Google is trying to manage and run all aspects of our virtual life. The company has run our web search for a very long time and has been attempting to run our online social life though with not much of a success. Google then introduced Gmail to us and instead of letting us sign up as everybody else, the net giant partnered with Safaricom to let Kenyans open @Safaricom.com email addresses. Currently, Google is marketing Gmail for feature phones locally. We even have Google SMS for free in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania among other African countries.
Google then bought the .co.ke domain to show how serious it is with promoting the .ke domains. Silently, Google has started partnering with local ISPs through its Global Cache initiative. This means that Google will deploy some servers and host them in the local ISPs data centre’s to cache your web browsing with the hope that next time you visit a web page you have visited before, it will load up much faster.
Google then opened some products specifically for Africa. Products like Google Trader and Baraza had never been tried elsewhere butt are made for Africa specifically for Google to control our net life. Google has fought any initiative to have a popular forum by Kenyans online.
Google closed KaziAfrika and Bidiiafrika after complaints by Martha Karua (a Kenyan politician) over what was being discussed in the fora. The two fora had such strong membership that at one time the controlled 90% of net traffic in Kenya. Immediately after closing the two, Google initiated Google Baraza. Google never gave any valid reasons why it closed the two Google fora but said that they did so after complaints by the public. There have been copy cats of KaziAfrika and BidiiAfrika. Google has not seen the need to close them because not even many people value, recognise or participate in them as they did in BidiiAfrika.
Google then embarked on a project of mapping all parts of Kenya. The mapping has achieved a lot but its dark side has not been looked at with Kenya security installations in Kenya like military bases so much exposed. Google has even partnered or developed applications which can be viewed on smart and feature phones. With a Google Latitude account, even personal privacy has not been guaranteed.
Google then pushed state officials through lobbying using US State department officials and gifts to the officials and now a horde of Kenyan government data has been “digitized”. And the figures behind this digitizations are World Bank officials and US citizens who are nothing but local proxies for the work of US state department. The same data could not be given to local developers who have tried to make such data available with the same government officials looking at them as just novices. If the Kenyan government gave local developers a chance to build platforms to host the data, would they have been defeated? It had to be Google.
Google launched its recent initiative where it has created a platform to simplify the entry of Kenyan, Nigerian and Ugandan SMEs onto the web sphere. GNBO, KBO and UBO are these products. Google will in effect control key data a good number of the tens of thousands of SMEs in Kenya by using the same data to sell to them advertising.
Google now sponsors every workshop and tech initiative in the country. It is not giving much to the participants but only the organisers of the conferences, camps, meetups and marathon events benefit. Google gets the data and loyality to be able to take over our web life while the same Google is loosing lots of traction both in US and Europe. Google is facing monopoly challenges in these regions and so the focus must be shifted to emerging markets where there are no strong laws to protect the consumers. A number of countries have banned the Google Streetview service because of its infringement on the rights of the citizens.
Google has been investigated by the US congress after being accused of behaving like a monopoly. Both Google Search and its mobile OS, Android, have been the subject of these investigations.
But in these parts of the world, we have let Google control all our aspects of net life and recently Google was lobbying the attendees at the Internet Governance Forum to have Google also participate and determine how net laws should be implemented. Google changed its search algorithm to remove negative stuff about its employees from search. How does it want to determine freedom online? Google has bullied even countries like Nigeria wanting to be given as much as 40,000 .ng domains to distribute.
Google is doing all the above locally but when you seek a response from Google over a specific issue with Adsense, Groups, Search or even Baraza, you get referred by the same local Google personnel who have so much power to some virtual forces. The Google virtual support team never helps instead giving responses like “Google has a right to terminate any service for any reason”. This is such a vague statement which will make you ask questions like “Can Google terminate a service because I went to Muthurwa High School?”
Google’s dominance is a great mistake the local governments and net communities are making. When Assange claimed in that interview that “Facebook is an appalling spy machine“, few took him seriously. The truth is that emerging markets must be more worried of Google’s intentions and why such private matters must be held by Google.
Google’s dominance in everything web locally must not be blamed on the search giants intentions alone. Local innovators have lowered themselves to boot-lickers and spanner boys instead of embarking on a mass revolt to create cutting edge technologies which will make an impact locally. We have stopped being our own selves and now we must either bow to the wills of the Google officials or become attack dogs for government officials who are so much influenced by the big corporates like Google. None of the developers and innovators who have the stamp of approval of Google locally can claim to have influence of the masses. They can only win competitions organised by Google and friends of Google. They can not earn money from their creations.
We must change and take up the challenge to innovate for the masses and not win competitions organised by corporates desperate for us being their stooges. Take up the challenge now and create for millions and not minions who are being spoonfed.