The darker side of the Google strategy?

From the Google Africa blog:

An important aspect of Google’s mission is to make information universally accessible. Unfortunately, in many less developed areas of the world, particularly countries in Africa, access to the Internet is scarce and expensive. Today, we are pleased to let you know about one way we’re helping to address this problem: by investing in O3b Networks. O3b’s mission is to provide high-speed, low-cost Internet connectivity to the “other 3 billion” people in emerging markets in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.

Now, I realize that Google is in part generous of spirit, but I suspect that the hi-speed network and the new Chrome browser are part of a strategy to be the first mover (and the market king) in markets not yet tackled by their competitors: 3 billion future consumers.

If Google really wants to make information accessible to the poor, there’s a simple next step: get copyright owners to make Google Books open to African IP addresses. It would be the single greatest act of knowledge transfer in history.

7 thoughts on “The darker side of the Google strategy?

  1. Where does “dark side” come in? How dare Google try to build market share in Africa! It sounds a lot less dark than a lot of other companies currently doing business in Africa. In fact, it sounds pretty light.

  2. +1 to Paul.

    I don't see any negatives here to what Google is doing. In fact, they seem to be rather pragmatic. Instead of forcing (maybe coercing) IP owners to open up content, they are attempting to provide access to IP that is already free and available.

    Uh, seems like they put the horse in front of the cart. Get people internet access -> provide them with content. It's not like the Internet is lacking in content. Should anyone in a third world country wish to learn, they can readily go to Wikipedia. Or how about Stanford or MIT's free courses?

    IP available to the third world without their ability to access it? That's cruel and unusual. Google's doing the right thing.

  3. I, too, am confused about how why this is labeled a “dark side”.

    1. Google Chrome: completely unrelated to Africa, completely open-source with open standards. If you doubt Google’s benevolence on this one, then you would have to question Firefox’s objectives as well: Google owns about half the Firefox development team, so essentially Google is competing against itself. All I see in Google Chrome is increased competition (which, Google Chrome is proving, is very welcome).

    2. Bringing affordable Internet to Africa is “dark”? I just don’t see that. There are already Internet providers in Africa, which provide unreliable, expensive services. Again, Google is introducing competition in a market (and fifth of the world) which desperately needs it.

    Historically, Google has expanded its empire simply by openly competing with a better product. I don’t see how much room they have left themselves to be “evil” with either Google Chrome or O3B. “The Great Firewall of Uganda?”

    Of course any big company’s moves look scary, but why these in particular?

  4. Chris, have you tried to read a book on google books in Africa? I hardly ever do because of ….. the slow connections. Youtube is free too, but I hardly ever use it here. Speed is the problem, not content.

    I’m not sure either about the chrome conspiracy. When I visited google.co.tz when chrome was released, only the english version had a link to download it, not the swahili version. Now neither have it.

    Are they looking at the next big market? Sure.

  5. Many textbooks are free, if you learn to search Indian, Chinese and Russian sites listing content of various file sharing servers. Africans really need just the fast connection, PDF readers and some advise from students in other developing countries (whether the copyright owners like it or not).

  6. * Agree with most of the above. If google wants to run to capture a 3 billion people market – they’re very welcome to do so. The faster the better, I tell you. As an African consumer, I’m happy to see Google take over the ISP market if it’ll be cheaper and faster!

    * Making google books open to Africa won’t solve the main problem — more people! — but would rather give more resources to a limited number of people (who already have access). That would be a good answer.. .to the wrong question.

    And btw — Google chrome is not impressive, compared to Firefox 3. I’ll probably wait a couple of months before downloading it, when most bugs would’ve been fixed.

  7. I live in Nairobi, and just downloaded “Hamlet” via Google Books, so either something has changed, or Dr. Blattman got some bad info.