Google brings hosted apps to Africa

Search giant provides universities and government ministries in Kenya and Rwanda with access to its hosted applications

Google has announced a series of partnerships with African public-sector organisations, which will see the institutions given training and support into how to use the search giant's hosted applications.

The company claims that Rwanda's educational institutions and government ministries and Kenya's universities are starting to use Google Apps. The applications include Gmail, Google Calender, Google Talk IM client, and Google Docs and Spreadsheets.

"Students in both African countries as well as Rwandan government officials will have access to free communications tools including email, shared calendars, instant messaging and word processing under their institutions' domain names," the company claimed.

When asked what exactly Google is offering — as the apps are free to access for anyone, aside from the premium edition — a spokesman for the search giant said the announcement was more about providing education and support around hosted applications. He would not be drawn on whether the search company is investing in any infrastructure to improve internet access in Africa. Most African countries lack the extensive wired telecoms networks of Western countries.

"We are searching for innovative solutions to infrastructure challenges in Rwanda and other parts of Africa — we have nothing further to announce at this time," the spokesman said.

Three Rwandan universities will initially have access to Google Apps Education Edition, while the country's government ministries will be using Google Apps Standard Edition. During this first phase, around 20,000 users in Rwanda will have access to these services. A broader county-wide rollout will follow shortly afterwards, the company claimed.

"I believe communication between students and their lecturers will be enhanced as users throughout the country will now be using the same state-of-the-art, cutting-edge technology that is available in other parts of the world," said the Hon Albert Butare, Rwandan minister of state for energy and communications.