Google expands its African initiatives

Alphabet is committing to training another 1 million students under its Digital Skills for Africa program in the next 12 months, the company said at events in Lagos, Nairobi, and Johannesburg.

The commitment follows the company’s 1 million mark milestone reached today and follows the opening of Google’s Launchpad Accelerator for African startups earlier this month — tracking a growing presence by the global internet services firm on the continent.

Debuted in April 2016 with a goal of training 1 million within a year, Digital Skills for Africa offers online and face to face instruction to individuals and small businesses through 14 partners across 27 African countries. Anyone can register for free and set an individualized plan across three primary categories: business development, career advancement, or basic internet use. Users can choose from 89 courses across 23 topic areas and earn badges and certificates for successful completion.

“Across Africa…one of the things that hold people back from taking advantage of the web is a lack of understanding on how to use digital tools,” said Bunmi Banjo, Google’s Growth Engine and Brand Lead for Sub-Saharan Africa. “We are providing training to young people and business owners to succeed however, they define success for themselves―finding a job, growing a business, starting on email,” she told TechCrunch.

To meet the goal of another million trained, Google will add countries and regions to Digital Skills for Africa in 2017. It will include more offline versions of online training materials for low net access areas. Google will also offer instruction in new languages, such as Swahili, IsiZulu, and Hausa. Digital Skills for Africa will also increase its partner network for in-person instruction. Current partners include organizations like the eMobilus technical institute in Kenya and vocational training company Centrum Learning in Nigeria.

 As for Google’s overall Africa presence, it now has country heads in core economy nations such as South Africa (Luke Mckend), Nigeria (Juliet Ehimuan), and Kenya (Charles Murito). The Launchpad Accelerator―which offers 6 months of equity free Google startup support with two weeks in Silicon Valley―is now accepting Africa applications.

Google provides financial and capacity support to five African tech hubs in Kenya (iHub), South Africa, Ghana, and Uganda, and Nigeria (CCHub). The company has also begun programs and partnerships to overcome Africa’s internet access and connectivity challenges. Despite progress on mobile phone ownership and ICT infrastructure over the last decade, the continent remains one of the world’s most digitally disconnected. Though some countries, such as Kenya and South Africa, have attained high usage, Africa’s internet penetration lingers at less than one- third of the continent’s estimated 1.2 billion people.

In 2016, Google entered a licensing pact with South African startup Onyx, which plans to manufacture Android smartphones on the continent. In several African countries, the company also offers its “Add to Offline” option for YouTube video playback with little to no connectivity.

Though Google could not provide overall traffic data, African search activity has increased significantly in recent years, a spokesperson confirmed. Statistics are available for popular search terms across Africa’s largest economies, providing insight on the interest palette of the continent’s growing online community.

In 2016, Nigeria’s top Google person search was for Donald Trump. South Africa’s most searched term was Pokémon Go. Kenyans were most keen on football, googling “Euro 2016” more than any other topic last year.

Google begins live testing of Instant Apps that load without installation

At last year’s I/O conference, Google demonstrated a sneak peak of an exciting new initiative that lets users interact with pieces of an app without needing to go through the whole download process. Called Android Instant Apps, it was designed to streamline the process of installing apps, and now Google is finally ready to let us try it out.android instant apps

While only available in a “limited test” with just four developers—BuzzFeed, Wish, Periscope, and Viki—Instant Apps could dramatically change the way we interact with apps on our phones. For example, under the current system, if someone sends you a link to an item for sale in the Wish app and you don’t have it installed on your phone, you would be first redirected to the Play Store, where you would need to download and install the app, find it on your phone, open it, type in the item, and hit search. With Instant Apps, tapping the link would automatically bring up that page in the app, whether it’s installed on your phone or not. From there you could buy it or save the link to your home screen, all without needing to go through the whole tedious download process.

wish
With the Wish Instant App, you can view and pay for an item without downloading the full version.

Furthermore, Google demonstrated a situation where a user could feed a parking meter without needing to waste time or data downloading the app first. Of course, if you wanted to download the full app, you could, but the process is designed to remove friction from what should be quick interactions. It’s kind of like opening web apps or Chrome Custom Tabs, but with much more power behind it. As Google explains, the experience isn’t watered down or minimalized in any way. Rather, the user will be using the full app, just targeted to the specific bit they requested:

“To develop an instant app, you’ll need to update your existing Android app to take advantage of Instant Apps functionality and then modularize your app so part of it can be downloaded and run on-the-fly. You’ll use the same Android APIs and Android Studio project.”

Google promises that full Instant Apps SDK will be available “in the coming months.”

Instant Apps will work on Android versions going all the way back to Jelly Bean, but It’s unclear how widespread the rollout for testing is or how Google will be soliciting feedback from users. When we tried to open a Wish link, it still sent us to the Play Store to download the full app.

Android Instant Apps have the potential to truly revolutionize the way we use and discover apps on our phones, especially those with limited space or running older versions of Android. Developers are constantly looking for ways to reach more users with their apps, and Instant Apps is the perfect way to do it, offering a lightweight, universal experience that doesn’t require the download of an app you might not have space for.

This story, “Google begins live testing of Instant Apps that load without installation ” was originally published by Greenbot.