Google's new African outreach

The latest Google press release isn't about a new Google Earth add-on or an advertising acquisition: rather, it sounds like it came from the Gates Foundation. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company has announced two separate partnerships with organizations in two African countries, the Rwandan Ministry of Infrastructure in Kigali, Rwanda; and the non-governmental Kenya Education Network in Nairobi, Kenya. Google's goal is to provide free access to its Google Apps software suite to students in both countries as well as to government officials in Rwanda.

In Kenya, when the program is instituted, the 50,000 students at Kenya's University of Nairobi will have access to the Google Apps for Education package. That will eventually be expanded to a total of 150,000 students at other Kenyan universities. In Rwanda, the Google outreach program will be available initially at the National University of Rwanda, the Kigali Institute for Education, and the Kigali Institute for Science and Technology in addition to government agencies.

Google Apps, the suite of hosted applications that includes Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar, and Google Docs & Spreadsheets, is free for individual users. But with its new outreach projects in Kenya and Rwanda, which will be connected to the universities' and Rwandan government's own domains, Google will be taking care of many of the back-end operations that make the software more difficult to implement on the part of a business or organization.

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