Global tech giant Google has launched its Google Station project in Nigeria. The service, which was announced at the Google for Nigeria event in Lagos on July 26th, will make high speed Wi-Fi available to 10 million people in cities across the country.
The Google Station project is being rolled out in partnership with 21st Century Technologies, a local fibre network provider. It’s expected to be fully functional in 200 spots situated in five cities – Abuja, Enugu, Ibadan, Kaduna and Port Harcourt – by the end of 2019. It’s already being used in select locations across Lagos, including the Landmark Centre, the Palms mall, Ikeja mall, and MMA Domestic Airport. These sites went live on Wednesday.
Google Nigeria Country Director, Juliet Ehimuan-Chiazor, explained that it would be extending its free Wi-Fi service to markets, transport stations and universities in the designated cities.
Africa is becoming a big part of Google’s expansion plans, as it seeks to carve out a space for itself in the world’s next growth centres for digital technology. The region is part of an emerging complex that’s expected to produce the planet’s next 1 billion internet users.
But Google is keen to portray projects like the Google Station as beneficial to the continent. Anjali Joshi, the company’s Vice President for Product Management, said that countries, which sought cost-effective connectivity, were witnessing positive economic transformation as a result.
“Across the world, countries which have invested in nurturing digital and innovation cultures not only enjoy extraordinary wealth and job creation, but also transform the way people live and do business.”
— Anjali Joshi, VP, Product Management, Google (quoted in the Guardian).
Joshi also addressed possible security concerns related to the project; she said that there were fortifications and encryptions in place that should help forestall whatever security breaches to the network that its users might be apprehensive about.
Nigeria is only the fifth (and only African) country in which the Google Station Free Wi-Fi service has been launched, after India, Indonesia, Thailand and Mexico.
There were other new product announcements at the Google for Nigeria event. These include a job search feature, which was launched in March in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa; updates to the Google Go browser, which should make it able to read web pages out loud; and live directions from Google Maps for people who are using the application as they travel, whether they’re in a vehicle or walking.