Google has (lightly) funded a competition for the creation of Wikipedia pages in Kiswahili by university students in Tanzania and Kenya. (First place for most entries gets a laptop.) Why this sudden interest and largesse? Because Google's in a race against Bing for most eyeballs, and there are a few million Internet users in Sub-Saharan Africa who might -- if they aren't multilingual university students, for example -- look for information in Kiswahili. This is out of about 100 million Kiswahili speakers.
“Our algorithms are primed and ready to give you the answer you are looking for, but the pipeline of information just isn’t there,” said Gabriel Stricker, Google’s spokesman on search issues. “The challenge for searches in many languages for us no longer is search quality. Our ability to get the right answer is hindered by the lack of quality and lack of quantity of material on the Internet.”
The "right answer," just to be clear, might be accurate and true, but it must be in a language that's appropriate for the searcher. Students quoted in the article have posted the same information to both the English and the Kiswahili Wikipediae, but at least one English version has been earmarked for removal if citations aren't added.
But the question unanswered by the Times reporter, Noam Cohen, is how creating a specific page on the World Wide Web confers advantage on Google and not on Bing. Aren't they both crawling the same Internet? Is Bing less poly-lingual? I dunno.