Elzje and I really enjoyed spending time with Bridgette. What was intended to be a interview for the blog ended up being one of the most enjoyable lunches we had in a very long time. Bridgette is one of those interesting and engaging people that make you want to explore new ideas and possibilities.
Google has a reputation of only employing the best and brightest, and Bridgette is proof of that.
For the better part of two hours we chatted with Bridgette, and afterwards I realized that I have very little interview wise to work with, but a wealth of information. And excitement for geekdom in Africa.
Below follows a loose transcript of something every aspiring geek should do at least once, lunch with Bridgette:?
Geek At A Glance
Personal OS: MacOS X
Laptop: Macbook – best for the battery life.
Cellphone: Nexus One
Do You Still Carry a Notebook and Pen?: I have a thought journal where I write interesting little snippets of my day in.
Did You Know Factoid: I came to Africa the first time with just a backpack on my back.
What do you think is the main barrier to Internet Access in Africa?
Cost and content. In many countries in Africa getting Internet Access is expensive. In many other countries it is surprisingly cheap. In Senegal, for instance, the price is somewhere around $50 per mg bandwidth, where in other countries it can be in the thousands of dollars.
Then there is content. Content is a huge driver. For many Africans access to the web is not yet compelling enough – we are seeing many get on line to use sites like Facebook or banking but still there are not significant local pulls.
Facebook has arguably been one of the top factors why Africans are getting on line. There needs to be more content though that is locally appealing, that talks to the space, people, entertainment and world around each of us.
Content must be relevant and engaging, for the majority, the web is still a read-only experience.
Is this where gAfrica comes in?
Google’s G-days are all about showing people how cool the technology is. A lot of it is about inspiring people.
It is distilling the reservation for people to try and fail.
So Google invests in the community?
Well, Google has released more than 20million lines of source code. We want to build technology with the community so that people can use it.
What other problems face Internet adoption in Africa
Businesses tend to avoid the local market, and there is not enough hands-on education. They need to realize that you can do whatever you want with it, you have the potential right there.
What is next for G Africa?
Well we are doing gSouth Africa in November this year, and then hopefully we’ll return next year potentially to Johannesburg. We also want to hit other large markets outside of the six countries that have held g-days.
What struck me about Bridgette was that she was not philosophically removed from what she does, When you speak to her she refers to Google as ‘us’ ans ‘we’ and she has a clear passion for Africa and its people.
One quote neatly sums up how she approaches giving tools to Africans to improve their livelihood:
‘I don’t want to own the technology or the community but rather inspire and be a part of it.’
Thanks Bridgette, see you at gSouth Africa.
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