Google has released Africa’s anti-slow Internet speed app, Google Go that will supercharge Africa’s Internet speed.
Internet speeds across Africa are still far below the global minimum standard. Feeble data connectivity, high data costs, and low storage space often make it hard for Africans to enjoy online benefits. Google, however, has released Google Go to fix just that. This app will help Internet users overcome obstacles including the lack of high-speed connectivity and high data cost in Africa.
The U.S search giant’s release of Google Go is its latest crusade in expanding its reach into emerging markets like sub-Saharan Africa, where Facebook is also negotiating inroads.
— Quartz Africa (@qzafrica) April 19, 2018
Google Go, already available in 26 sub-Saharan African countries, will operate on Android devices with low storage. The app will also have the ability to load on slow and unstable connections including 2G networks.
Taking into account Google’s futuristic plan of using voice search, the app will allow users to search using voice recognition instead of typing.
A pan-African partnership for Google Go
To achieve this ambitious goal, Google will partner with pan-African wireless carriers like the MTN Group and Vodacom Group to preload the app on some of their low-end devices, to start with.
The new app promises to reduce the amount of data needed to display search results by 40%. It will also allow users to access their previous online searches offline.
Over the last few months, Google has continuously released lightweight operating “Go” systems of its popular apps for less capable phones including Gmail and Google Assistant. Last year, it launched YouTube Go in Nigeria, an “offline first” version of the video sharing platform. This system allows users to preview and download videos rather than stream, and essentially, save on data costs.
For years, the scarcity of adequate data centers has undermined content delivery in Africa. This is particularly true with websites loading from servers placed thousands of miles away in Europe or the United States. Internet speeds are bound to be sluggish.
The scramble for Africa
U.S. tech behemoths see Africa as a relatively untapped market for smartphones. However, mobile telephony remains a game-changer for sub-Saharan Africa. The GSM Association projects the number of unique mobile subscribers in the region to reach 535 million by 2020, up from 420 million in 2016 – a subscriber base that is growing faster than any other region globally.
While the continent’s internet bandwidth capacity is fast-growing, mobile broadband connections are set to reach half a billion by 2020. This positions mobile broadband as the driving force behind innovation on the continent.
Over the years, more U.S tech companies have launched no-cost apps to ease internet access across the continent. Advocates, however, believe this connectivity has a hidden cost attached to it. This is especially problematic in a region where local regulations might not be as effective to protect consumer data from commercial interests.
Google’s entry into the African marketplace is, however, not the first as it competes with Facebook and Alibaba, who are already scouting for investment opportunities in Africa.
The reality of slow internet speeds is crucial in several African countries with fledgling tech hubs and ecosystems. Startup founders often cite slow internet speed as a major limitation in Lagos, home to a $2 billion tech ecosystem. Beyond tech startups, regular Africans also find difficulty to plug into the digital economy.
While high data cost and low storage space rank high among the reasons why internet connectivity is extremely slow in Africa, some African governments have intentionally reduced internet bandwidth. All, in an attempt to silence political uprisings which have otherwise, proven futile.