Nelson Mattos, who has a PhD in Computer Science from University of Kaiserslautern, Germany, joined Google in 2007 and is credited for driving the success of the organisation’s products in the emerging markets. Mattos is responsible for all engineering and product development activities across the region, driving design, development and maintenance of search, client, Ads, and application products across Google’s Europe, Middle East and Africa, EMEA, research centres. At the recent Google launch of SMS products at the third edition of g|Nigeria – Google’s web and mobile conference, which held at the Civic Centre in Victoria Island; Mattos speaks to Arukaino Umukoro, staff writer, on Google’s drive towards expanding technological growth in the country through its products. Excerpt:
What is the significance of the newly launched Google Trader to Nigeria?
It is a product that allows traders and buyers to find themselves online. So a small business owner in Nigeria today, if they want to sell their services and goods, they are restricted mostly by the people that walk in front of their shops. If I sell shoes, the people that would buy it are those who walk in front of the window. With the Google Trader, that shop owner can actually post all the shoes that they have to sell and any user would be able to find those shoes online, pick up the phone, call the shop to reserve the shoe and pick it up at the end of the day. So the number of new customers, the market reach for the business owner increases dramatically. Users can take advantage of Google Trader in three ways. They can use their computer to search for Google Trader, or if you’re a business owner, you can use the telephone to go to Google Trader to look for an item. But for a simple user that has a voice and short message service, SMS-enabled phone, you can also interact with a trader by sending an SMS to 6007, with the key word ‘start’ to register. If you want to buy female shoes, you type ‘buy female black shoes, Lagos’ and you would receive via SMS the best five offerings that exist in Google Trader in Lagos right now for female black shoes. In those offerings, you have the price, the contact information of the person. Then you can call and buy the shoes. It’s done. It’s free to both the merchant and the user. Nobody pays anything to take advantage of it.
How well would you say the Getting Nigeria Business Online, GNBO, programme is doing and what is the plan for the future?
We expect the user, business owners that have no knowledge of the Internet today, to post their goods on Google Trader, to increase or expand the value of their revenue by creating a website so that people can find their businesses. For that, they would enrol in GNBO. The programme is doing very well. Within a few months, we have had more than 17,000 businesses come online. The programme is still on and we expect to have several thousands of businesses create their websites in the next few months. People can go to www.gnbo.com.ng and create a free website.
Over the years, Google has continued to push the frontiers of its core values; access, relevance and sustainability. Could you explain what these stand for and what it means to your organisation?
These three pillars I would say are the pieces of work that are necessary to eliminate the barriers that exist for people to leverage the Internet in sub-Saharan Africa. Way over 50 per cent of the continent’s population do not take advantage of the Internet, either because of the access barriers that exist; they don’t have a device that allows them to connect to the Internet, or they don’t have the means to pay for connectivity. So, the first set of initiative that we have is to eliminate that access barrier. The second is relevance. Sometimes, they have connectivity but they don’t have products that are meaningful to them. A good example is the introduction of Google Trader. The economy in this country, particularly the commerce stage, is supported by millions of small and medium-scale enterprises, SMEs, different from other parts(of the world where you have very large businesses and retailers that move the economy. These SMEs are not sophisticated. So they need a simple product to be able to sell their products online.
There are so many social networks already, why should one also join Google Plus?
You should join it because it is the best product; it is an urban social network. It is not a close environment or restricted to only those using the product that have access to the network. Google Plus is basically a reflection of social network across all the Google products. Google Plus gives you the ability to know more about celebrities by following them. Google Plus is integrated with all the other Google products like Gmail. Then, with Google Plus, you can watch video.
In terms of education, what is Google doing to help people especially in rural areas and those with less Internet penetration?
First of all, a lot of the products we are bringing here now provide SMS interface so that those in the rural areas with no Internet connectivity can still interact with the products via SMS. We have also expanded products like Google Plus, so that people in the rural areas can follow the celebrities and their friends via SMS. Obviously they would not be able to watch a video, but they would be able to see all the photos, comment and follow what the celebrities are saying. Another example is, I could sell agricultural products and post them on Google Trader using my SMS phone. In addition to that, Google has been working with other organisations to bring health related and agriculture-related products to the rural areas so that people can get information about weather, crops, disease, and things like that.
How does Google protect users’ data?
Users’ data sits within our data centre and is well protected both externally and internally. The users don’t have access to the data centre. Google employs the best security experts in the world, for example, in the history of Google, we haven’t had any breaches. In addition, Google has algorithms that actually look at the behaviour of the user and learn from that. So this is one of the reasons that we can notice if an email account has been hijacked because suddenly the behaviour of the user has changed dramatically.
In a nutshell, what is the purpose of g|Nigeria?
g/Nigeria is all about providing training to developers and business users in Nigeria, about Google technology and Internet technology as a whole. What we expect from this is that once they have learned, they (the developers) would be able to create applications and services that would be suitable for Nigeria. And obviously, business owners take advantage of technology to grow their businesses.