Baraza operates on a Points basis. You get 20 points for signing up, and 4 points each day you log in. If you are already logged into your Google account, there isn’t actually any signup process. Your name and photo from your Google profile are automatically used, although you can change your username and avatar if you like.
Asking a question costs 5 points, and you earn 5 points for choosing a “best answer" for your question, so you can use the service on an ongoing basis without needing to answer any questions, although you are awarded extra points if you do.
The interface is clean and minimal. It loaded fast for me. I posted an easy question, and got a prompt and correct answer with a reference URL attached. You can subscribe to individual questions or to “labels” (topics), and there are basic social functions based around a list of other users that you follow.
Baraza is a Swahili word, usually translated as council but with meanings that encompass task force, gathering or problem-solving meeting.
Officially, Google baraza is targeted to Africa. On the launch day Aneto Okonkwo, a member of the Google baraza team, wrote:
“I am a member of the Google Baraza team. One of Google’s goals in Africa is to make the internet more locally relevant and bring more people online. One of the challenges of the internet in Africa is that there is a lack of local content online. At Google, we find that users search for information about local businesses, entertainment, health, etc but often don’t find it because the information is not yet available online. In order to help bring more local content online, Google engineers have created Baraza to allow people in countries across Africa to ask questions and post answers to questions from others.”
However, it’s hard to see how this is not a world-wide service. All you need to have in order to participate is a Google account, from any country.
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