In a bid to increase internet penetration in Africa’s biggest economy, Google is spearheading the launch of Equiano, a subsea cable that promises to change how Africans experience the internet, as well as a fund for African startups and small and medium-sized entrepreneurs (SMEs) among other things.
According to Google, the cable promises to revolutionise the internet experience for the over 200 million population and businesses in the country in many different ways. It guarantees a significant boost in speed while surfing the internet, which would move from 14 megabits per second (Mbps) to 77Mbps.
As a state-of-the-art infrastructure based on space-division multiplexing technology, the subsea cable has approximately 20 times more network capacity than the last cable built to serve the region.
The subsea cable, which offers a fifth-generation (5G) mobile service, runs from Portugal along the West Coast of Africa connecting Europe to Togo, Nigeria, Namibia, South Africa, and Saint. Helena.
Impact on the Economy
Businesses, which form a larger part of the Nigerian economy will enjoy seamless connections to bandwidth as a result of an increase in internet speed and partnership with internet service providers, as well as the creation of over one million jobs.
Juliet Ehimuan, Google’s director for West Africa said in an interview that the company is looking at providing additional capacity to fuel internet growth and support future demand.
“We are seeing the demand in the consumption of our own services, which will also ride on this infrastructure. Our research showed that this project could improve internet speeds by six times and reduce retail prices for consumer internet data by over 20 percent, and that’s significant.
“Businesses are also benefiting significantly from the usage of internet platforms, with “total e-commerce annual expenditure predicted to climb to $75 billion by 2025, up from its current projection of $12 billion,” Ehimuan said.
Strides in other African countries
As part of Africa-focused investments from Silicon Valley, the Google cable which comes from Portugal landed in Togo and Nigeria and will head to St Helena, Namibia, and South Africa. It’s expected to come online before the end of this year.
Google’s strategy in the last 10 years has been around engaging with various pillars that can help accelerate digital adoption including infrastructure projects like Equiano, but also in partnering with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and telcos to bring down the costs of devices and data bundles.
The company sees Nigeria as a place where businesses will thrive. “It is a region that has talent, potential and opportunity, and it is a place where you can do business. It’s not a charity case where we feel sorry for the people. As a Nigerian, I prefer the first narrative, but we want to do business in a responsible way to make lives better,” Ehimuan said.
Prior to this time, Google has partnered with other companies including Pluralsight on a program tagged ‘Google Africa Developers Scholarship’ (GADS), ‘Google Hustle Academy’, and Sendy being the most recent one to empower 5,000 micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.
“If you think about the different parts needed to have a virile digital landscape, you need developers that can build great apps that solve local problems. So investing in training developers early is important. We are stimulating the appetite among young people for embracing technology and creating opportunities,” Ehimuan said.
While the underlying premise of Google’s work in the region is to support the digital transformation efforts being undertaken in the countries across the region, the core of its initiatives is primarily focused on four pillars.
To support access initiatives that help more people on the continent to access the internet in a way that works for them, developing products that are relevant and help people improve themselves and succeed, supporting startups and local businesses to succeed through tailored programs and initiatives, and supporting non-profits organisations who are solving critical problems in the region.
“The Equiano subsea cable falls under the first pillar, and is part of our ongoing commitment to Africa towards expanding opportunity and improving connectivity in order to help bring the benefits of technology to more Africans.
“Our other recent programs such as the GADS program, the $4 million Black Founders fund and the Hustle Academy all fall under our 3rd pillar, which is focused on supporting startups and local businesses,” Taiwo Kola-Ogunlade, communications and public affairs manager, Google West Africa, said.
BusinessDay spoke with one of the beneficiaries of the GADS 2020 program, Sandra Owoseni-Philips who is currently a full-stack web developer. She narrated how important Google’s partnership with Pluralsight played out.
“Pluralsight had quite a number of well detailed videos across various topics which was really good. I also loved the idea of the exam that was to take place at the end of the program, where you would get a coupon/ticket. It was something I looked forward to aside from the whole learning process.”
Speaking on networking, Owoseni-Philips explained that the program gave the participants the opportunity to meet with other developers and in her case, she still keeps in touch with two people who she met from the program.
With the increasing demand for web developers across many startups in the country as a result of new product ideas backed by technology innovations, Google will create more opportunities for growth, networking and job creation.
She advised young developers and businesses to take time to learn the basis of software development early and understand how they all relate, although it would not come easy. Pick an area of interest and learn everything about it, this will help navigate that area efficiently and distinguish one from the crowd in the market.
“All the program initiatives are unique in their goals, although together they hold-up our efforts to support digital transformation in the region, and help more people on the continent to access the positive and transformational impact of the Web,” Kola-Ogunlade said.