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Google continues push into Africa with free Gchat texts for Senegal

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(Read caption) At left, a Google home page as it appears in Senegal.

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How do you say "I'm feeling lucky" in Senegal's main local language, Wolof?

Amna weurseuk. They're words that technocrats at Google Inc. may be memorizing now that, as of last week, the search engine has made its entry into the West African nation's mobile phone network.

The former French colony is now the second country in Africa, following Ghana, where cellphone users can text an SMS to a Gchat account and receive a response for free.

Google Senegal is currently in the official state language of French, but only 20 percent of the nation speaks it, while about 80 percent knows Wolof.

But maybe you ask: How many Gchatters can even be here in Senegal, an agrarian society where only 4 out of 10 adults are fully literate?

Actually, quite a lot, according to the World Bank. The institution recently released a report estimating that 85 percent of Senegal has "real Internet access," which makes it the highest percentage in West Africa.

Moreover, the Bank found that new legislation to demonopolize the country's high-speed cable networks could send typical Internet fares plummeting by as much as 65 percent, lowering the cost of high-speed Internet access closer to the populist price of a pre-paid phone – and potentially making telecom kingmakers out of previously established firms like Google.


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