Today all the Google Apps administrators of the free edition received the message that this service will be discontinued. As Google wrote to us:

Starting today, we’re no longer accepting new sign-ups for the free version of Google Apps (the version you’re currently using).

… upgrade to Google Apps for Business … for just $5 per user, per month.

This message marks the end of Google Apps in Africa, at least for the moment. In the first place, $5 per month / user is money most of the small start up businesses and local NGO’s will not spend because they do not want to engage in recurrent costs. It is already hard enough for these small organisations to come by and they are hesitant to get in these commitments. Secondly, and maybe even more important, most of the small organisations in Africa do not have access to international (credit-card) payments. Only through ‘middleman structures’ they are able to pay for the services like Google Apps. This has excluded organisations in Africa already from so many of the benefits of the internet and Google Apps is now added to this list.

Over the years we have assisted a number of starting organisations in Africa and Asia to set-up their first reliable and personalised access to the internet. The technology is easy to use and enables the transition from a individual hotmail / Yahoo! addresses to a company email address and website. Just a one day training and organisations were up and running and the user/administrators ready to maintain their own website and email ‘server’. No more reliance on half-baked or expensive local services. That is appropriate technology!

We regret this step of Google and we wonder whether they understand the impact of their decision for development. We hope that Google will reconsider and make an exception for small organisations low income countries.