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Dec 12 2010

Google says vital to upgrade mobile technology in Egypt

By Sarah Daoud CAIRO: "Mobile technology will be our most important upgrade that we will bring to this region because it will have the most impact," said Nelson Mattos, Google vice president of product management and engineering for Europe, Middle East and North Africa.

Google recognizes the region's potential and is dedicated to expanding their services and assistance to further the promise, Mattos added, speaking at Egypt's first "Google Days" (G-Egypt) last week.

The G-Egypt event spanned three days to target academia, software developers and business owners/entrepreneurs and bring them all together to collaborate.

Google brought in 30 of their own engineers and product managers from around the globe to answer questions, provide assistance and discuss opportunities that exist in Egypt as well as future capabilities for the region.

"There is such a vibrant tech community here in Egypt and we want to tap into that even more to help expand it as well as have everyone working together," said Wael Fakharany, Google Egypt's country manager.

Mattos mentioned that currently there are challenges being faced by users in the region, such as lack of high quality content, expensive DSL and mobile access and the popularity of forums that are currently unstructured.

These challenges and more are what Mattos hopes Google can help improve while making the content and features more locally relevant and useful.

"Our mission here includes relevance, sustainability and embracing," said Mattos, expanding on the adaptation of global products to this region, educational outreach and enriching the user experience among others.

With Arabic being one of the top 10 languages in search, Google has adapted by offering all their services in the language, including translation, Google chrome, Gmail and Google maps.

According to Mattos, investing in education is also important to Google, which is why the company currently has many university outreach programs throughout the country, including Nile University, the American University in Cairo, Alexandria University and the German University in Cairo.

In the MENA region, there are approximately 350 million people with currently about 60 million online users (15-20 percent).

"There is a fast paced growth currently of online users in MENA and Google is right there to keep up with it, which is why we are always improving our services," said Ari Kesisoglu, regional manager of the MENA region for Google.

According to Kesisoglu, the MENA region has a 6 percent GDP growth rate versus 3 percent globally.

"Google invests millions per year [in] this region to help accommodate the growth taking place and expanding our services," Kesisoglu added.

In addition to the millions invested annually in the region, Kesisoglu explained that Google has made a deal with the Egyptian government that will comprise of the company investing $2.5 million into the region.

As part of the agreement, the Egyptian government will be investing $10 million through Google in advertising spending.

The money may be utilized in various ways, such as improving the current infrastructure or aiding small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in being more available online.

Kesisoglu also added that this is an important region where Google is making more content available for the users as well as offering more services to businesses.

Currently, Google provides free consultations to businesses in regards to advertising services to help those who already have a presence online as well as those who would like to start using the internet as a business tool.

At this time, Google offers services such as Google sites (website building), applications and Gmail as tools for businesses to take advantage of.

With Google being the favorite choice of users, Kesisoglu mentioned that Google has people all over the world working for Egypt, such as engineers in Zurich and sales in Dublin as well as those based within the country.

Google also recognizes the population of people who have not gotten involved in the online world and are developing ways to help with the transition.

Specific to this region, Google created Ahlan online, which is a program that is in Arabic and designed for new users to help them learn how to navigate the online world.

Also unique to this region is Ajamat, a forum board in Arabic that allows users to communicate about a broad range of topics, which was created after seeing the popularity of forums in the MENA region.

"We are committed to investing in users in this region and the ecosystem for long term results," said Kesisoglu.

© Daily News Egypt 2010


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