Tuesday, 7 July 2015

What Should Africa Learn from Google?


I sometimes feel sorry for this gentleman because of all the stress he must be going through everyday!
(Okay fine! He is extremely well compensated for that stress, from what I hear, but still......all that stress!)

David Drummond is, among other roles, the Chief Legal Officer for Google Inc. 
So you can just imagine what that means: All of those lawsuits his office has to deal with, apart from all of their primary duties, like mergers and acquisitions, filing patents,  etc. 
Add the fact that France, Germany, and so many other NATIONS and institutions are constantly fighting the company he has been with since 2002. 

On top of all that, millions of internet users constantly rain accusations on Google everyday, for everything from privacy violations  to copyright infringements. 
Men! it can't be easy!

Everyone wants to talks about Google's money and their power over millions of websites on the internet. yet here, I want to try to focus a little bit more on another side of that story...

It's Not Just A Financial Success Story

I believe it is an entire life-course in this age of data.

This is not about me trying to defend Google, it is just me making my candid observation as I watch things unfold. 
I doubt that Larry Page and Sergey Brin ever imagined that the company they started in 1998 would ever become this gigantic and this rich (I'm told they have over $60 billion in liquidity alone). But it did. Now they are dealing with the implications of that.
Google co-founders Larry Page (current CEO) and Sergey Brin.
They started Google as a search engine in 1998 and it is now the most powerful conglomerate going beyond the web,
with hundreds of divisions building cars, phones, fiber-optic cables, etc. To put this into perspective,
Kanu Nwankwo led Nigeria to win Africa's first Olympic Gold Medal in Football in 1996.
How long ago does that feel to you?

So why is all of this relevant to you, African internet users?

1. Because Google is by far the most widely used search engine in Africa.

2. I am of the candid opinion that Africa's economic ascension is going to be largely based upon information and skill acquisition that we gain through searching the internet.

3. I foresee a future where many successful internet-based businesses here in Africa would likewise be involved in similar battles between our African governments and all kinds of institutions that do not respect our freedoms.

Google's story is one of both phenomenal triumph and of brutal persecution.
And while I cannot bet that an African online business would ever reach its heights of financial or pervasive success, 

I have no doubt that many truly great young African web entrepreneurs would soon emerge (much more than you expect) as the continent advances on in this brave new data driven world.  

Yet I am also sure that along with these mini-Googles in Africa, would come brutal persecutions and trials that could probably be worse than Google's by proportion.

Faces For Human Interest

I am not being pessimistic or bleak about the future. Only preparing you for interesting times ahead. By introducing many of you to David Drummond, and to Page and Brin (who I think are up until now, the least known of the Silicon Valley entrepreneurial giants by Africans) I hope to attach faces to this Google conundrum.

Perhaps this way (by humanizing that brand that is now synonymous with so many things in our daily lives) you would pay more attention to the web, not only as a source for great economic transformation, but also a source of training in discipline, ideological focus, and deep social responsibility. We really need these things for the times ahead. 

Tell your neighbor, "The future is Digital".

Newsflash! Those who cannot smell what's coming today are sure to be thorns in your sides in the days to come. Governments would try to censor and  control the same web that they failed to prepare for. I won't say too much about this right now, but know, and be armed and ready with the proper knowledge to defend the web. It is a global responsibility. 
A human one.

Those of you who are already attentive know about the ongoing battles between the European Union and Google. 
Learn from this. Prepare your minds. Start early!

Everyone points fingers at Google, what about the others?

Now, while I am trying NOT to be a fan-boy, I sometimes feel we all deserve to know the whole story. 
Google does indeed FIGHT for the rights of the internet user. 
I say emphatically: Honestly, I am not getting any kind of compensation for saying this. This is just my opinion, and I'm not saying they are perfect in anyway, but I have not noticed too many people challenging the other big guns: Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook. Okay, Facebook gets a lot of attack as well, but not anywhere as much as Google does. 

Along with his roles as SVP Corporate Dev & Chief Legal Officer, David Drummond also oversees
public policy, communications, mergers and acquisitions, and product quality operations. He also serves as chairman of Google's investment arms, Google Ventures and Google Capital.

Google's Public Policy

Kindly read this SHORT article from the Google Public Policy Blog.

This post represents just is one of the many many publicly fought battles I have observed (others come with open letters from the CEO Larry Page, & Drummond) between Google and institutions that often try to CONTROL the web and thereby frustrate the masses!

Again, I face the risk of looking like a hired hand or a fan-boy.
Some of you would not understand what I mean here, but It would sound really bad to many foreigners, especially many Americans who come across this post. It often seems like sport to them sometimes when they castigate Google.
But I feel strongly about posting this to you right now. And I don't think I have to keep apologizing for it.

So back to the public policy battles, and I'm saying that these wars aren't always so clear cut. Sometimes Google's policies tend to somewhat contradict theirs and other pro-web policies.

For example, keep in mind what you just read in that previous article; they were fighting against a form of censorship, right?
Now read this other article about the new net phenomenon, "revenge porn".

Here is an excerpt:

"We’ve heard many troubling stories of “revenge porn”: an ex-partner seeking to publicly humiliate a person by posting private images of them, or hackers stealing and distributing images from victims’ accounts. Some images even end up on “sextortion” sites that force people to pay to have their images removed.

Our philosophy has always been that Search should reflect the whole web. But revenge porn images are intensely personal and emotionally damaging, and serve only to degrade the victims—predominantly women. So going forward, we'll honor requests from people to remove nude or sexually explicit images shared without their consent from Google Search results. This is a narrow and limited policy, similar to how we treat removal requests for other highly sensitive personal information, such as bank account numbers and signatures, that may surface in our search results."

                                                                                                            - Amit Singhal

Please try to follow (at least) SOME of these issues, my dear people........because they are really important to our future with the web and in the terrestrial world as well. 
Believe me!

They may not seem so important to you right now, because let's face it, Africa has more seemingly pressing issues to deal with for now.
But think again, because as long as you are there GETTING more and more USED TO the web, or to your smartphones and tablets today, these issues will certainly be important to you in the nearest future! 

Wouldn't you prefer to be better prepared for those challenges when the time comes?
You must not be only driven by profit. You must also prepare for the social and political battles that will surely come with it.

As usual, if you have anything to add to this topic, or if you have anything you disagree with, or if you have a question about anything,

Please feel free to do so below, 

otherwise you can ask your question on the Digital Africa Community On Google+.


So I leave you with this very interesting discussion from a Google+ post by David Amerland

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