Can Osinbajo's visit to Google be tied to the launch of Google Station in the country?

Can Osinbajo's visit to Google be tied to the launch of Google Station in the country?
Professor Yemi Osinbanjo

No doubt, the launch of Google Station, their public WiFi service was a major highlight at the just concluded Google for Nigeria event.

This makes Nigeria the first country on the continent and the fifth in the world to be a beneficiary of the Google Station initiative.

First announced as a program in September, 2015; it was named Google Station a year later. Months after it was launched in India – January, 2016.

Google partners with internet service providers (ISP) such as 21st Century Technologies in Nigeria, RailTel in India, Sitwifi in Mexico, CAT in Thailand, and CBN and FiberStar in Indonesia to deploy the Google Station. These partners serve as the ISPs. While Google provides the wide area network (WAN), user experience, set-up the point of access at the selected locations, and other services.

The Google Station program is one of many by the Next Billion Users team at Google. The team is headed by Vice President, Caesar Sengupta of Indian descent.

Many have credited the Nigerian launch to the July 10 visit of the country's VP to the company's headquarter in California, United States. However, that position has been argued by many who believe the visit was totally unrelated. Thereby, reducing it to a mere coincidence.

According to a report on the visit by Business Insider by Pulse, the VP discussed everything Google was doing in the country but with no specific mention of the Google Station initiative.

Broadly speaking, the VP stated that the country will support Google's Next Billion Users to ensure greater digital access to its citizens and others around the world.  

Also, it is on record that the Google Station in India was launched after the country's President visited the company's headquarters.

So, does Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo's visit have any correlation with the launch of Google Station in Nigeria?

Maybe. But it definitely fast-tracked the process by eliminating the bureaucracy that might have stifled such deployment.

Read on to learn more about Nigeria's commitment to the Digital Economy via improvements in Broadband penetration. And how Google Station fits nicely into the Government's goals.

Nigeria's commitment to the Digital Economy

There is a global push to level the playing field for developing nations. An inclusion in the digital economy has been touted as one of the ways forward.

As defined by the G20, "The digital economy refers to a broad range of activities which include: the use of knowledge and information as factors in production, information networks as a platform for action, and how the information and communication technology (ICT) sector spurs economic growth."

Already, the President of the World Bank Group, Dr. Jim Yong Kim expressed concerns over the nation being ill-prepared for it.

"We are extremely concerned that many African countries are not prepared to compete in what is increasingly becoming a digitalised economy", he said at the 2018 IMF/World Bank spring meeting

The Government Agency responsible for Nigeria's ICT sector, NCC has reiterated their commitment to the Digital Economy.

"The biggest economies in the world are pursuing it [digital economy] with vigour and nations like Nigeria with an internationally-acclaimed telecoms regulators have not been left out in the pursuit", said the NCC's Head of Public Relations Unit – Reuben Muoka at a 3-day Digital Pay Expo 2018

He added that an essential driver of this was Broadband deployment.

A mutually beneficial relationship

The number one on the NCC's 8-point Agenda shared two years ago was to Facilitate Broadband Penetration up to 30% of the population. Till date, slow success has been recorded as the country is still at 22% penetration.

So, Google coming up with a Google Station initiative was such a lifeline. Also, their coming was very timely. The launch of the Google Station program came at a time when the Federal  Government was "resolute on creating an enabling environment for operators".

It's not all CSR for Google though. Going after regions where the NBUs will come from means that their company's user growth will remain bullish.

As more people come online they will have the need for one or two of their globally relevant products. There are currently about seven of them. They are:

  1. A browser for accessing the web – Google Chrome
  2. A tool for finding web resources – Google Search
  3. A free video-streaming service for watching tutorials and how-tos – YouTube
  4. A guide to places unfamiliar to them – Google Maps
  5. An email for operating online accounts like YouTube – Gmail
  6. An operating system for their smartphones (when they eventually buy) – Android
  7. A marketplace to find apps to put on their phones

If the CEO of Google were to speak on the launch in Nigeria, he'll have said something similar to what he said on the launch in India, another target region for the NBUs. Here is an excerpt we have appropriated to fit our Nigerian narrative.

"We’d like to help get these next billion Indians [Nigerians]  online—so they can access the entire web, and all of its information and opportunity. And not just with any old connection—with fast broadband so they can experience the best of the web. That’s why, today, on the occasion of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Nigeria's Vice President visit to our U.S. headquarters, and in line with his Digital India Nigeria initiative, we announced a new project to provide high-speed public Wi-Fi in 400 train stations 200 locations across India Nigeria.", he said.

In conclusion, while Google had been working on their Google Station initiative for Nigeria, the visit of the Vice President helped fast-track its deployment. Also, it is a welcomed development because it mutually benefits both parties, Google and Nigeria. For Google; increase user growth and for Nigeria internet access for her citizens to drive further inclusion in the digital economy.

Further reading: The VPs visit to Silicon Valley by Laolu Akande, SSA to the President on Media and Publicity.

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