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.