Taking Advantage of Google Online Tools

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Emma Okonji writes that the products unveiled by Google last week in Lagos is a welcome development that will empower Nigerians to address local challenges

Since the inception of Google for Nigeria event in 2017, Google Nigeria has always come up with new online tools on a yearly basis that will empower Nigerians to be more active online with less stress and much comfort.

The idea behind the yearly Google for Nigeria event is to showcase new local solutions that are developed from the scratch for Nigerians. The local solutions seek to address local challenges in the Nigerian local market.

Last week in Lagos, Google Nigeria had its third Google for Nigeria event, where it announced new products, features and other programs designed to empower Nigerians and to address local challenges in Nigeria.

The products include navigation instructions in a Nigerian voice for both motorcycle and car driving modes, new Street View imagery, Gallery Go, Google Go updates, Google Lens and Bolo, and a Nigerian culinary experience from Google Arts and Culture. Google also partnered the Nigerian government to make an online safety curriculum available to all primary and secondary school students in the country, reaching an estimated 56 million Nigerian students every year.

Google online products

Google has introduced a dedicated travel mode in Google Maps to provide directions and navigation for motorcycles in Nigeria. This will also be available in Benin Republic, Ghana, Rwanda, Togo and Uganda from the day it was launched in Nigeria. Google also launched navigation instructions in a Nigerian voice for both motorcycle and car driving modes. In the next few months, Google will introduce a new directions experience for Lagos that is optimised for informal transit, bringing Danfo routes into Google Maps.

To help make it easier to visually explore places in Nigeria, Google is publishing more panoramic imagery on Street view. Starting with imagery of Lagos two years ago, today Google added street view imagery of Abuja, Benin City, Enugu and Ibadan – with almost 12 thousand kilometers of roads added.

With the growth of Android, more and more Nigerians have phones that take pictures. But not everyone has access to reliable, high-speed internet or cloud backup to quickly find a photo.

Google, however, explained that  it launched Gallery Go – a fast and smart photo gallery designed for users who don’t have a reliable internet connection. Gallery Go brings many of the best features of Google Photos on device, to help them find, edit and manage their photos even when they are offline. The app is only 10MB to keep the phone light and fast, so that users can spend more time capturing memories.

Gallery Go is available on Google Play for devices running Android 8.1 (Oreo) or higher and will come pre-installed as the gallery app on the Itel S15 and select A55 devices, which will be available in Nigeria soon. Google launched Google Go last year, making it easier for people to discover the best of the internet even on low-RAM smartphones or unstable network connections.

Google also announced updates to make Google Go even more useful. The Discover feed has been integrated within Google Go to help people stay in the know with their interests. It provides an ongoing look at the things they care about, like the latest content on their football team, people of interest, music and news stories.

According to Google, from this week, users would also be able to access the assistant directly from Google Go in a new Nigerian voice. Using only their voice, they will be able to ask Google to call their mum, play the latest Burna Boy video, or find the best Jollof in town.

Google Lens helps people to find out more about the world around them through their camera and photos. Google launched Lens inside Google Go, to help people read, translate, and search the words they see simply by using their camera. Users can open Lens, point it at a sign, and listen to the words read out loud. If they don’t speak the language, they can translate it into their own. Google also launched support for Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo.

Other solutions

Bolo is a speech-based reading app that helps kids learn how to read in English language. It encourages people to read out loud and then provides individual, customised feedback to help improve their reading capabilities. Google launched Bolo in India earlier this year and decided to bring it to Nigeria and Ghana.

The Google Arts and Culture also came up with a project called ‘Come Chop Bellefull: A Taste of Nigeria’, which pays tribute to Nigeria’s vibrant and diverse food culture. People across the world can now explore Nigerian regional cooking and culture through 2,000 high-resolution images and 30 stories created in collaboration with The Centenary Project at the Pan-Atlantic University.

Google’s commitment

In 2017 Google committed to train 10 million people in Africa on digital skills over five years. To date, four million Africans, including Nigerians have been trained. Google has also trained 15,000 developers and awarded 33,000 scholarships to help African developers become certified on Android, Web, and Cloud technologies. 35 startups have graduated through the Launch pad Accelerator Africa program and, last year, Google awarded $6 million to 36 non-profit organisations across Africa through the Google Impact Challenge.

Building on this, Google said at the Google for Nigeria event in Lagos that it would commit an additional $4 million to support youth empowerment, gender equality and agriculture, alongside piloting new initiatives to power the social impact ecosystem and promote research on what the future of work looks like for African youth.

Speaking at this year’s Google for Nigeria event, Google Nigeria Country Director, Juliet Ehimuan-Chiazor, said: “Every day, people in Nigeria, Africa and around the world turn to Google for help. We hope that the products and updates we are announcing will make Google even more helpful for fueling people’s hustles and getting things done. We remain committed to bringing the transformational power of technology to everyone in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.”

According to her, “Google’s mission is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Through products and platforms like Search, Maps, Gmail, Android, Google Play, Chrome and YouTube, Google plays a meaningful role in the daily lives of billions of people and has become one of the most widely-known companies in the world.”

Google’s impact

Speaking on the impact of Google’s commitment to address local challenges in Nigeria and Africa, Google’s Product Manager, Mr. Nitin Kashyap, said as part of its  commitment to Nigeria,  the company  announced at its first Google for Nigeria event in 2017 to support startups and entrepreneurs with $3 million in equity free support and that so far, Google has trained and supported 35 startups from across Africa and 12 of those startups are from Nigeria.

“The impact of what we have done so far, has proved that it is possible to create jobs through startups and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs),” Kashyap said.

Other panelists  at the event said Google in 2017, extended its programme to train one million young Africans within one year in 2016, for another five years in order to reach 10 million Africans.

Last year Google announced plans to help more people in Africa and prepare them for jobs of the future through its local community-focused Digital Skills Training programmes. In total, over three million people have now acquired different levels of digital skills in 29 countries across Africa via face-to-face training as well as through the online platform, which is available in English, French and Portuguese. Among the three million trained in digital skills across Africa, 50 per cent are from Nigeria, and Google has indicated interest to train more Nigerians through the initiative, the panelists said.

According to Ehimuan-Chiazor, “This is our third Google for Nigeria event and at every of such event, it is an opportunity for us at Google to engage with the industry and let them know of our commitment to the Nigerian market and the progress we have been making in innovation specifically for the Nigerian market.”