Unfortunately, I was not lucky enough to receive an invite to the Google South Africa event that happened in Johannesburg yesterday. Stafford Masie, country manager for Google South Africa, gave some insight into Google SA’s plans once it has launched in February next year.
I think it’s great to see Stafford wanting to leverage the power of the Google brand to drive broadband and educate the local market. However, I have my own ideas about Google SA’s plans. So far we know, they are based in Bryanston and will be making use of Internet Solutions’s data centre. We also know that Vodacom has partnered with the company to provide Google applications on cellphones. Google is well known for acquiring new start-ups and pulling in as many partners as it can, which will provide a beneficial relationship for them.
With its launch of next February, there are a few things I think we could expect to see. I could be right or I could just be slightly delusional, you decide. South Africa is approaching an internet boom in the next few years. As we see broadband penetration increase and internet education levels rise, online commerce will increase as well as the amount of local internet start-ups.
My predictions are that Google will acquire Vinny Lingham’s web-based publishing start-up, SynthaSite. It just received $5-million in funding, which will enable it to increase it’s offering and rival Google Pages. Vinny attended the event yesterday and sparked this thought.
Google will then begin optimising Google Checkout for the South African e-commerce environment, partnering with local banks to provide secure integrated solutions. Before it does that, Google will create a localised version of Google Product Search or it will just acquire Jump Shopping. Once again, the attendance of Albert Bredenhann, managing director of Jump Shopping, sparked this prediction.
Google SA will no doubt be working on systems to improve mobile commerce to take advantage of the large amount of cellphone users in South Africa. That said, they will also be pushing mobile advertising as much as they can. Google will already have set in motion its plans for a localised version of YouTube, as it has done in other countries. It will improve the mobile YouTube portal for South Africans so that it can increase the user base and video views, which in turn will allow it to serve more ads on the site.
On the education front, Google will probably do something I have been wanting it to do for a while. They will give universities and high schools the option of migrating to Google Apps as it has done in Kenya. This will allow each student to have an email address and access to Google Docs, which has a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation applications.
Overall, I think the presence of Google in South Africa will do wonders for the online industry, which will helps us reach the boom much quicker. I look forward to seeing what Google does throughout next year. I just hope they play fair and don’t become a monopoly.