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Google talks Loon and connectivity at AfricaCom

At a busy keynote session at AfricaCom in Cape Town this morning Google’s South Africa Country Manager Luke Mckend explored some of the ways in which the internet giant is looking to help bring connectivity to the continent.

Google is obviously best known for its search engine, but has diversified significantly to the point where it is now also a cloud service provider, an analysis software firm, a consultancy and now it is moving into the physical network infrastructure space. Its various projects (such as Loon and Titan) have been discussed previously on Telecoms.com, and this morning, Mckend spoke about some of the key enablers for helping connect Africa more broadly.

“We’re lucky at Google; every time someone searches, they tell us a little bit about what they want from a service,” said Mckend. “We’re seeing a lot of growth in ‘how to’ searches; and the main one at the moment is ‘how do I make money?’ We need to start looking at the opportunity that exists right now, for Africans to look at and harness the technology that sits right in front of them; to help them make money, to help them start businesses, to help them embrace digital.”

When asked about Project Loon, the balloon-based floating internet delivery platform, Mckend said that’s just one of a number of projects to help bring connectivity to hard to reach parts of the continent.

“If we take a step back, we’re all agreed that connectivity is a challenge in one way or another in Africa; and we’re all trying to solve it in a whole bunch of different ways. Project Loon is just one project we’re involved in. One of the challenges Larry Page lays out to his engineers is to make something 10 or 20 times better with the same equipment, and that’s what we’re doing with Loon and a tonne of other projects.”

“It’s the kind of project that only really works with partners, though I can’t say anything about when Loon will be delivered in Africa, but it is something we are working on. But we are working on Project Link, with is a shared fibre infrastructure for local carriers in Kampala, Uganda. All of this brings down cost, sure, but it’s also about quality and the delivery of services that customers will benefit from. So there’s a variety of projects we’re working on in Africa, to help bring additional connectivity to the continent.”

Mckend concluded with a light hearted, but clearly intentional, poke about how regulators notice innovators far more than those who stick with the status quo. “If you’re not attracting the attention of the regulators, you’re not innovating fast enough,” he said.

  • Mission Critical Technologies Africa

  • West Africa Com


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