Google is celebrating its 25th birthday, marking a quarter-century of technological innovation, information accessibility, and global connectivity. Its journey in Nigeria, like in many parts of the world, has been transformative. The most prominent contribution Google has made to Nigeria is bridging the information gap. Sundar Pichai, Google CEO, emphasises this by saying, “The idea that a student in rural Indonesia could access the same information as a professor at Stanford was revolutionary, and has changed lives and our world for the better.” This concept is particularly relevant in the Nigerian context.
In the early days of the internet, I remember how we had to depend on the listings on hard copy magazines like Sunny Ojeagbase’s Success Digest Extra in other to access listings of sites on different topics. These were the defacto ways of accessing this information back them. Having identified this gap, then came several online search alternatives. Many of us started online search using Yahoo Search, Ask Jeeves, Aliweb and the then grand master — Altavista, known for its advanced search features, including natural language processing and advanced Boolean search capabilities. It was one of the most powerful search engines of its time. Then came Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two Ph.D. students at Stanford University, who had the vision to revolutionize how information on the internet was organised and accessed. Over the past 25 years, Google’s search engine has become an indispensable tool. It provides access to a wealth of knowledge, research materials, and educational resources. Whether it’s preparing for a business or exploring new areas of study, Google Search has become a virtual library. It has since evolved into a full technology company with business interests in advertising, consumer services, web-based services, software, hardware and enterprise services.
Sundar Pichai’s reflections on Google’s journey and its future have several implications for Nigeria. Nigeria has witnessed rapid technological adoption, especially among the younger generation. As Pichai notes, what took years for one generation to adapt to becomes second nature for the next. This suggests that Nigeria should continue to embrace emerging technologies to stay competitive globally. Google’s support for startups and digital entrepreneurship has been instrumental in Nigeria’s economic growth. In January 2020, the tech company launched the Google Developer’s Space, a centre to provide a place where entrepreneurs, developers, startups and investors could connect and collaborate with each other. Juliet Ehimuan, Country Director, Google Nigeria, said that the space was the next step to Google support for developers across the continent, stressing that Google’s commitment to training 100,000 developers across Africa over 50 per cent had been met.
With the advent of AI in virtually every sphere of living, we expect to see more in this direction from Google in the coming years. Sundar Pichai’s focus on AI as the biggest technological shift of our time holds profound implications for Nigeria. AI can address complex challenges, from personalised education and healthcare to predicting and mitigating natural disasters. This should open new vistas for Nigeria in the area of AI research, investments, development, and application to address its unique societal needs.
Google’s 25-year journey has left an indelible mark on Nigeria by bridging the information gap, fostering entrepreneurship, and supporting digital skills development. As technology continues to evolve, Nigeria must adapt, innovate, and harness the power of AI to address its unique challenges and opportunities. In the words of Sundar Pichai, “Our search for answers will drive extraordinary technology progress over the next 25 years,” and Nigeria should be an active participant in this journey.