Google announces free Wifi for the Cape Flats, new products at first Google for South Africa event

Google South Africa today held its first ‘Google for South Africa’ event in Johannesburg, where it announced a number of initiatives and products specifically tailored to the South African market. 

Google announced the launch of Google Station for the Cape Flats, in the Western Cape. Google Station is a program to provide fast, free and open Wi-Fi to the area in partnership with ThinkWifi, an internet service provider.

“By gaining access to information via the internet, we hope that people in these communities will get a more equal opportunity to learn and develop and live more empowered lives,” says Nitin Gajria, Google Africa director.

Google Station is now available in over 100 locations across Langa, Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Delft, Elsies River, Philippi and more. These areas are some of the most underserved communities in the country, with high unemployment and crime rates. 

“Think WiFi are passionate about providing fast, free, reliable, uncapped WiFi in underserved communities- giving people access to more on-line resources and more opportunities. Through our partnership, Think WiFi and Google will provide unlimited Wi-Fi access to communities in townships, public areas, universities, transportation hubs and shopping malls, laying the foundations for broad-based, inclusive participation in the benefits industry 4.0 brings," says Janine Rebelo, Think WiFi CEO. 

Last year, Google awarded $6-million to 36 non-profit organisations across Africa through the Google Impact Challenge; 12 of them from South Africa. Building on this, Google is today investing $1 million as part of its 5 year commitment to non-profits and social enterprises, to support the economic empowerment of girls and women in South Africa. Asha Patel, Head of Marketing, South Africa adds that, “One of the key focus areas of our programmes has been the empowerment of women and minority groups, and I’m happy to say that 48% of the people we have trained in South Africa are women.”

Google also announced updates to Google Go, a product that makes it easier to discover the best of the internet, even on low-RAM smartphones or unstable network connections. As of today, the Discover feed is now integrated within Google Go to help users stay in the know with their interests, like the latest content on their favourite football team, people of interest, music and news stories. 

Users are also able to use Google Go’s ‘read out loud’ feature to hear a website or a news story by tapping the play icon when they open a search result.

Starting today, users can access the Google Assistant directly from Google Go. Using only their voice, users can ask Google to call mum, play the latest Kwesta video, or find the best route to their favourite kota place.

Bolo is a speech-based reading app that helps kids learn how to read in English. It encourages them to read out loud and then provides individual, customised feedback to help improve their reading capabilities. It’s already available in India, Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya and today Google is bringing it to South Africa.

Google is also bringing Cameos to South Africa. Cameos, a selfie-style video app, allows celebrities and public figures to answer questions about themselves directly within Google Search.

More and more people are searching using their voice, and often they come to Google Assistant for everyday actions like setting timers or learning how to make the best roast chicken. South Africans have been using the Assistant to get things done since it was launched in South Africa.  Starting today, users can ask the Google Assistant to order an Uber or read them South African specific news from their favourite local news outlets. 

“Every day, people in South Africa and around the world turn to Google for help. We hope that the products and updates we're announcing today will make Google even more helpful for getting things done. We remain committed to bringing the transformational power of technology to people everywhere,” Gajria says.

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