A year ago Google removed the restriction for Google Play and nearly a month ago, Google opened its Google Traffic feature for Iran. Maybe these kinds of features and services are usual for you and you’re probably used to it, but for the people living in Iran, this is totally a different story. Google is opening up to Iran and it’s just the start.
Google Traffic, First Encounter
It’s not like we didn’t have the traffic data in Iran. Municipal of Tehran started providing the traffic data a year ago on its website and after few months they launched the android app version for the mobile use. But as you can guess, It lacked in many ways so It didn’t go viral as it should have. So there was no useable and practical app for getting the traffic data. A month ago Google launched its Google Traffic for Iran. Many people in Iran are using Gmail, Google Play store and many other apps and services from google. When Google launched its Traffic service for Iran, many Tech news websites went on and covered this story.
The other advantage that Google Traffic has, is that It covers the whole country. The key element of google Traffic is it uses the user’s location as a source to estimate the traffic. So wherever there are enough users with internet access and smartphone, this feature would be available. With the fast development of mobile Internet and the expansion of the 3G and 4G technologies by mobile operators, and most importantly with 40 millions smartphones in the hands of Iranians, it seems that it was the best time for Google to launch its traffic feature.
Before Google Traffic, Iranians were able to only use the app from Municipal of Tehran and from some big screens on the highways to get the traffic data, and it was only the highways and not the streets. Most importantly this service was only for Tehran. The application from Municipal of Tehran is using the live feeds from cameras on the highways.
Operators would input the traffic data manually from the cameras so it’s not that accurate. You also can’t use it for every route that you want to take and it’s only the highways. The navigation system on the app is not good, so most people would probably go for Google Maps. Apart from the traffic data, Google Maps shows the closed or under construction routes too. This is the first time that people have this amount of information for navigating to their destinations.
You might think that it’s only the young tech savvy generation that are using Google Maps but you are wrong. By monitoring the comments on some of the websites that covered this news you can easily find out that many people from different backgrounds are using Google Maps. Mohammad is a taxi driver, “I was driving a lady to her destination and the lady told me to take this specific route because there is no traffic in that route. I looked it up in Google Maps, the lady was wrong and I took the route that google Maps offered,” commented Digiato’s news about Google Maps.
And this was just one comment in many comments in one news websites. It’s amazing that launching a single feature from google, can actually help and touch people’s lives in Iran. People in Iran are tech savvies with 40 millions smartphones and they really want to use these kind of services that maybe are so ordinary for people living outside of Iran.
Google and the restricted services for Iranians
Google has been limiting its services for Iranians in the past few years. Iranians not only have to deal with censorship, they have to deal with the restrictions that are applied from outside of Iran too. For a long time Iranians couldn’t even download apps from Google Play Store because of the sanctions. Imagine you couldn’t even sync your contacts on your Android phone and in order to do that you had to use VPNs (people use it to bypass the restriction). Nearly a year ago, Google opened up the Google Play Store to Iranians and solved the problem with contact synchronization. Google also restricts the access to many of its business services in Iran. Adsense, AdMob, Adwords, Google Apps, Google Developers, Wallet, My Business and Google Analytics are some examples of the restricted services. But with the sanctions being lifted, things are now changing so fast and Google is slowly preparing itself to remove the restrictions for Iranians.
By lifting the sanctions, Google could bring all of its services to Iran’s market and people can actually use these services without using VPNs. Just imagine how much possibilities would emerge if Google opens up its advertising platform for Iran. Possibilities are limitless with Iran opening its doors to foreign companies and sanctions being lifted. But I guess we should wait and see what would happen in the upcoming months.