommeding Google for historical studies.

Gosh, BageSuge,

You sure smoke some mighty powerful stuff there! I’m still to be blessed with finding such wisdom.

Amen, brother!

End of comments.





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