Tag Archives: Google in Africa

Join the Africa Day virtual festivities

An annual celebration of African unity, Africa Day commemorates the founding of the African Union. Now, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, thinking about a “Borderless Africa: Celebrating Commonalities” has a special resonance. 

We’re lending our support to the (virtual) festivities: We kicked things off yesterday on YouTube with the Africa Day Benefit Concert At Home, in partnership with Viacom and MTV Base. The two-hour special, hosted by Idris Elba, will bring together multiple African artists: Angelique Kidjo, Burna Boy, Sauti Sol, Sho Madjozi, Diamond Platnumz and more. The concert showcases the continent’s music and raises awareness for MTV Base’s fundraising campaign for UNICEF and the UN World Food Program, which are providing assistance to Africans affected by COVID-19.

If the concert leaves you wanting more, head over to YouTube Music and check out our Africa Day playlist: Between the afrobeat, a bit of house and African soul, you’ll be getting a musical tour of the continent from your home. Along with contemporary artists like Eddy Kenzo, Lady Zamar, Sauti Sol and Wizkid, it also draws from the sounds of great African voices past, such as Fela Kuti, Hugh Masekela and Johnny Clegg.

For more of our shared cultural heritage and creativity, visit the online exhibit 11 Ways to Celebrate Africa Day at Google Arts & Culture. Discover what unites us across art, food, music, fashion, people, landmarks and more.

Peruse the collections of 26 cultural institutions, or use search tools like color and time to explore over 15,000 photographs. Get the party started with a hearty bowl of jollof rice, visit theGreat Pyramid of Giza, feel the beat of theAfrican drum, and zoom into the intricate beadwork of a Ndebele cape. Or turn your home into a gallery: With Art Projector you can virtually place the artwork ofMary Ogembo in your living room—or step inside Tanzania’s Gereza Fort through augmented reality. 

Happy Africa Day from all of us at Google Africa.

Funding 21 news projects in the Middle East, Africa and Turkey

Finding new and meaningful ways to engage readers is a hot topic for news organizations of any size, and the first Google News Initiative (GNI) Innovation Challenge for the Middle East, Turkey and Africa prompted a myriad of different approaches. The GNI Innovation Challenges,  part of Google’s $300 million commitment to help journalism thrive in the digital age, saw news innovators step forward with new thinking. In South Africa, Daily Maverick proposed a “relevancy engine” that would aggregate data feeds about reader behavior for small and medium publishers. In Jordan, podcast startup Sowt looked to tackle the challenge with a new hosting platform for news podcasts.


We launched the Middle East, Turkey and Africa Innovation Challenge last June, and received 527 applications from 35 countries. After a rigorous review, a round of interviews and a final jury selection process, we selected 21 projects from 13 countries to receive $1.93 million in funding.


The call for applications listed four criteria: impact, feasibility, innovation and inspiration, and the successful projects clearly demonstrated all four. Here are just a few of the awardees (you can find the full list on our website):


  • Demirören Teknoloji Anonim Şirketi in Turkey wants to solve the tagging process for the Turkish language to help with the news discovery distribution process. Currently this work requires cumbersome manual work from their journalists, taking a precious share of their time. 

  • Daily news publisher Israel Hayom will be creating a loyalty scheme where online users get real-life rewards in the form of tickets or money-saving offers. 

  • Nas News wants to engage Iraq’s citizens in video debates for positive change with a mobile-first social and news platform that allows users to read and debate on local and national topics.

  • L'Orient le Jour in Lebanon wants to build a new loyalty plan to offer special and personalized privileges to subscribers via an interactive platform.

  • The National in the UAE will develop a service that converts quality text news into audio in real time, in both English and Arabic.

  • Ringier Africa Digital Publishing in Nigeria will be increasing personalization across their platform using a blend of prediction, recommendation and local information pages to increase user engagement.

A second round of theMiddle East, Turkey and Africa Innovation Challenge will open for applications later in the year: Watch for details on our website.

A safer internet for Europe, the Middle East and Africa

Chances are you’re reading this in a country that formally recognizes Safer Internet Day—an initiative that originated in the European Union two decades ago and is now observed in as many as 150 countries around the world. 

Whether you’re spurred into doing a Security Checkup, trying our Phishing Quiz, or setting digital ground rules through Family Link, you’ll know the importance of safety in your online life. We take your safety online seriously, and are investing heavily in building, developing and sharing tools and projects to help you and your family stay safer.

Last year, we opened the Google Safety Engineering Center (GSEC) in Germany as the center of that ongoing investment. At this hub of global privacy engineering, we’ve built products such as Password Manager, which scans hundreds of millions of passwords every day and warns you if any of your credentials have been compromised. More than 100 million users have run a Password Checkup since we launched the feature last year.

More than 1,000 employees now work at GSEC, combining the best in privacy and safety engineering, product development and user experience design to help make the digital world work for everyone more safely.

Helping children learn how to be safer online

Because you want your children to be able to make the most of the web safely, we developed Be Internet Awesome in 2017 to help make digital safety knowledge as accessible as possible. Since then, we have trained millions of children through the program in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. And today, we’re launching in four more countries: Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, and the Netherlands. 

With Be Internet Awesome (InternetHelden in the Netherlands) Google works with non-governmental organizations to teach children how to be safer, more confident explorers of the online world. For example, we help children practice smart tactics for analyzing and evaluating information, sharing media with care, creating strong passwords, and handling bullying. 

We’re proud that the program has been awarded the Seal of Alignment by the International Society for Technology in Education, and pleased to make it available to many more children.

Helping experts make the online world safer

We know Google can’t tackle online safety alone, so we’re partnering with cross-sector experts and developers to address evolving challenges on the web. Just this month, we announced the 29 grant recipients of the Google.org Impact Challenge on Safety, a €10 million fund to support organizations across Europe who are working to address hate, extremism and child safety. 

One of them—Mama Chat, from its headquarters in Italy—has built a chat service that gives free and anonymous support for women and girls in need. Another, the Fare Network, is working to fight racism in football. You can learn more about all the grantees on our Google.org Impact Challenge website

Helping protect your devices from attack

And of course we’re continuing to build improvements into the core of our products and services that help protect people from harm. 

For example, over the last year, we made our strongest security program more accessible than ever before, by enabling you to use your Android or iOS phone as a security key instead of a standard physical security key that you need to carry around. You shouldn’t need to be an expert in computer security to stay safe, which is why this year we’ll continue to build best-in-class security features to help keep you protected against evolving online threats wherever you are on the internet.

To learn more about our resources to help keep you and your family safer, please visit the Google Safety Center

Heritage on the Edge urges action on the climate crisis

Editor’s note: Guest author Dr. Toshiyuki Kono is President of the International Council on Monuments and Sites. Distinguished Professor Kono also teaches private international law and heritage law at Japan's Kyushu University.

Preserving and protecting the past is essential for our future. This belief is at the core of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), a global non-government organization dedicated to the conservation of architectural and archaeological heritage.

Our 10,000 members across the globe—including architects, archeologists, geographers, planners and anthropologists—share the same vision: to protect and promote the world’s cultural heritage. The recent youth climate demonstrations shed a spotlight on the urgency of the climate crisis, which is having a devastating effect on our cultural monuments too. It is important to take action, and we must act now to save this part of our human legacy.

That’s why, in collaboration with CyArk and Google Arts & Culture, we’re launching Heritage on the Edge, a new online experience that stresses the gravity of the situation through the lens of five UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You can join us and explore over 50 online exhibits, 3D models, Street View tours, and interviews with local professionals and communities about Rapa Nui’s (Easter Island) iconic statues, the great mosque city of Bagerhat in Bangladesh, the adobe metropolis of Chan Chan in Peru, Scotland’s Edinburgh Castle and the coastal city of Kilwa Kisiwani in Tanzania—all heritage sites that are affected by the climate crisis.

Above all, the project is a call to action. The effects of climate change on our cultural heritage mirror wider impacts on our planet, and require a strong and meaningful response. While actions at individual sites can prevent loss locally, the only sustainable solution is systemic change and the global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Heritage on the Edge collects stories of loss, but also of hope and resilience. They remind us that all our cultural heritage, including these iconic World Heritage Sites, are more than just tourist destinations. They are places of great national, spiritual and cultural significance.

Meet Kwara, a startup in the new Africa Immersion program

At Google for Startups, we look for ways to support promising new companies around the world. But those companies usually stay put in their home regions, which can be limiting—it means a smaller network of expertise to draw on, and a restricted pool of venture capital investors. We wanted to see what might happen if we expanded the geographical horizon, and connected up-and-coming businesses in one region with well-honed resources from a different region.


So in September, Google for Startups UK launched our first-ever Africa Immersion cohort, a 12-week program to bring expertise from Google and London startups to tech startups from Africa. We chose ten startups from our Launchpad Africa program, a network of tech startups around the world, who can share learnings, support and do business with each other. We wrapped up last week in Lagos, where we brought key investors from the UK to meet with the founders. 


To get a behind-the-scenes view of the Africa Immersion cohort, we chatted with Cynthia Wandia, co-founder and CEO of Kwara, an online and mobile banking platform for financial cooperatives (also known as credit unions and community banks).

First, what does Kwara do?


We provide secure, simple and affordable online and mobile banking for cooperative financial institutions and their members, who are often excluded by traditional banks. Starting in Kenya, our mission is to make sure that these institutions can meet their members’ financial needs instantly, helping them avoid expensive predatory alternatives.

Two Kwara team members smiling

Team Kwara: Austin Kabiru, Software Engineer, and Cynthia Wandia, Cofounder & CEO

How did you get started—where did the idea come from?

The idea started from the view that small-scale cash crop farmers should be able to command more value for their produce. As most farmers rely on the cooperative for their primary financial needs, we decided to strengthen the cooperatives by making them more secure, transparent and investible.

Who are your customers? What does your company do for them?

Our first sector is financial cooperatives, also known as credit unions and community banks. Our technology helps them acquire and retain more members, secure their members’ funds, and increase their own revenues. Members in turn benefit from increased convenience, transparency, peace of mind and more complete credit profiles. And since we link our banking platform to the formal financial sector, the members can also access shared channels such as ATM networks and widespread agent infrastructure.

Why did you decide to participate in the Africa Immersion program?

We were first connected to Google through Launchpad, a three-month accelerator program that provides early-stage startups with access to Google technology, mentorship and workshops on growing their businesses. Before Launchpad, we had acquired some customers who were willing to try out our product while it was still in an early testing stage, and we were making sure that we really could solve all the problems we wanted to address. Launchpad helped us focus on a single product and user, and define our tech team responsibilities. And the Google brand gave us added credibility with potential customers. We also benefited immensely from the lessons and experiences that other startups shared with us. So we were keen to participate in another Google program, specifically one that sought to open up new investor networks to us, as well as continue to introduce us to a peer group of admirable startups from all over the continent. 

Is there a moment or event from the program that particularly stands out to you?

Access to the Google for Startups UK team who have an extensive network and are very open to share has been the highlight. We have been linked with experts in product, fundraising and marketing, both from within Google and from leading startups in the UK.

What do you hope will come out of the program?

We hope to align with a few like-minded investors to start conversations about our next funding round. We also hope to continue our mentorship with the Google for Startups team, and hopefully speed up our marketing efforts.

Making our products more helpful in Arabic

Today, we’re announcing new products in the Middle East and North Africa, a region connected by a common language, Arabic. The Arabic language, beautiful yet complex, is written from right-to-left, has a range of dialects, and one word can mean many different things depending on the context. For our products to be helpful, they need to understand the nuances of the language. 

Visual Search in Arabic

Cinema, music and sports are three of the things people search for the most in Arabic. We’re now showing answers to popular questions in a simple box, so that you can get information faster. For example, if you’re looking to watch a movie, you will find in one box all the movie theaters on the map, the list of movies being aired, showtimes and sometimes a link to book your ticket. Similarly, if you’re searching for Mo Salah, the Egyption football star, you will see his biography, his past goals with Liverpool and the Egyptian National team, and also videos of games and tournaments he played in. 

Celebrities are another topic that people search for a lot. So we’re launching Cameos, a feature on Google Search where celebrities can post videos on the Search homepage answering popular questions about them. For example, if you search for Egyptian actress Yosra El Lozy, you can scroll through videos where she answers many questions like what is a cause she cares about and what is the best advice she got as an actress.   

Cameos.gif

Cameo feature on Search in Arabic

Google Assistant: “Okay Google, speak to me in Arabic.”

Talking to your phone to get information from Google or to get things done is becoming more popular. In Arabic too, people use it to navigate traffic, search the web, or play music. Earlier this year, we launched the Assistant in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and people have been asking it to make calls, sing lullabies for children and listen to music (“Okay Google, play Fayruz” is one of the most popular commands.) 

Today, the Assistant will be available in an additional 15 countries in the region—United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Iraq, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Mauritania.

Google Maps: navigate the world, get things done, and stay safe

Whether you’re driving or a passenger, everyone wants to feel safe on the road. We’re introducing a feature that gives you an “off-route alert” when your driver has deviated from the suggested route by more than 500 meters. You can also choose to share your live trip with friends and family directly from that screen so they know where you are.

Maps Safety in Arabic

Stay Safer feature on Maps

Helping motorcyclists get through traffic with Google Maps in Egypt

There are more than four million motorbikes in Egypt and the heavy Cairo traffic can affect their journey times. Motorcycle mode on Maps helps motorcyclists avoid congestion on Egypt’s busiest highways by following shortcuts and local roads and have an accurate expected arrival time. This feature is coming next to Algeria and Tunisia, and more countries soon. 

Two Wheel Mode

Image of motorcycle mode on Maps in Egypt

Investing in digital skills: Unlocking opportunities for young Arabs 


By next year, one in five jobs in the Arab world will require digital skills. In 2018, we launched our Arabic digital skills program, “Maharat min Google,” which has reached more than 500,000 young people, women and underprivileged students. 130,000 of those were able to find jobs, grow their careers and their businesses. We want to continue that effort. So today, Google.org is giving a $ 1 million grant to Injaz, an NGO that specializes in youth training, to scale their digital skills program to reach a further 100,000 people in 2020.

Every day, people in the Middle East and North Africa turn to Google for help. We hope that the products and updates we're announcing today will make Google even more helpful for finding things out and getting things done. And we’re excited to play our part in unlocking this region’s digital opportunity.


Using the web to help young people find work


South Africa has the world’s highest recorded youth unemployment rate. Many young people are unable to access job opportunities due to a lack of financial resources and necessary work experience. Allan van der Muelen, the co-founder of start-up Zlto, is changing this. 

Zlto is a web-based digital rewards platform that incentivizes young people to gain work experience by volunteering in the community. Users build a digital resume by uploading completed work assignments, showing both their impact on the project and the skills they gained while completing the task. For each project they also earn Zlto, a digital currency that can be spent on a range of items, like food, clothing, mobile data and transportation, thanks to collaborations with national retail partners. 

“I work with young people to show them that they do have choices and the Web is giving them access to even more,” he says. In 2018, Zlto won the Google Impact Challenge and more recently started working with Chrome engineers to streamline their web app. 

Zlto on desktop

Zlto’s user dashboard is the portal to volunteer opportunities and provides a progress summary.

People access Zlto through devices with limited capabilities and with limited data and connections. So providing them with instant access to the platform is critical to the company’s success. By building on the web, the Zlto team was able to make the app widely accessible. A typical Zlto user accesses their web app three times a day, so it’s critical that their experience is reliable. The Zlto team uses modern web technologies to ensure the app is responsive and reliable, and they use tools including Google’s Lighthouse to monitor the app’s performance and make instant fixes.

Zlto is having a notable impact in the Cape Town Flats, securing permanent work for more than 2,300 young people in the last 12 months; there are 36,000 volunteers working with more than 1.2 million people in the community. The team is now piloting the launch of Zlto in Tanzania as well as the United Kingdom, working with the Newbigin House charity in support of asylum seekers and other individuals.

Source: Google Chrome


Using the web to help young people find work


South Africa has the world’s highest recorded youth unemployment rate. Many young people are unable to access job opportunities due to a lack of financial resources and necessary work experience. Allan van der Muelen, the co-founder of start-up Zlto, is changing this. 

Zlto is a web-based digital rewards platform that incentivizes young people to gain work experience by volunteering in the community. Users build a digital resume by uploading completed work assignments, showing both their impact on the project and the skills they gained while completing the task. For each project they also earn Zlto, a digital currency that can be spent on a range of items, like food, clothing, mobile data and transportation, thanks to collaborations with national retail partners. 

“I work with young people to show them that they do have choices and the Web is giving them access to even more,” he says. In 2018, Zlto won the Google Impact Challenge and more recently started working with Chrome engineers to streamline their web app. 

Zlto on desktop

Zlto’s user dashboard is the portal to volunteer opportunities and provides a progress summary.

People access Zlto through devices with limited capabilities and with limited data and connections. So providing them with instant access to the platform is critical to the company’s success. By building on the web, the Zlto team was able to make the app widely accessible. A typical Zlto user accesses their web app three times a day, so it’s critical that their experience is reliable. The Zlto team uses modern web technologies to ensure the app is responsive and reliable, and they use tools including Google’s Lighthouse to monitor the app’s performance and make instant fixes.

Zlto is having a notable impact in the Cape Town Flats, securing permanent work for more than 2,300 young people in the last 12 months; there are 36,000 volunteers working with more than 1.2 million people in the community. The team is now piloting the launch of Zlto in Tanzania as well as the United Kingdom, working with the Newbigin House charity in support of asylum seekers and other individuals.

Europe and Africa code weeks: 136,000 students learn to code

Within the next 10 to 15 years, 90 percent of all jobs in Europe will require some level of technology education, and now is the time for the future workforce to start acquiring these skills. Computer Science (CS) programs all over the world are helping prepare students for the new global economy and helping them channel their excitement and passion into real world creations.

This October, we supported Europe Code Week,a movement started by the European Commission,for the sixth consecutive year, and Africa Code Week for the fourth consecutive year. In total, Google funded 88 education organizations in 41 countries, reaching a grand total of 136,000 students. 

This is part of our commitment to help one million Europeans grow their careers by the end of 2020 and to train 10 million Africans in digital skills by 2022 as part of Grow with Google. 

As our work with Europe Code Week shows, this support is making a difference. Here are just a few stories from among the 33 organizations we funded in 23 countries and through which 21,291 students learned CS.

Europe Code Week

Africa Code Week 

In Africa, we joined forces with SAP and Africa Code Week to fund 55 organizations and grassroots groups across 18 countries. Over 115,000 students were able to explore CS through a variety of fun and interactive workshops. See some of their stories below.

We’re thrilled to help these students and teachers gain coding experience in Europe and Africa and look forward to inspiring even more students in 2020.

Babymigo: technology for Africa’s new parents

With infant mortality rates on the rise in Nigeria, mostly due to a lack of doctors in rural areas, entrepreneur Adeloye Olanrewaju wanted to see if he could use tech to figure out a solution. This led him to start Babymigo, an online community that connects expecting and new mothers to resources, doctors, experts and other services

Babymigo was recently part of Google Developers Launchpad Accelerator in Nigeria, a three-month program that provides mentorship and support to early-stage startups. With seven acceleration programs and 338 startup alumni, we at Launchpad have seen firsthand how global entrepreneurs are using technology and startup innovation to solve the world’s biggest problems. 

In a new spotlight series called “Ideas to Reality,” we aim to share the stories of these founders and their startups through videos and written case studies. In our first installment, we talk to Adeloye about why he started Babymigo, and where he hopes it will be in the next few years.

Adeloye Olanrewaju of Babymigo

Adeloye at a Google Developers Launchpad event.

When did you first come up with the idea for Babymigo?

My aunt lost her baby due to complications arising from childbirth. Those complications could have been avoided if she had access to the right healthcare information. Unfortunately, her story is not a unique one. 

Today in Nigeria, more than 7 million babies are born every year, but the country still has the third highest infant mortality rate in the world. To make matters worse, nearly 60,000 mothers lose their lives each year due to complications arising from childbirth. 

When I started my career working at a maternity clinic, I saw that the biggest problem mothers faced was poor access to verified health care professionals and healthcare information. I wanted to help and felt tech was my way to do it.  So I quit my job and started Babymigo, to use technology to solve these challenges. 

How does Babymigo use tech to combat infant mortality? 

We are the first and only platform that increases access to informed health decisions via SMS, an  app and a web portal. Our goal is to help expecting mothers get their questions answered by hyperlocal medical and child care experts. Today, our services have reached more than 100,000 users. We are looking to reach 1 million mothers by the end of 2020. 

What steps did you take to make bring your idea to life? 

I first found as many users as I could, and then conducted extensive research to better understand the problems they faced and what solutions they really needed. This saved us valuable time, allowing us to focus on the most important features our users wanted.

The Google Launchpad Accelerator was a big opportunity to diagnose our company. With the help of experts and experienced mentors, we were able to increase user growth and retention by about 20%. Being a part of Launchpad also brought us media exposure and significant investor interest. With Google supporting us, we saw a dramatic rise in the confidence of our investors and clients. 

Google products are at the center of building our platform. Through Firebase Cloud Messaging, we send notification messages to drive user retention.  We also use Google Analytics to better understand our customers, using its insights to take action, such as improving our website. 

Any advice for future entrepreneurs? 

Building a tech startup is a rollercoaster, so developing a strong mental resilience is key. Nothing can replace persistence.  Surround yourself with thinkers who push you. At Launchpad I had the chance to be challenged by my peers at every turn. Find a network that will guide you in the same way.