After its launch in five countries worldwide, the Google Station program is making inroads into Africa. Recently, the initiative led in launching free public Wi-Fi in Nigeria. Google allows a lot of people in Nigeria to access free Wi-Fi by connecting them to 200 Wi-Fi hotspots spread within five Nigerian cities in one year. The main aim of the moonshot Project Loon is not to offer connectivity but instead to install Wi-Fi hotspots at public locations like bus stations, malls, colleges, and markets.
The project is courtesy of Google and Nigerian fibre-optic telecoms service provider 21st Century. The owners of the venue and the service provider will not receive payments from Google but will share the ad revenues that will come from the use of Google Station. The company recently got a major setback after being fined $5 billion by the European Union for placing its apps on a smartphone without following the required rules and this affected its market competition.
The completion of the project will be of much help to many companies in the countries since it will offer a faster and reliable internet. This will be an important component of the Next Billion Users plan of Google. It will help in developing the products for the users of the next billion internets. Furthermore, Google has set its eyes firmly on upcoming markets like Nigeria, India, Indonesia, and Brazil to get more online users. According to Google, the future of the internet lies in the hands of the next billion users. Google expects countries like Nigeria, Indonesia, India, China and Brazil to produce the current generation of internet users to use smartphones to be online.
According to the project manager Caesar Sengupta, the next billion users are using three key methods to change the internet. The methods are demand for localized information, a call for always available computing and mindset that is focused purely on mobile. Before launching in Nigeria moonshot Project Loon was already active in Thailand, Mexico, India, and Indonesia. Nigeria is the first country in Africa to receive the project. Google is sourcing for partnership with venue owners and service providers before launching in other African countries. For it to have the required partners on board, the company is making the project sustainable by offering monetization opportunities.
Juliet Ehimuan-Chiazor, the director of Google Nigeria, said that the company is offering new solutions to improve and grow the Nigerian access and Africa as a whole. He added that the move highlights the company’s commitment to the continent through products build to assist Africans to maximize on the internet. Tech experts from Nigeria realized that there is a similarity between Express Wi-Fi of Facebook that was launched in the country in November 2017 and Google Station. Express WiFi is also found in Indonesia, India, Tanzania, and Kenya and it aims at minimizing the cost of accessing the internet. Its users pay $5,52 for every 10GB of data. During its launch, its regional head of Africa Uche Ofodie said that the Express Wi-Fi aims at limiting connectivity barriers like the high cost of data and limited infrastructure. This will give more people a chance to connect and develop their areas.
According to Gbolahan Alli, tech developer and senior consultant in Nigeria believes that the company has decided to put up the project in the country since its business model relies on internet accessibility. Alli said that Africa is still an untapped market giving the company a chance to fetch for the next billion users by investing in infrastructure. He added that the project would be of much help to Nigerian first time users of the internet and those who are unable to afford the high cost of data in the country.
Web Foundation’s Affordability Report stated that only 17% of internet users in Nigeria could access the public Wi-Fi. Furthermore, it stated that the price of the 1GB prepaid data plan is around 8% of the monthly income in the country. Nigerian rate of broadband penetration stands at less than 12% according to the report. Additionally, the company introduced new applications from its Go project with its main target being internet users that have low RAM devices and low bandwidth connections.