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Google fights information poverty in Africa

Google fights information poverty in Africa

Google on Monday said that it had launched a new suite of mobile applications for SMS users in Uganda.

Africa has the world's highest mobile phone growth rate, according to the International Telecommunications Union, and mobile phone penetration there is six times higher than Internet penetration.

To better serve local needs in communities where mobile phones represent the dominant form of computing and communication technology, Google has adapted some of its online information services to work with SMS messaging.

"We seek to serve a broad base of people -- not only those who can afford to access the Internet from the convenience of their workplace or with a computer at home," said Rachel Payne, Google's country manager for Uganda, in a blog post.

Google SMS consists of Tips, Search, and Trader.

Google SMS Tips provides health information and clinic location assistance to mobile phone users. It also provides agricultural and weather information to farmers.

Google SMS Search lets mobile phone users access information related to current events, sports, stocks, flights, and word definitions, just like Google's Internet search engine functions.

And Google SMS Trader attempts to provide a way to sell goods and services through an SMS-driven marketplace. The goal of this service is to help eliminate market access barriers in rural areas.

Google worked with the Grameen Foundation, MTN Uganda and several local organizations to develop and test these applications.

"We believe it's important to reach users wherever they are, with the information they need most, and in areas with the greatest information poverty," said Payne.

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