Google Inc. (GOOG) Connecting Nigeria Through Text Messaging

Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) has been providing some significant outreach as it grows its technological footprint. But sometimes, a tech company like this just needs to take a step back to the last century in order to meet consumers where they are before bringing them forward to the significant universal community that current technology brings about.

Sergey Brin

The latest example of this comes in sub-Saharan Africa in several third-world countries which are also emerging markets. In Nigeria, for example, where landlines are virtually nonexistent after the collapse of the state-run telephone company, Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) is utilizing the burgeoning mobile phone market to provide those users with access to their e-mails through text messaging. In terms of technology and its advances over the last decade, a text-messaging service is pretty low-tech, but it has been welcomed as a communication vehicle for many Nigerians.

And for Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG), this hasn’t been about making money through its advertising – as most of its advertising shows up on its search results – which Nigerians generally don’t have access to the Internet. Google Ads have not had much impact in Nigeria, as many businesses in the country don’t have Web sites, and many of those who do have a Web presence do not offer services online – the sites are mainly online billboards.

“We don’t want to just come in and start looking for how to generate profit,” said Affiong Osuchukwu, Nigeria marketing manager for Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG). “We consider (sub-Saharan Africa) to be an investment region. We know we have to invest resources and time to develop the market in order for the market to become valuable to us in a way that we can do business.”

The Nigeria market is about 160 million people – the most populous country on the continent. It is estimated that about 44 million Nigerians have access to the Internet, with more than half of them accessing it via a mobile phone. Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) is offering Nigerians access to messages in their Gmail account for free via text message, and they can replay to those e-mails for just the cost of sending a text message (just a few cents apiece). This is a small step to getting and keeping Nigeria connected with the rest of the world, but Google’s efforts likely may pay off down the road – and this investment may likely bode well for investors in Google stock, including hedge-fund managers like Chase Coleman of Tiger Global Management LLC.