Google's Iraq tour of duty

Thursday - 10/28/2010, 1:43pm EDT

A team from Google and YouTube spent a week in Iraq to understand Internet access in the country and the potential of digitally-assisted government transparency, Fast Company reports.

The trip was organized by the Defense Department's Task Force for Business and Stability Operations.

As part of its experiment in e-government, the Google/YouTube team solicited questions from Iraqis and others and brought the top-voted questions to Iraqi leaders, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The interview was conducted and broadcast by news agency Al Arabiya.

However, Internet penetration remains low in the country, as low as 1 percent or as high at 8 percent, according to the Google blog. Only 15 percent of Iraqis said they use the Internet at all, and some may be paying as much as $150 a month for a 512kb connection.

There are signs of progress: Mobile penetration as increased to 70 percent from about almost zero seven years ago.

The Google/YouTube team concluded, "The Iraqis we met consistently expressed their desire for increased access to the web and for more access to content and tools in both Kurdish and Arabic. We believe access to information and high-speed connectivity to the cloud will be key to the future of the country."

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