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.