Google Nigeria Promises Free Wifi, What Do We Search Or Do With It?

Google Nigeria Promises Free Wifi, What Do We Search Or Do With It?

I read a really illuminating comment on the state of things on the Google Station project on my LinkedIn profile from a user (read further). Yes, Google is providing free Wi-Fi in selected locations in Nigeria. We commend Google for that: Nations are built when companies fix challenges in markets and societies.

After my note on the “depressing” search trajectory from Nigeria, many in the community did not like it. Many wished it away, arguing that America searches American Idol, Justin Bieber, etc. So, why not allow Nigerian kids to indulge on BBNaija, shaku shaku dance, etc at top search items.

Now, as Google brings faster internet, we have a choice: continue to search shaku shaku, BBNaija or someone could offer the young people a path to do something useful on the web. That is not for Google; it is for NGOs, schools, you, myself, etc. (from LinkedIn summary)

But if you check how we are using the current internet we have in Nigeria, there is certainly a need to examine the expected impact of this initiative.  Should we just spend our time looking for these mundane things on the web? (I understand many do not have any problem with what these searches represent. The argument is that people just search, and search queries should be decoupled from other elements of our existence.)

Top searches from Nigeria (source: Google event)

A LinkedIn user captures the points here: do we waste the bytes on frivolities or do we use them to build social and economic engines for the future?

Great move by Google, but “now that Nigeria has WiFi, what is she going to do with it?” From the published “most searched by Nigerians” lists to the several news reports of vices powered by social media, it is clear we as a people, across age groups, social and working classes, need some education on how to utilize connectivity for economic and social good. I hope this educative package is somewhere in the works with this initiative (maybe not by Google themselves, but other relevant partners).

That is the point: how can we get young people looking for jobs to use connectivity to improve their lives? How can we get accountants looking for new skills to use connectivity to advance their careers? How can students improve their capabilities with better connectivity Google may be offering? Yes, how can Nigeria accelerate its economic and social systems with better connectivity?

Certainly, the searches do not define the nation: I might have been “wrong” when I used the word “depressing”. But we need to make sure better internet delivers better wellbeing in the nation. That is not the work Google should be concerned with; our NGOs and governments could lead to ensure our young people have creative things to be engaged online. Where we fail to help them, the expected benefits from better connectivity may not be realized.

A Brilliant LinkedIn Comment

Well, I ‘resisted’ from commenting on comparison between what Nigerians and other developed nations search on the web. The reason is simple: you make like for like comparisons, and not two disproportionate things.

If you see a son of rich a man misbehaving, and at same time that of a poor man doing same, obviously your admonition to the latter is likely to be stronger. The reason? Because it’s possible for the son of the rich man to be well ‘setup’ in the future, you cannot say same about that of the poor man, meaning that he needs to work harder, to even stand a chance of leading a better life. This is what it’s like comparing what Nigerians search online with that of the Americans.

People who belong to first world countries can afford to waste all their time, searching frivolous things on the web, because their founding fathers had done a great job for them, meaning that with minimal effort they are likely to succeed. You cannot say the same for an average Nigerian: the youths here need to work harder like the son of a poor man, who should know that nothing is a given, every time must be well spent.

When we understand the conversation in this light, then we can craft the right narrative, impressing it on the younger ones.


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