Google Baraza: Q&A for Africa

There’s a new service coming out from Google, tentatively called “Baraza”, which is the term used for meeting place in Swahili. It’s a service focused on creating ways for Africans to interact and share knowledge by asking and answering questions, many of them hyper local, or of regional interest only.

Google Baraza is accepting alpha testers right now, you can sign up to try out the new service at this link.

Q&A websites like Baraza aren’t new, perhaps the best known one is Yahoo! Answers which has been phenomenally successful. Even the other, smaller sites have a lot of traction. There isn’t a Q&A site focused on Africa, and that is the niche that Google is working to fill.

Why?

Simple really, Google has a vested interest in seeing more African content coming online. More African content means more Africans engaging with the open internet, more information to organize and more search queries.

There are already millions of Africans with Google accounts, and that’s a good thing, they’re going to need it. Q&A sites need critical mass on both the questions and answers sides of the equation. Yahoo! Answers being the top Q&A site has shown that a large member base gives you the edge. It takes a lot of people answering and asking to make it work. Of course, this isn’t new to Google, three years ago they launched something similar for Russia.

I talked to the Google Baraza product manager yesterday to find out a few more things before I wrote this. They’re accepting a limited number (100) of signups right now, and alpha testing will begin shortly.

Right now Baraza is firmly rooted in the PC space – that is, you need a computer to access it. However, we already know that mobile phone access to the internet trumps PC access to the internet in Africa, so that leaves me wondering when they will create at least a mobile web (WAP) access as well?

Regardless of the mobile side, this is a good idea that could make a large impact if they can get African users involved.

10 thoughts on “Google Baraza: Q&A for Africa

  1. The Google guys definitely have a plan for t:e African continent. They’re trying all sorts of things to draw Africans and African SMEs onto the net. I suspect they’d have interests in services like Mocality.com that have successfully managed to bring over 60,000 small businesses in Nairobi online.

  2. Mwangi says:

    Google needs to stop treating Africa the way too many other foreigners do. We are distinct countries with diverse languages and market situations. Answers for Kenya are different from answers for Uganda or South Africa or Egypt. Africa tech is grown beyond this particular Google idea

    • @Mwangi – from my understanding it’ll be released in English and French at first. I don’t see any reason why they couldn’t put their own translation software into practice to make it usable in a few of the other big ones (Swahili, etc).

      Each country in Africa is too small of a market to go after all alone. Companies like Google need to go after a continent at the least. Scale matters for them, or it’s just not interesting enough to put resources into. In fact, most of their pushes are global, and not localized. I was surprised to hear that they were doing something like Baraza focused just on Africa.

  3. @HASH – Thanks for the post. We really appreciate it

    @Mwangi – Thanks for the feedback. I fully agree with you. I am a member of the Google Baraza team. Every country in Africa is distinct. Our focus is to make the Internet and Google services as relevant as possible to users in every country. Recent launches include Gmail in Swahili and Amharic, YouTube in South Africa, Google Search in Wolof, etc. The majority of this work is led out of our offices in Nairobi and across the region through partnerships with local content owners and amazing volunteers who are experts in their languages and communities.

    With Google Baraza, the goal is to have answers for Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Senegal and all other countries. The challenge/opportunity is to build a passionate community of knowledgeable experts from every country who are willing to share their knowledge with others.
    With Google Baraza, the goal is to have answers for Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Senegal and all other countries. The challenge/opportunity is to build a passionate community of knowledgeable experts from every country who are willing to share their knowledge with others.

  4. Well, I personally think Google’s move is a positive one. Our (African) ultimate goal is to have a United States of Africa so as to have a stronger voice at the global level. Therefore, this is going to be just one front among several others. It’s an opportunity that we (Africans) can utilize to our own best uses. Yes, answers for Kenya are not necessarily for Cameroon, nor those for Tanzania for Egypt, for instance. Still we can draw experiences and lessons even from information/knowledge that is not directly related to our situations … by trying to understand others’ situations we may ‘see’ answers to our own situations. So, I think it is a very good move. Let’s support it in whichever ways/means we can. Karibu BARAZA.

  5. I thought Google Trader in Uganda was better approach am I reading this right in there is no non-web access? hello? anyone home? next 2 us has that now http://next2.us. mobile soon: http://m.next2.us and sms in usa by text “next2 reg name location” to 95495 from your mobile phone and you get page htt://next2.us/user_name to send and receive text messages from your private 95495 @ name. Try it http://hungrygarden.typepad.com. I really applaud what the Google Team has done and is doing. I see a real dedication to trying things new. There is plenty of room and opportunity for all kinds of models and solutions to work and not work. I believe next 2 us “near-time” processing via sms text message through API will allow developers like google and others to reach hitherto untapped market of 1 billion

  6. Ijale Oluwatosin says:

    Hello,
    I ve a project to execute. which i need a team player can i can work with any body who is interested , should via through email.
    Best Regards

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