Google is well known for snatching up top-level talent, this holds true in Kenya as well. ICT groundbreaker Joe Mucheru heads up the Kenya office, and he’s surrounded by a team of smart young technologists. I had the chance to meet Isis Nyong’o (Strategic Parter Development Manager) while getting ready for Barcamp Nairobi, and then Chris Kiagiri (Tech Lead) and Mark de Blois (Geographic Supervisor) last week before I left.
Google Kenya is Different
I found out a couple of interesting points that make the Google Kenya office even more interesting than before. It turns out that there are 3 offices in Africa; Kenya, South Africa and Egypt. However, the office in Kenya is neither a sales office nor an engineering office, which makes it unique globally. In fact, it is the only “deployment office” worldwide. This means that the Kenya office can be used as a launch point for new ideas and is the central focal point for Google’s Africa strategy.
It came down to a choice between Senegal and Kenya – one French-speaking and one English-speaking, and both with a fairly well developed technology sector. Senegal had a direct transatlantic cable, but Kenya had the right people available. At Google it seems, finding the right personnel usually trumps about everything else.
Speaking of which, they’re still looking for the right people, not only in Senegal, but also in Nigeria, Ghana, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. Unfortunately, Google HR seems to be geographically challenged, as jobs in Egypt are somehow not in Africa…
Dealing with a Slow Internet in Africa
The Google Global Cache (GGC) was announced in May at the African Network Operators Group (AFNOG) conference in Morocco. In lieu of data centers in Africa, Google has created a strategy that is housed at major exchange points to serve Africa at the edge of Google’s network. Internal tests suggested at least 20% performance increase in high latency links, like East Africa.
[The top cycle (1,2,3 & 4) is how things normally work. The bottom cycle (5,6 &7) is where the changes are.]
It works like this. Once anyone within that exchange point’s sphere visits a webpage, the information is cached and it becomes much faster for anyone else visiting that website to access it. Pre-fetching of data also that improves performance over time, even for dynamic content.
This is an interesting strategy. It’s a win for ISP’s (less international traffic means lower costs), a win for end users (pages load faster), and a win for Google (faster, better usage).
The pilot in Africa was turned on in Kenya just 2 weeks ago. There are 17 international exchange points (IXP) in 15 African nations, so with a positive pilot in Kenya, this could soon be seen continent-wide.
Keep your ears open, there are hints of even more interesting stuff coming out of the Google Kenya office.