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The Positives of Google’s GNBO

I came across a blog post by @techloy about Google’s grand plan to kill of Nigeria’s local web design and hosting companies, and I remember reading the counter blog by @tunbosunt a few days ago clearly stating “To the contrary, I think Google's move would actually help spur growth in the uptake as more small businesses will gain knowledge and support to make the move”. However this morning I woke up to another article by @OoTheNigerian asking Google to stop pitching their offer as charity.

Why Africa? Why Nigeria?

Africa is an emerging market, and the growth of the internet in Africa is a sure bet. As companies shift investment focus to Africa in every sector, tech companies will certainly not be left behind. A few years ago it was the mobile revolution in Africa, right now it is the internet revolution. Should we blame Google for seeking to be a part of this revolution? I will say NO!

While @techloy and @OoTheNigerian have voiced very credible fears, I will rather we see the entry of internet giants to Nigeria as a positive and not a negative, Currently in Africa less than 1% of businesses have an internet presence, Africa also has only 5.7% of the world’s internet users, with Nigeria making up 44% of Africa’s portion. The statistics look grim if you look at the African continent, but it is not really that bad for Nigeria, as at June 2011 the internet world stats listed Nigeria as the country with the 10th highest number of internet users in the world rising from just 200,000 users in year 2000 to over 43 million users in 2011 and making up about 2.1% of the world’s internet users and a 28.9% internet penetration rate. For a country with very unreliable internet facilities and home broadband still absent in most homes I say this is an amazing figure, at the moment Nigeria is the most competitive fixed line market in Africa with the arrival of the second national carrier Globalcom and fibre optic cables. The future can only be brighter for the Nigerian internet world, why wouldn’t Google seek to make a claim? If I were Google I would.

Google’s GNBO

Google’s initiative ‘Get Nigeria Businesses Online (GNBO)’ which is a part of the Get African Businesses Online (GABO) initiative aims to help Nigerian SMEs create an online presence and reach their clients via the internet. The initiative gives businesses free web design, free one year domain registration, free Google apps for up to 10 users, training workshops for selected businesses, 2 months free technical support, etc. All positives if you ask me. Some of the many advantages I see are listed below:

  1. As more Nigerian businesses get online the country gets more aware of the importance of the internet, more internet users, more opportunities for start-ups, more opportunities for online adverts… In the long run, demand will increase, businesses will start seeking more bespoke web applications, functionalities and designs. The Google free web design templates cannot handle these, so Nigerian internet entrepreneurs get to grow and get development opportunities that they might never have gotten.
  2. Free domain means businesses will take the initial risk. @techloy suggests the Nigerian Internet Registration Association (NiRa) should have provided 1 year free domains to the small businesses in support of the initiative, however we all know what happens when you wait for government agencies in Nigeria, most development in Nigeria is in spite of the government and not because of the government, I see the internet moving this way to. Moreover one year will be over in a jiffy, and business owners will start shopping around for alternatives, meaning more business opportunities for tech entrepreneurs in Nigeria.
  3. Free Google apps means small businesses can get 10 of their staff using Google apps, this improves business performance, increases efficiency, increases awareness of ‘cloud computing’ which is the way I see Africa going on the web, in short, the overall ripple effects are enormous.
  4. Developers – With Google apps market place Nigerian developers can develop extensions for Google apps users, Google’s involvement in Nigerian universities will also help create a new generation of developers that will end up developing apps outside the Google enclave. Ripples effects will be felt for many years to come, I say positive.

In conclusion I think the overall effect of Google’s GNBO is a positive one. A quick look at websites created using the Google templates show you how basic they are, businesses will not stick with this in the long run. The opportunities for the Nigerian entrepreneurs are endless. I believe Google is aiding the opening of the Nigerian Internet Space, and the only way I see this going is positive, positive, positive in the long run. I expect more internet giants and cloud providers to rush in soon, Africa is the next place to make the big buck and they will all want a bite of the pie.

 

Written by Ifeoluwa Adebayo, this post can also be found at http://www.ifeadebayo.com/2011/09/the-positives-of-google-gnbo/

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Comment by Eric Kamara on September 13, 2011 at 11:25am
I am also in agreement with you. I think as a stepping stone, this is a good initiative because as you rightly mention, the sites are basic and the businesses should outgrow them and this is where the local web design companies can come in and exploit the awareness of these companies and move them to more advanced designs incorporating feature such as e-commerce, social networking integration etc.

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