Google I/O 2015 Keynote: 8 Take Aways For ‘The Next Billion’ Internet Users In Kenya & Africa

Last night (in Kenya) I happened to watch the Google I/O 2015 Keynote with lots of anticipation to find out more about the next and greatest ‘things’ from Google. It was a fairly long keynote as expected but there were some really important announcements that I thought I would share here as a curated list of things that are really important for the next billion Internet users in Kenya and Africa.

In particular, the reality is that in most growing economies of the world Google is already the dominant mobile ecosystem from the bottom of the pyramid all the way to the top. In many ways, just like The Matrix, Google has us in their exponentially growing web of inter-linked digital offerings. It would not be an understatement to say that Google essentially OWNS the consumer Internet via so many touch points that its almost impossible NOT to use anyone of them on a daily basis (just try it – I did!).

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 6.58.37 AM
Notice how Africa does not even look visible in this map that shows Android’s reach across the world. There is LOTS of growth to come at this rate!

So. Here we go. These are the succinct details that I found most interesting from Google I/O as far as Kenya and Africa are concerned in the context of the next billion Internet consumers:

Android Global Sales

Android devices were 8 out of 10 smartphones sold last year. Thats staggering when you think about. A big part of this growth came from emerging markets via low-cost Android mobile devices. This means that the majority of the planet will be using Android mobile devices in the coming years and especially the next billion. Indeed, Google predicts that 1.2B+ Android devices will be sold in 2016 globally. Does this sound like The Matrix? Me thinks so…

Android One

Android One is a Google initiative that aims to provide low-cost Android devices in emerging markets that have the latest version of Android and related Google offerings. Android One mobile devices are cognizant of the unique needs of smartphones in emerging markets like dual SIMs, swappable batteries and FM Radio.

Android One was first launched in India in 2014 and has now expanded to markets like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Indonesia, Turkey and The Philippines. Google is working with 10 OEMS currently to expand the reach of Android One on a global basis. Sadly, Kenya or Africa is NOT yet on the map but I am sure we could see these devices here by early next year?


Google Chromebooks are gathering momentuum globally and especially in education. Google now has Chromebooks that retail for under US$ 150.00 (i.e. under Kes. 15,000.00) with all day battery that are secure and fast. This sounds impressive especially when you consider that over 10 million students in schools globally use Chromebooks.

Google Photos

Google announced last night that they will now offer UNLIMITED and FREE storage for 1080P HD Video and Images of up to 16 Megapixels on their newly launched offering, Google Photos. By making such a magnanimous gesture, Google may have just effectively destroyed a host of competing services like Apple’s iCloud, Yahoo’s Flickr, DropBox, and many many others.

This is quite simply impressive, whichever way you look at it. Personally, I know for a fact that I have over 500GB worth of images and videos going back many many years that I could effectively upload to Google Photos in their entirety for FREE. Christmas just came home early! 🙂

In addition to the fact that Google Photos is free, and unlimited, Google also demonstrated how they are using machine learning to streamline the process of managing photos and automating the process of cataloguing and sharing them. Its more than just free and unlimited – Google Photos is effectively baked into Google on web and mobile to make your life easier where photos and videos are concerned. This sounds more and more just like The Matrix!

Google Search, Chrome & Android Optimized

In many emerging markets where Internet connectivity is a challenge and data costs can be ridiculously high, loading web mobile content Internet can take ages. Therefore, for many consumers, browser speed, the size of content and connectivity are key factors when getting online.

Google found that for instance that in Indonesia it takes 8.5 seconds on a 2G connection in Indonesia to load a web page. It is for this reason that Google launched streamlined search results pages there that are 10 times smaller than normal and load 30% faster using what they call ‘light search results pages’.

This approach has now been expanded to 13 other countries, thus far. Google also found that on average, when Google Search users clicked on mobile web pages from results pages they could take 25 seconds to load and use 1MB of data! Therefore, starting in Indonesia, Google is optimising both search results pages and websites too so that they load up to 4 times faster than usual and use 80% fewer bytes.

Another key feature from Google reduces memory usage on the Chrome mobile web browser on Android by up to 80MB. Since a quarter of Android devices out there have only 512MB of memory, thats freeing up a lot of memory – a fifth of the full memory of these Androids to be precise! This is really important for users in Kenya and Africa where the majority of low-cost Android devices sold to the next billion fall into this category of Android devices.

Google Network Quality Estimator For Android

Google is piloting the Network Quality Estimator Feature in India for Chrome on Android. What it does is that it evaluates the quality of data connection you are on and then responds to lower bandwidth by adapting the fidelity of the web pages you are trying to pull up. This feature replaces images with placeholders for instance but keeps important ones like navigational icons and logos, thereby making web pages usable and fast at the same time. Again, this is a feature that is sorely needed by users in markets like Kenya and Africa given that bandwidth speeds are always a concern once you leave urbanised and well covered areas.

Google Offline Services

Given that bandwidth coverage and is always a concern in emerging markets, Google has taken this into consideration for the release of Android M, the next generation of Google’s Android. On this basis, Google Android will have offline capabilities for Chrome & Android. This means for instance you will be able to saves web pages for consumption when you are offline!

In addition, Google has also launched YouTube Offline in India, Indonesia, The Philippines & Vietnam which allows you to take a video content offline for up to 48 hours to watch it whether or not you have an Internet connection or not. Thats not all. Google Maps will now also have offline access on Android so that you can save a Google Map on your phone but still search for places within it as was demonstrated at Google I/O 2015 which is pretty nifty to be honest!

In addition, you can even see reviews and opening hours for places on the same Google Map, as well as have access to turn by turn voice directions! These features will be available from later this year.

Google Translate

Google Translate has been around for years but it really shines on Android. The use case presented show that you can use it to translate real-time conversations and also images via the camera on your Android device. I have seen the voice capability before on Skype so this was really impressive given that it works both back and forth for people having a natural, normal conversation.

Ultimately, it means that the Internet becomes far more accessible to the majority of the world but also that communications in different contexts and the broadest sense becomes possible. Using machine learning, Google has also managed to reduce the error rate on voice recognition to just 8% over the past year, down from 15%. Yes. This is The Matrix. The Google Matrix so to speak 🙂

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  1. June 2, 2015 at 5:04 pm — Reply

    Very very helpful summary Moses. Thank you. Google will soon be networking my fridge and toaster (and autofilling?).

    • June 2, 2015 at 5:07 pm — Reply

      @Andy thanks. Comments from friends are always a treat 🙂

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