Google launched almost 10 years ago with an ambitious and altruistic goal of making all information in the world available and easily accessible online. To date, only 20% of all the information is searchable online, suggesting that Google still has quite a way to go. Having said that, they were recently rated by Fast Company as the most innovative company in the world so the company must be heading in the right direction.
With only 8% of the South African population not suffering from Internet-lessness at the end of 2007, the recently launched Google SA seems to have quite a challenge on its hands.
The company is racing to migrate traditional internet services to the far more densely populated cellphone market and predict that more people would soon use its services via cellphones than through computers.
Sadly, have you ever tried to access the internet via GPRS on your cellphone? It’s a painfully slow and frustrating process, where your requested information is not displayed in a user-friendly way, if at all. I would imagine technology such as HSDPA and 3G would make this process a lot less irritating, but the pricing of the handsets with such capabilities makes the latter options unavailable for the majority of South Africans.
It seems that Google are utilising SMS technology as a first port-of-call and the search process could involve entering key search words by SMS or speaking into the phone to tell the search engine what you are looking for. Users should also be able to consult maps on their phones and have the directions sent to them via SMS, when the technology becomes available.
Yahoo has already got a head start in the SA market with their oneSearch software, thus providing Google with yet another obstacle in their bid to connect South Africans to the net.
By their own admission, Google SA realise that they have an uphill task on their hands. But knowing their track record, I wouldn’t bet against them succeeding.