Information is power - Google

2010-11-08 22:24
Cape Town - Information is power, and as it becomes more accessible to ordinary people, governments, particularly repressive ones, will find their power eroding, Google has said.

"Regimes stay in power by controlling information, and information is power.

"With more information, we are giving them (the people) a weapon they never had before," Google's deputy president of engineering, Nelson Mattos, told News24 on the sidelines of the G-South Africa conference in Cape Town.

Google's Voice Search and other services aimed at making the internet more accessible was launched at the conference, which targets mostly developers and entrepreneurs.

"In South Africa you see the digital divide quite clearly. It's (the difference) between two worlds. That's why companies like Google need a dual strategy to increase the number of users.

"That dual strategy has to do with population, of which about 10% is online... The question is: How do I get the other 90% online?

"At some point South Africa will be like any other country in the world" as far as the internet is concerned, he said.


Mattos, originally from Brazil, said increasing the number of internet users requires three thingss: access, relevance and sustainability.

"We're trying to make the internet more affordable and we're working with various providers. Content should be localised so that searches are relevant."

Given Africa's cost and access difficulties, Google is working to reduce obstacles to access, he said.

"We're working on products (aimed at) a high latency environment, and installing Google caches improves the user experience."

This means using multimedia products on the internet, like YouTube, for example, will have a lower data cost because the video is cached locally, rather than on servers in Europe.

"The internet has been evolving extremely rapidly and that has caused the population to evolve. There's a realisation that companies need to get better at educating the population" about the various aspects of the inernet


He cited the example of Street View, which came under fire in Germany over privacy concerns.

"Anyone can opt out of Street View, but in Germany it was the first time that people could opt out before it went live. And less than 3% of households chose to opt out. The media blew it out of proportion," Mattos said.

He hinted that the Google Chrome operating system would incorporate all Google features.

"All you need is a browser and we won't embed products in the Chrome OS. We need to keep it open so everyone can innovate."

Google's Voice Search enables users to search Google by speaking into cellphones, has already been built into the new LG Optimus One smart phone and is also automatically available on the Google Mobile App on any Android and iPhone device.

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