Google Launches Google+, a Facebook Look-alike.


Yesterday, while tweeting my heart away as I normally do in the mornings, I came across an interesting link referring to a new social networking service from the search-engine giant; Google called Google+.

Google+ is the search giant’s all-in attempt to add a social layer onto their other products, and the engineers in charge describe it as an extension to what Google’s already doing in the social scene. They are emphasizing on privacy in differentiating the new social service from the rest of other networks.

We all know, Google have tried several times to come up with services/innovations that could over-take the leading social networking site; Facebook but haven’t succeeded in any of their attempts. Remember Google Wave? What about Orkut, or Google Buzz? What happened to all of them?

An interesting point raised in the New York Times by Claire C. Miller draws my attention to the fact that, the new service “happens to look very much like Facebook,” but it works differently. The guiding principle behind Google+ is the notion that users want to share different kinds of things with different groups of people.

A feature in Google+ called “Circles” allows users to put group their friends and share to the groups. Other unique features include “Hangouts,” a group video chat feature; “Sparks,” an automated feed of videos and articles custom-tailored for the user; “Huddle,” a text message-powered group chat; and “Instant Upload,” an automatic photo uploader for mobile phones.

But Google+ may already be too late. In May, 180 million people visited Google sites, including YouTube, compared with 157.2 million on Facebook, according to comScore. But Facebook users looked at 103 billion pages and spent an average of 375 minutes on the site, while Google users viewed 46.3 billion pages and spent 231 minutes.

Google+ users will start by selecting people they know from their Gmail contacts (and from other services, once Google strikes deals with them). They can drag and drop friends’ names into different groups, or circles, and give the circles titles, like “Accra Peeps”, “Taadi Folks” or “Honey Suckle Peeps.” Then they can share with these groups or with all of their friends.

Unlike on Facebook, people do not have to agree to be friends with one another. They can receive someone’s updates without sharing their own.

So now the question arises, Will It Be Able To Take On Facebook? Will It Prove To be A Facebook Killer?

Analysts say that Facebook users are unlikely to duplicate their network of friends on Google+ and post to both sites, but that they could use them for different types of communication. Google+ could also attract Facebook holdouts that have been uncomfortable sharing too publicly.

So will Google+ do to Facebook what Facebook did to MySpace? Does this new service from Google look more attractive than Facebook? Are you willing to abandon Facebook for Google+?

You can try your hands on the Interactive Demo here.

 

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Google’s Zeitgeist Announces 12 Winners For Young Minds Competition


Google's Zeitgeist Young Minds Competition

Somewhere in February, 2011; Zeitgeist & Google announced the commencement of applications for the Young Minds Video Competition 2011 via this website: http://www.zeitgeistyoungminds.com/ which saw young people between the ages of 18 and 24; passionate about making a difference in your community apply.

Google has always championed innovation and is proud to help young people showcase their ideas and achievements. Zeitgeist Young Minds is an incredible platform for future world-changers to meet some of the most powerful and inspiring people on the planet today.” Philipp Schindler, Vice President of Northern & Central Europe, Google

The competition was to find 12 exceptional, motivated and inspiring young adults from across Europe, the Middle East and Africa; who are making a positive impact in their worlds. Those 12 individuals have been found and selected. See below for full details of the selected:

  • Orly Keit Setton – South Africa
  • Karabo Thosa – South Africa
  • Phofane Ludwick Marishane – South Africa
  • Brian Magwaro Mogaka – Kenya
  • Grace Ihejiamaizu –  Nigeria
  • Michael Mulunga – Namibia
  • Paul “slim” Banda – Zambia
  • Matheus Zancul Ortega – Haiti
  • Richard Serunjogi – United Kingdom
  • Sebastian Thiel – United Kingdom
  • Anna Debenham – United Kindom
  • Sadiq Miah – United Kingdom

Click here to read their profiles and watch the winning entries!

About

Zeitgeist is Google’s annual European partner forum held just outside London, currently in its 6th year, bringing together around 400 business and thought leaders from across Europe. Highlights from last year’s event can be seen at: http://www.youtube.com/user/eurozeitgeist

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Google Appoints Female Country Manager for Nigeria


Juliet Ehimuan - Google Country Manager : Nigeria

Google Nigeria recently appointed Ms. Juliet Ehimuan, the former General Manager of  Strategic Business Units at Chams Plc as its Country Manager for Nigeria.

Responding to her new appointment, Joe Mucheru; Google’s lead for Sub Saharan Africa said:

“Google sees great potential in the Nigerian market. We are excited to have Juliet Ehimuan bring her expertise and knowledge to help fulfill that potential.”

“It’s a very exciting time to be joining Google where, amongst other initiatives, I will be helping Nigerian enterprises take advantage of the online world, to better engage with their customers and grow their businesses,” Ms. Ehimuan said.

“The Internet is set to play a critical role in the country’s socio-economic development; Google is committed to investing in Nigeria and to making the internet accessible and relevant for all Nigerian users,” she added.

Ms. Ehimuan brings her industry expertise in technology that spans experiences in Europe, Middle East, (EMEA) Africa and the United States to the role. For more information, read her bio below.

Bio:

Prior to her appointment at Google, Ms. Ehimuan was the General Manager, Strategic Business Units of Chams Plc where she was responsible for leading and formulating strategies for the Chams Strategic Business units. She holds an Executive MBA from the London Business School, a Post Graduate degree in Computer Science from the University of Cambridge, UK; and obtained a Bachelors degree with 1st class honours in Computer Engineering from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. She is a recipient of the London Business School Global Women’s Scholarship, and at Cambridge University she received two scholarly awards – Selwyn College Scholar and Malaysian commonwealth Scholar.

She worked with Microsoft UK for 6 years, initially as a Program Manager managing Strategic Projects for MSN Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA).  She received the Microsoft “Ship-IT” award for successfully launching the new MSN online subscription business in the UK, Spain, Italy, and Germany. She is a pioneer member of the African Computer Network for Developing Countries sponsored by the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Trieste, Italy in 1995. She also worked with the Shell Petroleum Development Company as a Performance Monitoring and Quality Assurance Supervisor from 1995 – 1997.

In 2005, she left Microsoft to start SI (Strategic Insight) Consulting Ltd UK, focused on providing collaborative programs that connect African Business leaders and Professionals with their global counterparts. The SI team clients are made of an eclectic mix of organisations including MSN, BP (British Petroleum), Royal Bank of Scotland, Harvard Business School alumni club, representatives from all banks in Nigeria, the Central Bank of Nigeria etc.

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Google Launches New African Tech Incubator – Umbono


 

Cross-linked at Future Challenges Organization‘s blog

With the current state of innovation spreading across the African continent; what we need exactly as social entrepreneurs and change-makers is the space to network, share ideas and work on projects that become businesses and profit-making ventures. I’m very happy to say, this space is here for the African Tech Community as at today.

Google has chosen South Africa’s Cape Town as a pilot township for its new technology incubator called Umbono which aims to bring together seed capital, Google mentorship, angel investors, local tech stars, social entrepreneurs and business leaders.

Africa's Newest Incubator - Umbono

According to Google:

the incubator is in keeping with its ongoing commitment to foster innovation in Africa and it will help selected startup teams transform their ideas into companies.

The Umbono program lasts for 6 months—enough time for your team to get your idea formally off the ground or to prepare your existing business for its next round of funding. The Umbono program will help transform your vision into a business. Your idea – probably web or mobile deployed – is exciting on many levels: for your future users, potential investors, and for the people on your team building it.

Teams should expect to receive a minimum of $25,000 and a maximum of $50,000. Capital from Angel investors will be exchanged for equity (10%) and will be governed by standard terms of investment (the same terms for each team).

Teams will also have regular access to our extensive network of business and technology experts, many of whom are Googlers. All team members should be able to legally reside and work in South Africa in order to apply to the program (regardless of their citizenship).

Google is also collaborating with the Silicon Cape Initiative and the Bandwidth Barn, to ensure that Umbono’s teams are well positioned to succeed.

Applications are available on the Umbono website from March 18, open to all South African residents. The deadline for first round applicants is April 15, 2011, but the website will continue to host applications for all interested candidates. To learn more and apply, go to www.google.co.za/umbono.

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Ory Okolloh Joins Google To Shape Africa’s Internet Policy


The success of Ushahidi as both an activist organization and as a technology startup is one that is widely recognized as Africa’s first big ‘garage’ startup success story. The organization was born out of the 2007 post-election unrest in Kenya when Ory Okolloh put out a call to map citizen reports of violence. Erik Hersman, David Kobia and Juliana Rotich all heeded the call and Ushahidi.com was born.

Ory Okolloh @ the launch of iHub Nairobi (c) AfricaKnows.com

In a blog post – Stepping Down as Ushahidi Executive Director; Ory Okolloh states;

For me, what has always been the most important aspect of the work we do has remained simple, building a tool that makes it easy for individuals and groups to tell their stories, and making it easy for these stories to be mapped/visualized.

Ushahidi has grown to be that and much more, thanks especially to the wider community – which saw potential uses beyond crisis reporting and who largely shaped our growth and direction to date be it through translation efforts (Ushahidi now available in 10 languages!), or custom themes, or pushing for a hosted version (Crowdmap), or challenging us to address the shortcomings of the platform (through tools like SwiftRiver and our community resources page).

Beyond the growth of Ushahidi as a platform and an organization, I always tell people that I am most proud of the fact that the Ushahidi story has provided an inspiration to other techies in Kenya and Africa – an example of the kind of talent the continent holds, but also a reminder that we have just scratched the surface. And so after 3 years, I feel it is time for me to take on the next challenge. Those of you who know me well know I’ve got a 1001 ideas floating in my head that I need to get out.

The Kenyan Lawyer and Activist answered the question; Where next and for what?

I will be joining Google in the New Year as the Policy Manager for Africa. The role will involve developing policy /strategies on a number of areas of relevance to Google and the Internet in Africa and will involve working with different parties including government leaders, policy makers, regulators, industry groups and so on.

It is a huge opportunity to bring Google’s resources to bear as far as the growth and development of the internet in Africa (and hopefully a reminder of why I went to law school in the first place!). I’m very excited about the move and I hope I can continue to lean on your support and insight in my new role.

Who takes over as Executive Director at Ushahidi? Guess, who?

Ushahidi co-founder Juliana Rotich will be the acting Executive Director. As Program Director (and pretty much since the very beginning of Ushahidi) Juliana has been our key interface with the wider community of techies, implementers of the platform and volunteers.

Her ability to be a bridge between the core of Ushahidi and the wider community (along with her uber-geek status!) gives me and the rest of the team every confidence that the transition process will be smooth and bigger things lie ahead for Ushahidi.

My friends at Afrinnovator did an interesting piece on Ory’s move to Google and also touched on a few relating articles worth taking a closer look at below:

Ory Okolloh Co-Founder of Ushahidi talks to CNN’s AfricanVoices Ory Okolloh, one of the founders of Ushahidi, talks with…

Ushahidi’s Ory Makes Top 40 Women Under 40 Ory Okolloh, one of the directors of the Ushahidi project…

Ushahidi/FrontlineSMS Talk at UoN It’s hard to talk about what’s happening in technology in…

For a full insight into the making of the Ushahidi platform; read Erik Hersman; @whiteafrican ‘s post: Making Ushahidi

 

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Google Baraza – Q&A for Africa


[White African] There’s a new service coming out from Google, tentatively called “Baraza”, which is the term used for meeting place in Swahili. It’s a service focused on creating ways for Africans to interact and share knowledge by asking and answering questions, many of them hyper local, or of regional interest only.

Google Baraza

Google Baraza is accepting alpha testers right now, you can sign up to try out the new service at this link.Q&A websites like Baraza aren’t new, perhaps the best known one is Yahoo! Answers which has been phenomenally successful. Even the other, smaller sites have a lot of traction. There isn’t a Q&A site focused on Africa, and that is the niche that Google is working to fill.

Why?

Simple really, Google has a vested interest in seeing more African content coming online. More African content means more Africans engaging with the open internet, more information to organize and more search queries.

There are already millions of Africans with Google accounts, and that’s a good thing, they’re going to need it. Q&A sites need critical mass on both the questions and answers sides of the equation. Yahoo! Answers being the top Q&A site has shown that a large member base gives you the edge. It takes a lot of people answering and asking to make it work. Of course, this isn’t new to Google, three years ago they launched something similar for Russia.

I talked to the Google Baraza product manager yesterday to find out a few more things before I wrote this. They’re accepting a limited number (100) of signups right now, and alpha testing will begin shortly.

According to Aneto Okonkwo;

One of Google’s goals in Africa is to make the internet more locally relevant and bring more people online.  One of the challenges of the internet in Africa is that there is a lack of local content online. At Google, we find that users search for information about local businesses, entertainment, health, etc but often don’t find it because the information is not yet available online.  In order to help bring more local content online, Google engineers have created Baraza to allow people in countries across Africa to ask questions and post answers to questions from others.

Here are some quick tasks to try out
– Answer a question on your favorite topic – Find a question by browsing labels (e.g.,”Programming & Design”) or Search (e.g., “Economics”)
– Ask a question that you have been wondering about

Right now Baraza is firmly rooted in the PC space – that is, you need a computer to access it. However, we already know that mobile phone access to the internet trumps PC access to the internet in Africa, so that leaves me wondering when they will create at least a mobile web (WAP) access as well?

Regardless of the mobile side, this is a good idea that could make a large impact if they can get African users involved.

Or

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Goo.gl URL Shortener Now Accessible In Ghana


I’ve always been longing to tweet with Google’s URL Shortener Service; http://goo.gl when it was last launched a couple of months ago. I’ve seen one of my favorite ICT4D Tweep & follower; @Wayan_Vota use it a couple of times and I guess, he’s still using it.

Woke up this morning and decided to try it out once again. Lo and behold; it’s working from Ghana now. Guess, it is now opened to the general public.

 

Goo.gl URL Shortener Service

 

About Goo.gl

The Google URL Shortener at goo.gl is a service that takes long URLs and squeezes them into fewer characters to make a link easier to share, tweet, or email to friends.

Goo.gl used to be sort of an invitational ONLY product from Google —it was like, only a few trusted people could utilize it.

How do I use the Google URL Shortener?

Go to goo.gl and paste the long URL you wish to shorten into the input box at the top of the page. Click “Shorten” and to the right of the box you’ll see a short goo.gl URL that can be copied and pasted anywhere you’d like to share it.

If you’d like to track the analytics of your shortened URL, please sign in to your Google Account before shortening your URL. Your shortened URL will automatically be added to your goo.gl history.

Why use the Google URL Shortener?

People share a lot of links online. This is particularly true as microblogging services such as Twitter and Google Buzz have grown in popularity. With character limits in tweets, status updates, and other modes of short form publishing, a shorter URL leaves more room to say what’s on your mind.

According to Estelle Akofio-Sowah; Google Ghana Lead, the primary goal in making this service publicly available to all users is to harness Google’s global production infrastructure to provide users with the following benefits:

  • Stability – reliable service with good uptime
  • Security – warning message if the short URL points to a suspected malware, phishing, or spam website
  • Speed – fast resolution of short URLs (in a few milliseconds)

Features

Goo.gl short URLs are randomly generated, and the mappings of short URLs to long URLs are publicly accessible. Additionally, the short URL to long URL mappings are:

  • Immutable – once created by you, no one else can change them
  • Irrevocable – once created, they do not expire. Note, however, that Google reserves the right to remove any goo.gl short URL, for example for spam, security or legal reasons
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