Google yesterday announced a $5 million (about N750m) package of grants to institutions of higher learning in Africa. The gesture is designed to get more people using the Internet across the continent.

The company, with a search engine that connects millions of people around the world with daily information, said in a statement in Lagos yesterday that the package includes a number of significant individual grants including a $1.25 million (N187 million) grant to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory and a $500,000 (N75 million) grant to the Nigeria ICT forum, amongst others.

"The $500,000 grant has been made to support efforts in improving access to Internet infrastructure in tertiary education institutions in Nigeria," the statement added.

The Nigeria ICT Forum is an initiative of the Nigerian Caucus (a joint meeting of the Vice-Chancellors and ICT Coordinators) of six partnering Nigerian universities. Its mandate is to develop ICT-based capacity for strengthening Research and Higher Education Institutions (HEIs); facilitate and nurture collaboration between HEIs to cultivate a favourable policy environment; develop, utilise and sustain ICT networks, services and shared resources consistent with institutional roles as focus for development.

Lola Masha, business development manager at Google Nigeria said, "We are thrilled to be announcing a grant to the Nigeria ICT Forum which will help more Nigerian students access the internet and benefit from access to information. We also want to help bring the world's historical heritage online, and the internet offers new ways to preserve and share this information. Our grants for the Mandela and Tutu archives will give the global public an opportunity to engage with the history of some of the most extraordinary leaders of our time." The board secretary of the Nigeria ICT Forum, Nasir Bello, said, "We are delighted with the grant to Nigerian ICT Forum which supports our goals to nurture the building of vibrant e-communities through training, innovation and partnerships. It will support the efforts in developing the community around shared Internet infrastructure, greatly reducing cost and therefore barriers to affordable connectivity in tertiary educational institutions in Nigeria."

The statement by Google noted that the Nelson Mandela Centre Housed at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg, will help to preserve and give unprecedented digital access to thousands of archival documents, photographs, and audio-visual materials about the life and times of Nelson Mandela." It added that the grant "will assist in expanding the online Mandela archive and make it available to the global audiences, scholars and researchers in the future. In addition to significant audio-visual materials, the online multimedia archive will include Mr. Mandela's letters and correspondence with family, comrades and friends; prison diaries; and notes he made while leading the negotiations that led to the end of apartheid in South Africa."

A similar grant has also been made to the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre in Cape Town, for the documentation and digitization of Mr Tutu's archives, and an interactive digital learning centre.