The speed with which the Internet is developing in Africa is amazing. Often driven by mobile networks, it has made the web accessible in many countries at genuinely affordable prices. The Economist says:

Google can take a lot of the credit. The American search-and-advertising colossus may even be the single biggest private-sector influence on Africa.

The article goes on to list a selection of Google’s achievements including: breaking state monopolies on maps; enabling Africans to read papers from other countries online and translating them when necessary; helping governments digitize information and make it widely available, as well as entertaining the continent through YouTube.

Yet critics complain that Google is buying up enormous amounts of virgin digital land in Africa at virtually no cost. Within a couple of decades, without the regulatory oversight of the African Union or African governments, they say, Africa’s internet life will be almost entirely in hock to the Google giant. Even the company’s decision to go slow on seeking profits from Africa by offering cheap deals has been attacked by African would-be rivals, which say that such tactics are only extending Google’s unfair advantage.

Sometimes, it seems, it is hard not to be evil, or at least to be perceived as being benign.


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