How committed is Google to digital inclusion?

How committed is Google to digital inclusion?
Google headquarters in Mountain View, California (photo credit: Getty Images)

Google is one of the most reputable global tech companies delivering digital solutions to over 1 billion users. In some countries like the United States, Google Home, an application, is used to power domestic activities. Of course, the experience has been nightmarish each time the company’s server breaks.

In Africa and in South Sudan in particular, most services from Google are either unreliable or not available at all. It’s almost unimaginable that an African household is powered by the Google Home AI. YouTube, a video streaming subsidiary of Google delivers two premium services (YouTube TV and YouTube Premium).

YouTube TV is only available in the United States while YouTube Premium is restricted from many countries, especially those in Africa. The citizens there have no option but to consume YouTube’s standard services.

From South Sudan, if a user attempts to access YouTube TV, a notification shows up. “It looks like you’re outside of the United States. YouTube TV is only available in the US.”

Equally, an attempt to sign up for YouTube Premium will be greeted by a screen message “YouTube Premium is not available in your country”.

But Google says its products are “built for everyone” in reiteration to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

In its 2021 Diversity Report, the Sundar Pichai-led organization explicitly states that “Google is committed to continuing to make diversity, equity, and inclusion part of everything we do—from how we build our products to how we build our workforce.”

So, why does such a bold claim not reflect in the geolocation service delivery by the Silicon Valley-based tech giant, especially in Africa?

First, Google says it is mandated to comply with sanctions imposed by the United States Office of Assets Control (OFAC). Because of this, services like Google Ads, for example, are made unavailable to advertisers in sanctioned or embargoed countries.

Truly, Google has a point to make in the aforementioned policy but subscribing to OFAC regulatory framework draws complexity on the definition of targeted sanctions as those unsanctioned are unfairly brushed by the dreadful impact of service restrictions from Google. This restrictive policy is just but a tip of the iceberg.

The second and arguably the main reason why many African countries are excluded from the world of Googlers is the global infrastructure laydown of the tech giant.

A look at the current Google Cloud network infrastructure indicates that the entire African continent does not have a single region with Google’s zone. To be precise, there’s no Google’s data centre in Africa.

While continents like Asia, Europe, and America have more than three zones each, Africa only has three End Points of Presence, the paths through which Google’s network infrastructure passes.

This deliberate connectivity exclusion makes access to full Google services in many African countries a tremendous struggle, hence contradicting the claim of commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.  

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