Posts

Google's Investment in Africa
In 2018, Google reached the milestone of having trained over two million people in Africa. This training is digital skills training which enables the trainees to pursue careers in technology. Google currently has many active projects that have been active in Africa since 2016, ranging from training to providing access to faster and more accessible internet. These projects aim to help propel more people into the workforce and market. This article will explain how Google’s investment in Africa benefits both the people of Africa and Google’s business model as a whole.

Google’s Initiatives in Africa

Google has focused on three main areas to achieve its objectives. The first area is the training of individuals in digital skills. This comes through Grow with Google which is a global initiative helping prepare people for the changing demands of the job market by providing education on the production of software and hardware materials. The second initiative is for Google to support innovators and startups through its launchpad accelerator program. This program gives startups the push they need in the form of investment and training to become a successful company. The third method is through GV, formerly Google Ventures, the venture capital arm of Google. It has provided businesses such as Andela, a tech company that helps to train people in Nigeria and Kenya for software development with valuable capital to gain access to markets.

Achievements

So far Google’s investment in Africa has achieved a great deal in improving the lives of the people there. Not only has it trained over two million people in digital skills, but it has helped the bright young minds create successful businesses. Beyond this, Google has provided artificial intelligence through a new AI research center in Ghana that helps farmers more easily identify disease in their crops, and AI to help bridge communication gaps on the continent. In Nigeria, Google has opened public wifi stations that give people free access to wifi. Google is helping improve the lives of Africans through education and practical applications of technology.

Why Africa?

Google has a good reason for trying to develop both technology providers and consumers in Africa. Africa is a massive market for technology and Google intends to tap into that. Both Nigeria and Ghana have developing tech industries and their cities show great potential for growth. Their populations are young and modernizing quickly meaning more potential customers for Google’s services. The more Google can help to develop the tech industry in Africa, the more people that will be using their products. In 2017 alone, Google saw a 13 percent increase in revenue from Africa, and this was only early on in its investing process. As time goes on, Google hopes to get more people online and continue to see huge return on its investment in Africa.

Why it Matters

An important conclusion to take from this information is why people outside of Africa should care about Google’s investment in Africa, and in particular, countries such as Ghana and Nigeria. The answer is that Google is taking important steps towards opening potential future markets that could be future trade partners with U.S. companies and contributors to the U.S. economy. Nigeria and Ghana currently have a massive potential to contribute to the international economic scene and Google is providing essential education and capital to help them get there.

– Josh Fritzjunker
Photo: Flickr

Technology in AfricaOver the past few years, recent headlines in the United States have praised the software industry’s integral role in economic growth. Since 2000, the software industry grew from a roughly $150 billion industry to $350 billion in 2016. It has outperformed the information processing, transportation and industrial equipment industries. In the first quarters of 2018 and 2019, the software industry grew by an astounding 11 percent. Technology in Africa is one example of the progress being made by software industries.

Tech Startups in Africa

The value that software and technology have added to the U.S. economy is undeniable. The tech industry in Africa has a promising future. Technology in Africa has grown the most in the startup world. There are two ways that startups and companies have specifically invested in African tech by providing supplements to improve education and agriculture. A variety of recent education startups under the category “edtech” have made news as they entered a Cape Town-based incubator called Injini. Three of the eight startups highlight recent technology in Africa to aid in education:

  1. Zaio is a service that helps students advance their coding and software development skills through online learning courses and practical challenge modules. Their goal is to enable students to land jobs in the tech industry.
  2. OTRAC is an online healthcare service that allows medical practitioners to continue learning about medicine through a variety of courses and modules. OTRAC and Zaio both show the focus of startups on education in more advanced, information-based industries, which are crucial to economic development.
  3. Traindemy is a general vocational and career-based program that offers training in a variety of technical areas and also offers talent and entrepreneurial coaching. Their mission is to fight and combat unemployment in Africa.

Impacts of Investing in Tech

In terms of agriculture, larger companies like Google have invested in tech that helps farmers in Africa. Using a product called TensorFlow, farmers can take photos of their plants to diagnose unhealthy or diseased crops. This product originated at Google’s tech-center in Accra, Ghana.

Investments in Africa have also occurred on a broader level. A variety of financial institutions, such as the CDC group from the United Kingdom and FinDev from Canada, have started an initiative called 2X Invest2Impact with a goal of reaching and empowering women-owned businesses. This initiative is partially due to the fact that Africa has the most women entrepreneurs of any country.

Grassroots and high-level initiatives are part of larger developments in Africa’s landscape. In countries like Rwanda, the population of educated people has jumped from 4,000 to 86,000 in just 20 years. Investing in technology in Africa means investing in the next level of growth in the tech industry and helping those in poverty gain access to educational opportunities.

– Luke Kwong
Photo: Flickr

Mobile Software Platforms in Developing Countries  The creation of mobile phones is not only beneficial for everyday usage but also for the livelihood of communities in developing countries. As mobile phones continue to advance, the creation of software applications that are easily accessible can make a difference in the developing world. Whether it be a mobile banking platform, a market information system or an EMS service for desolate regions in developing countries, these types of mobile software are undoubtedly effective in helping those they serve.

3 Mobile Software Platforms in Developing Countries

  1. M-Pesa: In 2007, Kenya launched the mobile banking platform, M-Pesa, with the help of a one million pound grant from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development. M-Pesa is a money transfer service dedicated to allowing its users to transfer money to relatives in other locations through text, pay for everyday necessities and take out and repay loans. This software plays a significant role in reducing poverty. Studies show that there was a “6 percent increase in per capita consumption, enough to push 64 (or roughly 4 percent) of the sampled households above poverty levels.” Often referred to mobile money, this software gives the opportunity to separate cash and manage a source of income, especially for women. Considering most of the households are male-headed, women who are secondary income earners are unable to save adequately since most of the cash is used by the house. But M-Pesa creates financial independence and allows women to start their own businesses, bringing more money into families.
  2. MISTOWA: Market Information Systems and Traders Organizations in West Africa, MISTOWA for short, is an application created to provide statistics on agriculture to connect small farmers in remote areas with potential buyers at a fair market price. Created by the United States Agency for International Development and launched in March 2005, MISTOWA uses a web platform called TradeNet where buyers and sellers can upload and send agriculture information through text and SMS subscriptions. MISTOWA is partnered with a company named Esko in Nairobi, Ghana where rural farmers are sent price information, weather alerts and crop advice. After launching this mobile software, there was a 9 percent increase in profit for the farmers who used the software.
  3. Beacon: In rural areas, such as the countryside of the Dominican Republic, many citizens are unable to dial 9-1-1 for a medical emergency due to emergency services being too far away. Trek Medics International, in partnership with Google and Cardinal Health, created a lifesaving software program called Beacon. Through this mobile software, residents in the Dominican Republic can contact the nearest firehouse station where an alert will be sent via Beacon to a volunteer dispatcher who is first-aid trained. This volunteer travels to these regions on inexpensive motorcycles and transports the injured person to the nearest hospital.

Thanks to the masterminds behind mobile software, communities in developing countries are beginning to make use of the technology that is available to them through their mobile phones. Although these mobile software platforms in developing countries don’t tackle every issue, it is just the beginning of how advanced technology can make an impact.

– Jessica Curney
Photo: Flickr

Google’s Contribution to Fighting Extreme PovertyGoogle is one of the most renowned tech companies in the world with an exquisite smartphone line, a widely-used search engine and the ownership of media-giant, YouTube. Despite the success of Google, it started from humble beginnings. Two Ph.D. students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founded Google, originally named Backrub, at Stanford University for a research project in 1998. From an initial investment of $100,000, Google turned into a multi-billion dollar company, focusing part of its fortune on its own philanthropic goals. Google’s contribution to fighting extreme poverty includes dedicating $50 million to the global education initiative and $50 million to the economic opportunity initiative. Google.org announced a $1 billion commitment in grants and one million employee volunteer hours to close the global education gap, create economic opportunities and diminish prejudice and discrimination.

Google and GiveDirectly

In 2012, Google granted $2.4 million to GiveDirectly. GiveDirectly is a nonprofit organization that transfers money to people in Kenya using “electronic monitoring and payment technology.” Recipients can receive money via personal cell phones or the cell phones GiveDirectly gives them.

GiveDirectly hopes for economic stimulation by increasing cash flow to impoverished individuals to create more expenditure on services and products. For example, NPR covered a GiveDirectly success story about a Kenyan man who used the money he received to buy a used motorcycle. With his motorcycle, he charges riders a fee similar to taxi services like Lyft or Uber as a source of income. This organization allows donors to fund individual living expenses instead of general predetermined expenses, giving recipients the freedom to purchase the specific items they need to financially benefit their family.

As of 2016, 36.1 percent of Kenya’s population lives on less than $1.90 per day. This statistic dropped from 46.8 percent in 2006 but Kenya is still far from eradicating poverty altogether. Google’s contribution to fighting extreme poverty allowed GiveDirectly to recreate its program in Uganda and East Africa, as well as research its economic, social and psychological impacts.

Google and StoryWeaver

A year later in 2013, Google funded $3.85 million to an India-based organization, StoryWeaver, as part of the $50 million initiative to close the global education gap. StoryWeaver is a free online educational resource targeting underprivileged areas. It is also a platform for authors, illustrators and translators to create stories for children. StoryWeaver makes books more available to children all over the world in their native languages at varying reading levels. The ability to read and write sets the foundation for further education and countries in poverty have a significantly lower literacy rate due to inadequate educational materials or resources.

Literacy rates in India logged in at 74.04 percent in 2011 compared to the average world literacy rate of 86.3 percent. As a result, StoryWeaver works to provide free reading material to communities in need. StoryWeaver has already garnered over two million reads and 13,000 stories in 175 languages. With Google’s help, StoryWeaver will be able to expand its platform and user base while increasing the production of stories.

Google emphasizes the importance of accessible educational materials and worldwide economic participation by supporting innovative national and global nonprofits. With its powerful influence, resources and platform, Google is in a strong position to establish positive changes and produce substantial outcomes. Google’s contribution to fighting extreme poverty began almost 14 years ago and its efforts continue to remain steadfast today.

– Angela Dong
Photo: Flickr

Artificial Intelligence in Africa
With many of the world’s fastest-growing economies and tech markets, Africa’s next logical step of developing artificial intelligence (AI) and assimilating it into various industries is quickly becoming reality. Despite fears of worsening unemployment rates and widening wealth distribution disparity, many tech companies and governments are finding ways of using artificial intelligence in Africa to improve lives.

The Current State of Technology

In countries such as Uganda and Ethiopia, whose steadily growing economies are due in part to the rise and success of tech industry growth, local startups are addressing issues unique to the areas in which they operate. Despite the technology growth and development, many people are afraid that the implementation of artificial intelligence in Africa will take jobs away from workers, leading to increased unemployment rates that have long troubled various African countries.

Understanding that many Africans do not currently have access to the level of education needed to qualify for loftier jobs, governments of the African countries have set out to make education more attainable and more specialized, and global tech giants have made it clear that they see potential in Africa in the tech industry, specifically in artificial intelligence in Africa, and are looking to take advantage of this potential.

Unlocking Potential

Artificial intelligence in Africa has already yielded substantial results, promising a bright future as the industry grows so long as it receives proper support from government and tech organizations. For example, governments must change the school curriculums to meet the demands of the modern workforce, cultivating analytical thinkers with the ability to identify and solve everyday problems.

Tech companies including Facebook and Google have already established a respective presence in Africa, acknowledging both the capable minds the continent already has to offer as well as the increasing need for reform in education. Google has opened an AI research center in Ghana, where it has also begun construction of a fiber-optic line that will strengthen the internet for the country. It will draw students from local universities that have already made headway in specializing in computer sciences and other fields of study crucial to the growth of AI and the tech industry as a whole.

In areas such as health care, insurance and manufacturing, AI has already yielded significant beneficial results for Africa. As issues in these and other fields accumulate naturally with growth, tech professionals see AI as the key to maintaining and improving the lives of many people in Africa and around the world.

Looking Forward

While AI still has a stigma and is consider a luxury, other people see the tech industry as vital to solving practical problems whose solutions may not be realized quickly enough by human efforts alone. The fear that artificial intelligence in Africa will take away jobs is legitimate in that the very objective of AI is to accomplish the work of humans more quickly and efficiently.

Governments of African countries can improve and adapt education and if global tech leaders continue to see potential in Africa and support its growth, the tech industry will demand increasing numbers of educated Africans to match the industry’s rapid growth.

– Rob Lee
Photo: Pixabay

What UNICEF Stands For
The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) is a program dedicated to providing developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries as well as supporting humanitarian efforts globally. UNICEF operates in over 190 countries in an effort to protect and save children’s lives.

How UNICEF Works

UNICEF receives its funding through donations from government entities around the globe as well as private donors. Of these funds, government entities are responsible for two-thirds of the organization’s resources. UNICEF stands for transparency. It reports that of the donations it receives, nearly 92 percent is distributed to relief programs.

UNICEF was founded in 1946 in an effort to help war-torn children in the many countries affected by World War II. In 1953, UNICEF dropped the words International and Emergency from its title in an effort to extend its reach to children in need in developing countries.

What UNICEF Stands For

Today, in cooperation with governments and NGOs, UNICEF stands for providing health care to children, promoting children’s rights and providing immunizations, adequate nutrition, safe food and water as well as basic education. UNICEF’s ultimate goal is to ensure that no child ever goes hungry, thirsty, dies prematurely or is bought, sold or otherwise victimized. In order to achieve this, UNICEF works with families in need and helps ensure adoption policies are in accordance with the best and most ethical practices today.

UNICEF stands for transparency in the nonprofit sector. It receives high praises from many watchdogs for its monetary transparency policies. Of every dollar spent, 90 cents go to children’s efforts, seven cents go toward fundraising efforts and three cents go toward overhead and administrative costs. As well as being transparent, UNICEF excels at working with other agencies and private businesses to fight for children’s rights.

UNICEF’s Partnership with Google

UNICEF works with companies like Google to respond to emergencies such as earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters. Most recently, UNICEF has worked with Google to help aid children and families affected by hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.

As well as emergency aid, UNICEF and Google collaborate to support the annual flu shot campaign provided by UNICEF. This collaboration has raised over $600,000 toward UNICEF’s immunization program.

In 2016, Google helped UNICEF by donating $1 million to help fight the spread of the Zika virus. Google worked with UNICEF to build a program which tracked the anticipated outbreak of the virus and developed technology that is applicable to not only the Zika virus but other virus outbreaks in the future. With Google’s help, UNICEF helped prevent the spread of the Zika virus and saved the lives of many children and families around the world.

UNICEF is a program with the noble intentions of promoting children’s health and happiness around the globe. Many of the programs provided by UNICEF have helped greatly in reducing the abuse of children in over 190 countries. With its clear mission of transparency, UNICEF succeeds in providing aid to children and families in need. With the help of NGOs and companies like Google, UNICEF is set to continue its story of success in the future.

– Dalton Westfall

Photo: Flickr

New Tech InfrastructureThe recent ravaging of the island territory of Puerto Rico, first by Hurricane Irma, then by Maria, is a reminder of the sheer destructive mayhem Mother Nature can wield—but also of the ability of individuals, businesses and governments across the globe to come together to solve problems and help those in need. Although the storms undoubtedly caused major problems, they also offered opportunities for change and innovation.

One such possibility is the chance to build a new tech infrastructure from the ground up. Many U.S. companies are stepping up to join in on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Under the direction of Elon Musk, Tesla is sending its Powerpack battery system to Puerto Rico to help homes, businesses, hospitals and schools use their existing solar panels by providing energy storage. Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is sending special balloons to help restore cell phone connectivity in areas where the infrastructure is down. Meanwhile, Facebook pledged $1.5 million in relief money to various charities and sent employees to Puerto Rico to work toward restoring internet connectivity to the island.

In an interview with USA Today, Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló spoke about talking with Elon Musk. He affirmed that they were looking into batteries and solar panels as a long-term solution to transform energy delivery and bring down costs for the island.

The new tech infrastructure is direly needed. As The New York Times notes, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) was already $9 billion in debt before the two hurricanes hit. PREPA declared itself insolvent in 2014 and ceased making debt payments, forcing a debt restructuring deal that has yet to be finalized. To make matters worse, PREPA has been at the center of a corruption scandal, making it harder to unify the public behind its mission and importance.

But, according to Puerto Rico resident Gabriel Rodriguez, tech company aid to the island has been very polarizing. In his words, “People are really for it or against it. There are the people that say that of course it’s going to be a great improvement for us… but then there’s a lot of people that are very mad because they say we are selling the island to outside interests.”

Ina Fried of Axios speculates that the American companies currently volunteering side-by-side on the island will eventually compete with each other for larger-scale rebuilding contracts. The heavy lifting won’t come free, and this is likely the source of some Puerto Rican worries.

One of the challenges of rebuilding will be to do it in a way that respects Puerto Ricans’ autonomy and independent identity. These fears of selling out to foreign interests are similar to the ones that inspired the Cuban Revolution in the 1950s that toppled Fulgencio Batista and put Fidel Castro in power.

While the two situations are not politically analogous, the tales of government corruption and fears of foreign influence are, and those U.S. companies interested in helping would do well to approach the situation with sensitivity. There is room for all parties to share in the profits and rewards that a new tech infrastructure in Puerto Rico can yield.

Chuck Hasenauer

Photo: Flickr

Google and the H&M Foundation Support Flood Relief in South AsiaWhile the United States remains observant and sympathetic to the troubles in Texas and Florida, on the other side of the globe 24 million people have been affected and over 1,200 killed by a record monsoon that hit areas of India, Nepal and Bangladesh. The natural disaster brought the worst floods the area has seen in years.

Google and their employees have committed to a $1 million pledge to Goonj and Save the Children to support flood relief efforts in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. They hope to support flood relief for 75,000 families across nine affected states throughout rural India. Google’s flood relief efforts include giving families kits with food, mats, blankets and hygiene items. Their goal is to help restore the communities’ roads, bridges and schools.

The Swedish clothing retailer Hennes & Mauritz, widely known as H&M, has donated $200,000 to support flood relief in south Asia through the Save the Children Organization. The H&M Foundation works to enhance living circumstances by investing in people, communities and innovative ideas. While the H&M Foundation supports this transformation through access to education, water and equality, they also offer emergency relief from partnerships through global organizations.

Save the Children has responded in all three countries, as they believe children are often the most vulnerable in crises like these. Save the Children also provides child-friendly environments where children can acquire access to educational resources and free time, allowing liberation from devastation.

Resources like the U.S. federal disaster response system do not exist to provide flood relief in south Asia. This makes the work of companies like Google and H&M extremely valuable to affected communities, both now and in the future.

Jalil Perry

Photo: Flickr

Affordable Smartphone in Nigeria
During a Google for Nigeria event in Lagos last month, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai announced that they would be launching a new affordable smartphone in Nigeria. The ICE2, which will be available starting in September, will cost only $40.

As of December 2016, an estimated 47.9 percent of the Nigerian population of 191 million uses the Internet. Google hopes to reach the other half of the population that does not utilize the Internet but wish to do so.

The ICE2 is a good smartphone for the price. It includes a 5.5-inch 720p display and 8GB of internal storage that can be extended to 32GB. The phone also has a 5MP back camera and a 2MP front camera and runs on a 2800mAH battery.

The ICE2 will come with all Google apps including Google Maps and Google Search. It will also be the first device to come with Google Play Protect, which helps protect against harmful apps.

Google’s GBoard, a virtual keyboard app, now supports all major Nigerian languages. The keyboard can be used to type in Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa, making the device even more relevant for Nigerians.

With an affordable smartphone in Nigeria, Google hopes to improve lives and innovation in the country and in Africa as a whole. Pichai explained at the event that giving Africans internet access, platforms and products will allow them to create the internet they want.

Pichai also announced a plan to train 10 million African for digital jobs over the next five years. Google’s Digital Skills program has trained a million African inhabitants this past year and wishes to expand. The program offers 89 courses through an online portal, as well as in-person training in 20 countries. Google hopes that this training will prompt the young generations in Africa to build businesses and create jobs, which will overall boost the continent’s economy.

Hannah Kaiser

Photo: Google

Nonprofits in Africa
Google’s more philanthropic arm, Google.org, has connected and extended the endeavors of distinctive nonprofits and companies working to better their communities since 2005. This year’s efforts include providing around $50 million in funding, expertise, and tools to support these organizations. Additionally, the organization plans to train 10 million people in sub-Saharan Africa in this same time span, in order for them to be more employable and gain access to information and communications technologies, and it will train another 100,000 to develop mobile and global-capable apps. Thus far, Google.org has decided to put aside $20 million over the next five years for a range of nonprofits in Africa.

A leader in not only search engines but charity as well, Google has already chosen two African technology startups to receive $2.5 million in grants: Gidi Mobile and Siyavula. Gidi Mobile Ltd. focuses on expanding the visions of over 350 million young Africans and giving them the ability to accomplish such goals as Africa’s first mobile personal development platform. It allows people to complete courses and study materials online for all types of professional careers, connect with other learners and form a community and share personal progress with others. The company advances free content, cloud computing and both international and distinctly African content through its product Gidimo.

Siyavula similarly allows free online access to their line of published and curriculum-aligned math and science textbooks, alongside practice and teaching capabilities within the program. These are unlike restricted, copyrighted materials but adaptable without incurring costs, and allow educators to create and share accessible and open-licensed Open Education Resources (OERs). Both have in turn supported the unstifled digital education of over 400,000 underprivileged students in South Africa and Nigeria.

Through Google.org, almost $110 million has already been committed in the last five years to nonprofits in Africa and even other parts of the world that center around closing the education gap. Looking to their current portfolio, they are hoping technology will bring kids the right materials, as those who grow up in low-income areas have less access to books or are forced to use outdated, irrelevant texts. Around 221 million students today are taught in a language foreign to them, and 130 million do not learn basic math or reading despite placement in a four-year or more school system.

Moreover, 4.3 billion people lack consistent access to the internet. Technology can help solve this issue in bringing in more resources to students they can adapt to while remaining engaging and not being a financial burden. One of the first groups to win a grant in this area is the Foundation for Learning Equality, whose new platform Kolibri has brought 7,000 videos and 26,000 interactive exercises to offline students in 160 countries. This year, Google technicians are expanding Learning Equality’s content library and working with them on UX/UI, content integration and video compression technologies.

Next, Google is looking to keep teachers trained and engaged through such technology and is helping local leaders invest in tools offering such. In 2015, only 13.5 percent of teachers passed the India Central Teacher Eligibility Test. The first grant to address this went to the Million Sparks Foundation’s ChalkLit, which utilizes an app to share public curriculum-aligned content to teachers. And in 2016, the Delhi State Council of Education Research and Training (SCERT) selected Million Sparks as their online capacity building partner to offer in-service training for 60,000 teachers.

Lastly, Google.org hopes to reach students in conflict zones, as 32 million primary-school aged children cannot reach traditional classrooms due to crisis or displacement. One of their grantees, War Child Holland, addresses this with a game-based system that allows for a year of lessons and exercises that align with that host country. When deployed in Sudan, results showed students learned at equal and worthy rates from the approach. War Child Holland is hoping to expand to reach 170,000 children by 2020 and reach significant numbers in the Middle East and Africa.

In order to stimulate technological promise across this region, Google.org is launching an “Impact Challenge” in Africa in 2018, where the most innovative and worthwhile ideas can earn almost $5 million in grants. Similar challenges have been completed in Brazil, India and the U.K. in the past. With the support and backing of major companies like Google, such already influential nonprofits in Africa and beyond will gain further means to improve lives and educate all those otherwise lacking access to adequate education in developing parts of the world.

Zar-Tashiya Khan

Photo: Flickr