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Google Setting Up a Presence In Kenya 176

Reader wana forwards the news that Google is establishing a base in Sub-Saharan Africa. What advanced infrastructure exists on the African continent is mostly in South Africa, and a blogger from there speculates on what Google might have been thinking in choosing Kenya over SA.
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Google Setting Up a Presence In Kenya

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @05:27PM (#19655545)
    Food or water? I'm racing to get my ads up.
    • by also-rr ( 980579 ) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @05:41PM (#19655719) Homepage
      According to the <a href=" -world-factbook/geos/ke.html">CIA</a> Kenyans have an average life expectancy of 55 years which isn't great (the Sundan rates 49 years, Mexico and China both rate over 70 years) so your comment isn't as much of a troll as one might expect. It's not a well developed place.

      Nonetheless the literacy rate is over 90% and the average GDP (PPP) is $1,200... so combined with the inequality between rich and poor you can expect to find some well educated people in the cities. Probably enough for Google's needs, or else they wouldn't be building there!

      Investment is also one way to boost the economy of a country. Give them jobs and skills, the rest will follow. Even a market for adwords.
      • Maybe they figure that, with the money they have in the bank, they could effectively buy the country and define "evil" legally to be whatever they want it to be.

        The frightening thing is that part of me thinks this isn't as far fetched as it might sound at first blush. They have, after all, been getting kind of questionable of late.
      • by arcite ( 661011 ) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @06:28PM (#19656267)
        Kenya is currently in negotiation with UAE to build (FINALLY) the first Fibre optic line ($110 million)(which will connect Kenya to Oman and the rest of the world ushering in a new era of cheap high speed opposed to relying on expensive vsat technology. Only then will data centres, voip ect... become universal. Perhaps Google is anticipating the next stage of the ICT revolution in E.Africa that will happen when the government finally (hopefully) builds the line in a year or so (negotiations are still being held up for the time being). More info here [] [p] I'm in Dar es Salaam ATM using the so called 'free' wireless' in my hotel room and its dreadfully slow (atleast it works). The fibre optic line will be heaven!
        • Actually, there is an undersea fibre-optic cable that runs all the way around Africa, sponsored mostly by South Africa and Nigeria. All Kenia has to do is connect to it.
          • So all they have to do is send a diver out with a patch cable?
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by jmugambi ( 853089 )
            that's not true... The SAT-3 Cable does not go 'all the way around Africa' It's on the west coast of Africa, thus Kenya does not connect to it There ought to at least 1 Fiber Optic cable within 1-2 years connected though. There's a race to see who'll deploy this cable: TEAMS EASSY is being deployed by Alcatel-Lucent - [] FLAG - being pushed by KDN which is a party to the other two cables :) In Kenya, the incumbent telco - Telkom Kenya (
            • SAT3 has two parts, one going along the west coast and another on the east, so in effect it does go 'all the way around Africa', but the east part goes nowhere near Kenya - it would still be a big mission to connect to it. The other problem is that SAT3 is heavily controlled by the South African Telkom company, a horrible monopoly that gouges as much as they can get away with - this is one of the reasons Kenya wants to build EASSY in the first place, to not be dependent on the INSANE gouging by a South Afri
      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Well, I don't go around quoting the CIA much, but that's just a religious preference.

        I wasn't trolling, it was a poignant joke, modded +2 funny.
        Ok, obviously I wasn't anonymous enough for CIA people. Merde.

        Google's decision was an economic and political one, though they *probably have more than 1 or 2 reasons.
        Sorry to say, I don't think humanitarianism or cultural development are in the top 2. Maybe top 10?

        The Q: Is it exploitation to hire capable, hard working people in a developing nation and pay them t
      • by stomv ( 80392 ) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @07:42PM (#19656993) Homepage
        of how long you'll live. Why? The skew caused by child mortality. According to UNICEF child mortality statistics [], a child born in Kenya is over 3 times more likely to die before five years old than one born in China, over 4 times more likely to die than one in Mexico. Plus, AIDS infection rates are much higher in Kenya, resulting in more deaths of people in their 20s and 30s.

        Are food and water a problem? Sometimes, sure. But, the bigger problems are child mortality and AIDS. That's what's making the life expectancy a paltry 55.
        • by mks113 ( 208282 )
          Actually, the skew is more based on AIDS. There is a huge mortality of the 20-30 year old group due to AIDS. Yes, infant/child mortality is higher than average, but the 10-15 year drop in life expectancy is due almost entirely to AIDS.

          It is a different world here. Death is accepted a part of life. In the west, it seems to be something that is to be prevented at all cost.
        • of how long you'll live. Why? The skew caused by child mortality. According to UNICEF child mortality statistics, a child born in Kenya is over 3 times more likely to die before five years old than one born in China,

          I don't know why you consider child mortality a "skew"; personally I'm very glad I didn't die as a child, and very glad that none of my children has died. In fact, if life expectancy had to be 55 years, I think it would be better if it were the young that were living, since the quality of lif

        • And children are not human or what?

          If you have a one year old baby and my 99 year old great grand dad hit by a bus tomorrow, the average life expectancy is still 50 between both of them.

          What you are saying is stating the bleeding obvious....
      • by the_womble ( 580291 ) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @11:55PM (#19658955) Homepage Journal
        I spent several months in Kenya, working on a system for a major financial institution. My experience was:
        • Corruption is rife: much worse than in South Asia
        • Levels of competence in IT are low
        • Ethnic tensions and the huge gap between the rich and the poor make the country unstable
        • Violent crime is common, and often really vicious
        • Promotion in many organisations is on influence, not merit.
        • There is a significant brain drain
        • Kenyan fast food is horrible: it makes the big international chains look like beacons of quality
        • I lived/worked in Kenya for 2 years - in recent times.

          Corruption is not just rife, its a way of life. Police are the worst. However, one can avoid most corruption by learning how to work the system. Particularly it is possible to get things done by getting to know the right people.

          Nairobi has a growth rate of 5% a year, perhaps more. It will be a mega city in 20 years. The fact is that you can either look at IT competence, lack of safety, or rampant corruption as a negative, or you can look at it as an

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Pollardito ( 781263 )
        if they're only living to 55 on average it's probably not worth investing in Viagra adwords
    • by dotpavan ( 829804 ) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @05:55PM (#19655897) Homepage
      ..Nigeria, but the Nigerian Prez rejected Google's offer via email which said "Eric Schimdt would like to invest millions of dollars in Nigeria, but first, send $500 to our Western Union"
  • Kenya (Score:5, Funny)

    by OverlordQ ( 264228 ) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @05:46PM (#19655783) Journal
    where can you see Google?
    only in kenya
    come to kenya we've got Google!
  • I don't have a link to the article infront of me, but they are also opening up a 1200-1600~ acre shop in Council Bluffs, IA as well. There hasn't been any details given on the type of development being done there, but this new Google expanding is deffinitely getting interesting.
    • And what does Iowa and Kenya have in common? Apart from being located very centrally on two different continents, of course!
      • And what does Iowa and Kenya have in common?

        You've obviously never been to Iowa.
      • They are also building a data center in pryor oklahoma.... Oklahoma and Kenya are third world countries so they have that in common... hmmmm Oklahoma has cows, Iowa corn, Kenya Coffee??? Don't know, if they open a data center in Wisconsin then they are clearly going to start making their own beef nachos ( corn, beef and cheese) to go with the coffee from kenya...
  • by zzztkf ( 574953 ) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @05:55PM (#19655887)
    I know Google is going to build the space elevator to go to the orbit. Kenya is better than SA for that purpose.

  • Kenya is in the middle of the continent -- does that make any difference?
    • by maubp ( 303462 )
      No, Kenya is NOT in the middle of the continent. Its on the east coast straddling the equator.
    • How would it help?

      If you wanted an African base, then South Africa is a lot easier to travel to (more airlines etc) and has far better infrastructure.

      WTF does Google want to do in Africa anyway? If they want to access programmers etc, then they should target South Africa which holds probably 95+% of the African programmer talent.

      • by dabraun ( 626287 )
        Actually, Ethiopia is the central air hub in Africa simply because Ethiopian airlines (more modern than you may think) is based there (yes, I've been there).
  • by ZachReligious ( 313979 ) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @06:03PM (#19655983) Homepage

    Google is simply moving into a country that is on the technology curve, but behind enough that they can have MAJOR influence over new policy. Imagine having your own government to run. Who wouldn't do it?

    ... Seriously though, what other search / advertising players have taken the 2nd and 3rd world economies seriously at all? If this "test" goes well for them, they could have a major head start at monetizing the internet in the rest of the world (Where most of the population is). Remember for a lot of people, AOL *was* the internet. Now imagine in 10 years that 4/5ths of the worlds population thinks that Google is the internet. Everything else will cease to be relevant.

    • Remember for a lot of people, AOL *was* the internet...Now imagine in 10 years that 4/5ths of the worlds population thinks that Google is the internet. Everything else will cease to be relevant

      Yes, because AOL drove all their competition out of the market so very thoroughly.

      My guess is that Google's trying to tap otherwise untapped markets for talent. It's advertising for south african jobs and it's setting up in the middle of the continent rather than the southern tip. With Google's resources, they should be able to attract anyone with mathematical skills in the (well educated) country and its neighbors. They can do this while building up the African economies and tech base, which will open

    • For those of you who are familiar with the book and were able to make sense of it, you may recall that one of the plot lines was that a large high-tech company was planning on basically taking over a small African country's economy... and that there were even some execs who were looking at how to let the inhabitants benefit from this as well as the stockholders.

      Perhaps Google is looking to, if not completely take over the Kenyan economy lock, stock, and barrel, but at least become a dominant player there..
    • by mks113 ( 208282 )
      Kenya is in the middle of a huge IT boom. The fibre sure would be nice. Our community has about 300 computers connected via a 64kb/s ISDN microwave link and a 768kb/s satelite downlink. For the privelege of half a typical DSL line, we pay about $3200/month.

      They actually are putting down a fibre cable about 5km from here. That would simplify things dramatically -- if there were any access points to it!

      In Kenya policy is decided by the highest bidder. Everyone else ignores it. You can't possibly follow
    • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @03:38AM (#19660187)

      The only problem with this scenario is why would Google do this? First, I don't see how Google would have enough resources to do this. Second, it doesn't help their business. And I don't see compelling public good present either.

      ... Seriously though, what other search / advertising players have taken the 2nd and 3rd world economies seriously at all?

      Microsoft. And keep in mind, there's local business as well. The big US search engines and advertisers aren't the only ones on the planet.

      Now imagine in 10 years that 4/5ths of the worlds population thinks that Google is the internet. Everything else will cease to be relevant.

      Sounds nice, but what does Google get out of it? Remember they already dominate in global advertising and have laid the infrastructure for keeping that position. My take is that Google is just setting up server farms and fiber network like they do in the US and elsewhere. They just started in Kenya because local conditions were more favorable than in South Africa. I don't see some deep strategy here (well no deeper than building more of their sophisticated infrastructure) nor do I see the need for it.
  • I had to read the whole summary and all the way to the second paragraph of the linked article to find out that SA = South Africa (not San Antonio or Santa Ana) or any other SA location.

    Even there, it was very ambiguous. It says "They have advertised for South African personnel so the chances ..."
    • From the summary,

      What advanced infrastructure exists on the African continent is mostly in South Africa, and a blogger from there speculates on what Google might have been thinking in choosing Kenya over SA
      Probably just skimmed over it.
    • by mjwx ( 966435 )
      South Australia.
    • by mks113 ( 208282 )
      I know "*THE* Linux expert in Kenya. They will need to import some talent.
    • You're right, but for the wrong reason. According to the ISO [], 'SA' is the 2-letter country code for Saudi Arabia. South Africa (Dutch: Zuid-Afrika) uses the 'ZA' designation.

  • Here's the deal. Indians and Chinese will soon cost as much as Americans. Google is, contrary to what most Slashdot's with their rose colored glasses think, a BIG HUGE MEGA CORPORATION.
  • GPO Official: Ankwat i odr inkerat Gobi Desert dot com...


    GPO Official: Ik artwar, hyaddin... (etc.)


  • 1. Hire programmers.
    2. Open facility in place known for making good, strong coffee.
    3. Dangle said coffee in front of programmers noses.
    4. Move programmers to Kenya
    5. ???
    6. Profit!
  • by r_jensen11 ( 598210 ) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @06:42PM (#19656413)
    When I think of Africa, I think of VERY large areas that, to put it mildly, are miles away from an electrical grid. How does Google plan on powering this? Unless this thing is in Nairobi (which I'm guessing it would have to be,) would they have to use solar power?

    On a related topic, maybe Google will actually pay attention to Google Maps for Kenya, and especially Nairobi?
    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by timmarhy ( 659436 )
      americans... duh they can build a power plant? where do you think think your power comes from now? the hot air eminating out of bush?
    • If that's your conclusion when thinking of Africa, might I suggest you get yourself an education? Every major city and town in Kenya is connected to the country's national electricity grid, as are most rural towns. In addition, the Kenyan grid is connected to all other southern African electricity grids via the Southern African Power Pool, allowing them to draw on the additional shared power when needed. Trust me, Google's not going to have to use solar panels to power its Kenyan office.

      And yes, part of the
    • MAMBA == Miles And Miles of Bloody Africa

      Anyhoo, after South Africa and Egypt, Kenia is the most developed country in Africa and also one of the most peaceful and stable.
    • by benzapp ( 464105 )
      Actually, Nairobi is not as backwards of a place as you seem to think. A number of international corporations have office towers there. Infrastructure is largely there, but their biggest problem is most certainly crime. To be fair, South Africa has certainly become a shockingly dangerous place as well since the end of apartheid.

      Why don't you read up on it a bit. []
    • There's a fair amount of town and city electrification there. Nairobi might make an okay place for them, but it really is crime-ridden in a lot of spots, and Kibera is a freaking huge shantytown on the edge. Someone was shot out in open daylight not too far away from one of our co-safari travelers. Karen is a pretty nice suburb, as close as you can get to a "North American" feel. We didn't brave any transport to get us to the business center of town - the one you always see in pictures that makes you think

      • > a game park that contained pretty much half of every kind of animal we saw in Africa.

        Do they cut the animal in half lengthways, or sideways?
    • by mks113 ( 208282 )
      Nairobi is the only place that they could reasonably put this. With a population of about 3 million (10% of the country) and the place to go for anyone who has any education.

      Power only goes out once or twice a day, but every computer sold in the country comes with a UPS, so it isn't that big a deal. Any power-dependant business has it's own backup generator.

      Of course we just had a 48 hour internet outage because a microwave link belonging to the telephone company went down for some unknown reason.
  • In Google Kenya, Kenya googles you!

    Nope, it just doesn't flow right...
  • Network security? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CPE1704TKS ( 995414 ) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @08:03PM (#19657145)
    Will this Kenyan network be on the same corporate network as the rest of the Google offices? If I were a corporate spy and wanted to infiltrate Google this would probably be my point of choice. It's far away from the main headquarters, the society isn't as developed or rich, so if you bribe employees with $10-20k, they would probably let you do whatever you wanted and give you whatever access you wanted.

    It's almost a self-fulfilling prophecy though, because if you don't treat the Kenyan employees like full-fledged employees with full privileges, it will probably cause resentment and make them even more likely to take bribes, etc.

    I wonder if this is a consideration for them.
    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      It's almost a self-fulfilling prophecy though, because if you don't treat the Kenyan employees like full-fledged employees with full privileges

      As an Australian that has seen offshoring I'll point out that this is google and they have done this sort of thing before. It's not the typical US offshore operation that arrives with a lot of noise and young management chosen by nepotism, marvels at the low wages and no need to pay health care but imposes lower than usual conditions (ie. another 100% of normal wor

  • by RobertLTux ( 260313 ) <{gro.nitramecnerual} {ta} {trebor}> on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @08:07PM (#19657163)
    1 kenya is probably one of the only "green field" areas left NOT on the south pole
    2 Google could buy the IT/Infrastructure
    3 Built in security (lions and other savan predators)
    4 OLPC start node
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @08:09PM (#19657177)
    Where can you see google, only in Kenya. Come to kenya we got google. Forget Norway. Kenya... []
  • by voss ( 52565 ) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @08:36PM (#19657391)
    buy it completely. Google cant afford South can probably afford Kenya.

    The GDP of south africa is 201 billion, The GDP of Kenya is 17 billion, the Net worth of Google 150 billion.

  • Obviously they've found the Ark, or some other Forerunner facility.

    When Google mentioned the Great Journey on their prospectus & SEC filings, I really didn't think we'd be seeing this [] as the next Google Datacenter...

  • by magixman ( 883752 ) on Tuesday June 26, 2007 @10:56PM (#19658487)
    The fact that Google is setting up in country other than ZA is a very big vote of confidence for the continent. I am not in a position to understand the business aspects of the deal with respect to communications infrastructure or regulatory frameworks but I think that if you want to win the hearts and minds of Africans you have to look into the future and see beyond just South Africa which has been the "safe" choice for western-based international businesses.
  • by Error27 ( 100234 ) <error27@gmai l . c om> on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @01:01AM (#19659375) Homepage Journal
    There is currently one fiber cable in Africa. It's called SAT3. It goes down the west coast to South Africa and then over to India.

    It's run by Telkom in South Africa. Telkom has close ties with the government to kill all IT development and competition in the country. As a result, SAT3 is only 5% utilities and costs more than satelite broadband. South Africa is where broad band goes to die.

    Kenya is opening up their markets and allowing competition. This year and next, they are going to be building 3 or 4 cables through Kenya. Right now the plan is for three down the coast and one through Sudan.

    Tanzania has a fiber network. Zambia is building a fiber network. Botswana has a fiber network. Uganda and Burundi are building networks. It's an exciting time for Africa.

    Every year African businesses spend $4 billion on Satelite. That money leaves the economy forever instead of paying for univesities and hospitals.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by wamatt ( 782485 ) *
      Let me just say the OP is completely correct. I'm a South African and work in the data center industry. Choosing Kenya was based solely on one thing: international fibre pricing. The cost of replicating their data at our pricing even the mighty Google couldn't afford.

      I do feel Google's decision was a bit short-sighted though, as from Nov 2007 Telkom's (SA Telco monopoly) SAT3 exclusivity agreement will end along with its decade long tranny of all international fibre into SA. Other players (Neotel, Vodacom
  • google in kenya (Score:5, Insightful)

    by al77 ( 1120643 ) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @01:23AM (#19659513)
    It's about time. Many big foreign corporations Africa headquarters are based in Nairobi. GE recently moved it's Africa office to Kenya from SA as an example. Nairobi is also the host city of several United Nations agencies like UNEP and HABITAT as well as other international organizations. Kenya is also strategically located on the map of Africa unlike SA. Most of the current innovations are truly African driven unlike SA where most of the economy is still dominated by whites. Also SA Blacks have alot of catching up to do education wise. Kenya's Telecomunications sector is exploding. Kenya Airways has been voted consistently the best airline in Africa. Nairobi also has the most airline connections to other cities from Africa than any airline in Africa. It's therefore the ideal hub. Even Richard Branson was in Nairobi last month to launch Virgin airlines from Nairobi to London. Hes also eyeing investments in other areas like telecomunications. Kenya has a huge educated pool of workers. Kenya even sends the most number of students to study in America than any African country. And also Kenya has been a haven of peace in Africa no civil wars and the kind. Kenyans are always in a hurry, friendly and are agressive as this SA website says: [] Lastly Kenyans love nature Kenya is beautiful and famous for its Safaris and world beating Athletes Even the word "Safari" is Kenyan Swahili for travel. Lastly theres enuff coffee for google geeks so expect some great code. There's no reason why not to choose Kenya.
  • by simong ( 32944 ) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @07:36AM (#19661229) Homepage
    Google has to be very risk averse so I can't see them settling in SA. There is an issue around recruitment in that there are quotas that have to be filled by black candidates (not too sure of the details) and there just aren't the candidates to fill the jobs. Many companies work around this by being based in the Maldives or somewhere and hiring in 'contractors' but this isn't a solution for long term operations. In addition, while the general political situation is nowhere near as bad as Zimbabwe, SA's cities are viewed as being increasingly lawless and unstable, something which is also not in Google's (or any big company's) interest. A technologically savvy, cheap, flexible employment base must be a number of ticks on Google's shopping list as well as good infrastructure or potential for good infrastructure, stability and those emolients that bring business in. This could make Nairobi a key location on the communications map.

Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them. -- Bill Vaughn