At the first Google for South Africa event earlier this month, City Press met a new googler – as they call themselves – who will be heading the tech giant’s business in sub-Saharan Africa.
Nitin Gajria has been at Google for more than five years and led the YouTube business in India, as well as Google’s teams in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.
He was appointed as director within the past four months, and Gajria is looking to build on what Google SA has done in the past 12 years and help fine-tune Africa’s technological future, as “what happens in Africa is important because the future of Africa is the future of humanity”.
Do you think Google will build a city, like other large corporations – and maybe call it Google City?
No, I don’t think that’s on the horizon. Absolutely not. We’re not in the business of building cities. The important thing is that we work with all cities, all towns and all villages, and figure out how we can be helpful to all of them.
Even though we branch out into different things, the mission is evergreen, and that’s what I love about Google – it’s about organising the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful.
Google has access to a lot of people’s information and data. Do you think there is a possibility that this information and data can be used to influence decision-making?
First of all, we take privacy very, very seriously. It is at the core of our values as a company.
Apart from that, it is just bad business to betray the trust of your users. It makes very little sense for us to do that. We’re highly conscious of privacy issues and giving our users full control of what data they put out there and what data they share, and giving them full control of their data.
What steps has Google taken to protect a user’s data, specifically regarding Google Assistant, and can this data be completely deleted?
Yes, you can actually log into your Google account and you can play around with the settings of what happens with the data, including deleting it.
I’m not a technical guy, so I don’t know what the exact technical security measures are, but I do know that the same kind of privacy and security principles that apply to our products also apply to Google Assistant.
When will we see products such as Pixel and Google Home in South Africa?
We are working on things that will affect many people. We’re constantly having conversations about opportunities to bring them in, but, at the same time, we also see merit in focusing on Google Station and how we get more people online through cheaper devices and better access, and how we help solve the challenges that we see on the education front.
We are having a lot of internal conversations.
What’s the relationship between Google and Huawei at the moment?
We are subject to certain US laws and what we are doing is making sure we abide by them. There is a different dynamic in Africa from that, but we’re always looking at ways to work with the larger tech community to further the agenda of getting more people access to the internet.
But I haven’t had any discussions yet, I’m just working to settle my family first.
What is your vision for the future?
I want to focus on three things: How we bring more Africans online; how we make our products more helpful to Africans in the African context; and how we work with local communities to unlock economic opportunities.