Google Looks to Solve Slow Internet Speeds in Africa with Its New App

Google Go allows users to load search results using 40% less data.

Google is releasing an app in Africa that will help users combat slow internet speeds on the continent. Called Google Go, the app reduces the amount of data needed to display search results 40 percent. 

It also allows for previous searches to be seen offline. In addition, Google Go has been developed so the voice function can work with better efficiency on slow connections. 

“Weak data connectivity, high data costs, and low storage space often make it hard for people to get the most out of the internet,” Google Africa Chief Marketing Officer Mzamo Masito told the press on Thursday. “Google Go is built to handle these challenges.” 

Google and Facebook keen to dominate new African market

Google Go is Google’s most recent attempt to push its services into the emerging sub-Saharan market. As well as developing the app, the Alphabet Inc. unit has laid fiber-optic cable on the continent. 

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The tech giant will also work on ways to make Android phones cheaper and easier to access. Google Go will be available in 26 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and can be accessed from the Google Play Store.  

Oreo Android devices will come with the app pre-installed. A previously untapped market, U.S. tech businesses now see huge potential in Africa as younger generations demand faster speeds and better internet access. 

Facebook offers free service

Facebook is also pushing services into the region. Facebook and Google may battle it out for prime position in providing internet access to this rapidly growing market. Facebook launched its Internet.org initiative, in 2013. Part of this initiative was the Facebook Basics program that allowed access to Facebook without data charges in many parts of the continent. 

This program was heavily criticized as an example of ‘digital colonization’ and was later banned in India. Facebook has again come under fire in Africa for possibly collecting huge amounts of user data through its WiFi express program. 

Software inserted into WiFi hotspots

Facebook provides local Internet Service Providers (ISP) with the equipment necessary to set up WiFi internet connections in local communities. In doing so, Facebook is simply ‘powering’ the connections rather than providing them. 

Facebook first tried to purchase the equipment from market leader Ubiquiti, on the condition Facebook could insert its own software into the equipment. Ubiquiti refused to insert it so Facebook then purchased from smaller company Cambrian who allowed the software insertion. 

Massive data collection by Facebook a real possibility

Industry leaders suspect that Facebook is using the software to gather data on all users of these ‘powered by Facebook’ WiFi connection spots. While the exact details of what Facebook is collecting or accessing via this software is still unknown, the presence of this software in these public and heavily used WiFi connection points is highly worrying to many in the digital communications field.

Via: Bloomberg