Google Says Searches From Africa Grow Faster at Its Local Language Pages
Google Inc.’s search requests from sub-Saharan Africa are growing more quickly on African language pages than those in English, French, or Portuguese, Program Manager for African Languages Denis Gikunda said.
Google, the internet’s most-used search engine, offers its homepage in 32 African languages and will add the Ghanaian tongues of Ewe and Ga “roughly this week,” Gikunda said in a Feb. 22 interview in Dakar, Senegal. Those pages are helping the company expand its services to people whose lack of familiarity with a European language would normally be a barrier to internet use, he said.
“For so many people in Africa, with technology, there’s this idea that I have to master English first, and then I can be good at it,” he said. “But if you see a user interface in Swahili, you feel like you understand the product more, and understand what you can do with Google search.”
Sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s most expensive place for internet connectivity, with home internet connections averaging $45 a month, according to Google statistics presented Feb. 22 at a conference in Dakar. Africa has about 110.9 million internet users, representing 11 percent of the continent’s population, according to Internet World Stats’ website. That compares with a penetration rate of 32 percent in the rest of the world, it said.
To reach those often less educated and less affluent segments of the population, in which semi-literacy rates are high and mobile phones are commonly the only regular Internet access point, Google is experimenting with voice-activated e- mail and web search applications for African language speakers, Gikunda said.
It offers services in the South African languages of Zulu and Afrikaans and hopes to expand those services into “as many African languages as possible,” he said.
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