Out of an estimated 7.5 billion people on earth, only about 3.2 billion have access to the internet, with the remaining population largely disconnected and unable to benefit from the immense benefits of the internet.
To address this, Google is making plans to accommodate the Next Billion Users (NBU) of the internet. As part of it plans for this, the company is creating awareness of products that support connectivity for those challenged with internet access; particularly where it is poor or almost considered a luxury such as in Nigeria. The apps are meant to make it easier for users to connect to the internet, without worrying much about data consumption. In YouTube for instance, “YouTube Go lets people watch videos without worrying about Data,” said Adetutu Laditan, product-marketing manager for YouTube.
Dubbed the NBU House, Google at an event hosted this week, gave users a chance to interact with the products it has developed specifically for the Next Billion Users (NBU) of the internet. Currently only 36.1 per cent of Africans have access to the internet, according to Internet World Stats.
According to a widely quoted World Bank research, for every 10 percent increase in broadband penetration in developing countries (like Nigeria), a corresponding 1.38 percent growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will be achieved. Invariably, increasing access holds prospects even for an improved economy.
Google’s Next Billion Users initiative is described as a company-wide drive to make its products and features more relevant to the emerging markets, taking into account the access challenges experienced by people in Africa.
“We see a lot of potential in Africa to bring a huge population online,” said Juliet Ehimuan-Chaizor, Google country director, Nigeria. According to her, Google’s NBU initiative aims to further its mission of creating a more inclusive internet by creating products and features that are tailored to the needs of people in countries where they experience the internet on a mobile first basis, but have data, network and hardware constraints. “Today’s event serves to showcase the progress we have made so far,” she said.
The eight NBU products Google has announced in Sub Saharan Africa to date include; 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 works perfectly on high-end smartphones as well as for the next billion users, who are coming online with low-end devices with poor connectivity. Google Go 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 email 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. It provides data savings, great security, and high-end performance on low-end phones.
Maps Go: Google Maps Go is pre-installed on Android Oreo (Go edition) devices. The app is designed to run quickly and smoothly on devices with limited memory and allows users to search for and get information about places, get directions, and see what is nearby their location.
YouTube Go: YouTube Go launched in Nigeria in September 2017, and is designed to tackle 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 mobile data. Launched in November 2017, Datally enables users to track which apps use the most data, switch their data off at certain times (like bedtime) as well as blocking background app refresh and notifications which use data unnecessarily.
Files by Google: Launched in December 2017, Files by Google, formerly known as Files Go, is an app that helps smartphone users manage their files and storage space, find files faster and easily share them with others.
Google Station: This platform 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.