Alphabet is committing to training another 1 million students under its Digital Skills for Africa program in the next 12 months, the company said at events in Southern Africa’s three most populous cities — Lagos, Nairobi, and Johannesburg.
The commitment follows the company’s 1 million mark milestone reached earlier this year and follows the opening of Google’s Launchpad Accelerator for African startups earlier this month — tracking a growing presence by the global internet services firm on the continent.
Debuted in April 2016 with a goal of training 1 million within a year, Digital Skills for Africa offers online and face to face instruction to individuals and small businesses through 14 partners across 27 African countries. Anyone can register for free and set an individualized plan across three primary categories: business development, career advancement, or basic internet use. Users can choose from 89 courses across 23 topic areas and earn badges and certificates for successful completion.
“Across Africa…one of the things that hold people back from taking advantage of the web is a lack of understanding on how to use digital tools,” said Bunmi Banjo, Google’s Growth Engine and Brand Lead for Sub-Saharan Africa. “We are providing training to young people and business owners to succeed however, they define success for themselves―finding a job, growing a business, starting on email,” she told TechCrunch.
To meet the goal of another million trained, Google will add countries and regions to Digital Skills for Africa in 2017. It will include more offline versions of online training materials for low net access areas. Google will also offer instruction in new languages, such as Swahili, IsiZulu, and Hausa. Digital Skills for Africa will also increase its partner network for in-person instruction. Current partners include organizations like the eMobilus technical institute in Kenya and vocational training company Centrum Learning in Nigeria.
As for Google’s overall Africa presence, it now has country heads in core economy nations such as South Africa (Luke Mckend), Nigeria (Juliet Ehimuan), and Kenya (Charles Murito). The Launchpad Accelerator―which offers 6 months of equity free Google startup support with two weeks in Silicon Valley―is now accepting Africa applications.
Google provides financial and capacity support to five African tech hubs in Kenya (iHub), South Africa, Ghana, and Uganda, and Nigeria (CCHub). The company has also begun programs and partnerships to overcome Africa’s internet access and connectivity challenges. Despite progress on mobile phone ownership and ICT infrastructure over the last decade, the continent remains one of the world’s most digitally disconnected. Though some countries, such as Kenya and South Africa, have attained high usage, Africa’s internet penetration lingers at less than one- third of the continent’s estimated 1.2 billion people.
In 2016, Google entered a licensing pact with South African startup Onyx, which plans to manufacture Android smartphones on the continent. In several African countries, the company also offers its “Add to Offline” option for YouTube video playback with little to no connectivity.
Though Google could not provide overall traffic data, African search activity has increased significantly in recent years, a spokesperson confirmed. Statistics are available for popular search terms across Africa’s largest economies, providing insight on the interest palette of the continent’s growing online community.
In 2016, Nigeria’s top Google person search was for Donald Trump. South Africa’s most searched term was Pokémon Go. Kenyans were most keen on football, googling “Euro 2016” more than any other topic last year.