Less than 20 percent of the people living in Africa are online, yet the region is considered one of the next big hot spots for Internet growth, according to two Google executives who visited U.S. Africa Command on March 29, 2012.
"Google has a huge interest in Africa," said Tom Wojszynski, a senior enterprise account manager for Google who deals with military issues. "Africa by far has the smallest percentage of Internet users in the world but it's also the fastest growing."
Google, with 33,000 employees worldwide, had almost $40 billion in revenue last year. Seventy percent of Internet searches worldwide are on Google. Products such as Google Earth and Google Maps are widely used throughout the Department of Defense, including at U.S. AFRICOM.
Wojszynski and Michelle R. Weslander Quaid, Google's chief technology officer for the federal government, were at AFRICOM to highlight the company's work in Africa and to talk about how Google services might be further used by the command.
They met with General Carter F. Ham, AFRICOM's commander, and held a roundtable discussion with senior officers from the command's directorates.
Of specific focus at the roundtable was cloud technology, which allows multiple users to store and access the same information on a remote server. That, in turn, allows the information to be accessed from anywhere with multiple types of devices, including laptops, tablets and smart phones.
The challenge of cloud technology for military uses, as several attendees at the round table discussion pointed out, is that much of the information users need to share is housed in classified documents.
Quaid acknowledged that hurdle and said some commands are working to make sure information is more accessible, but that the military culture can be difficult to change.
In Africa, Google has employees in Accra, Ghana, Johannesburg, South Africa, Nairobi, Kenya and Dakar, Senegal. Wojszynski said that more than 50 percent of access to Google products worldwide is via mobile devices such as smart phones. But since smart phones are not widely used in Africa, Google and other companies are developing apps that can be used on more basic devices.