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September 19, 2012

Google Takes Text Messaging Route to Expand in Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya
By Ashok Bindra
TMCnet Contributor

According to Associated Press (News - Alert), Google is pursuing the text messaging route to break into Nigeria's booming economy. As per this report, the search engine giant has launched a new service in Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya, which enables mobile phone users to access e-mail through text messaging.

In Lagos, Nigeria, Google (News - Alert) has started working with small business owners, bringing more than 25,000 businesses online over the past year, wrote AP reporter Yinka Ibukun.

The report suggests Google's choice of using text messages to reach consumers in these countries comes out of necessity because majority of the people in these countries rarely have access to electricity. Internet is out of reach.

“A $20 mobile phone is as close as many will ever come to owning a computer,” wrote Ibukun.

Google's Nigeria marketing manager Affiong Osuchukwu told the AP reporter, "We don't want to just come in and start looking for how to generate profit."  He said, "We consider (sub-Saharan Africa) to be an investment region. We know we have to invest resources and time to develop the market in order for the market to become valuable to us in a way that we can do business."

It’s a well-known fact that Google makes billions of dollars from advertising, much of which comes from simple text ads that pop up next to its search results on the Internet. Since only a fraction of business owners have access to the Internet, such ads are not relevant to most Nigerians looking for goods and services in their neighborhoods.

“Google Nigeria is trying to develop the ecosystem by making the Internet part of more people's lives,” Osuchukwu told Ibukun. “The report indicates that Google’s most recent push came in July as the search engine giant began advertising its text message e-mail service, which allows users to receive their e-mails through Gmail for free as text messages. Additionally, wrote Ibukun, they can reply to the e-mails for the cost of sending a text message only. Plus, it allows them to access local classified ads hosted by Google.”

The report also shows that Google is not alone in pursuing a low tech route to reach masses in West Africa. While Cambridge, Mass-based Sproxil, Inc. has partnered with pharmaceutical companies to allow people to verify the authenticity of drugs before purchasing them, a Seattle, WA-based technology startup called SlimTrader offers consumers in Nigeria and Senegal the ability to discover, preview and purchase goods and services from mobile phones that are not Internet-enabled.

Want to learn more about today’s powerful mobile ecosystem? Don't miss the Mobility Tech Conference & Expo, collocated with ITEXPO West 2012 taking place Oct. 2-5 2012, in Austin, TX. Stay in touch with everything happening at Mobility Tech Conference & Expo. Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Braden Becker


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