MUMBAI: Google has quietly released a new app, currently only available in beta in Mumbai, which aims to help people find the answers to their questions about their immediate neighbourhood.

The app – called Neighbourly – forms part of the work of Google’s Next Billion Users (NBU) team, which is dedicated to getting more people online.

“Getting trustworthy hyperlocal information is tough,” said Josh Woodward, a group product manager on the NBU team. “We chose Mumbai as it has 20 million people, from all over the world and speaking multiple languages,” he told the Economic Times.

Mumbai first, but the team has also spent time understanding people’s lives in Mathura, Hyderabad, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Bengaluru, where the app is expected to be rolled out in coming weeks.

The app, which is a combination of local discovery and community, enables users to ask a question about their neighbourhood – e.g. which is the safest park for my kids in the area? – and have it answered by other local people, who can be expected to have up-to-date and relevant information. Questions and answers can be voiced, with the app working in eight Indian languages as well as English.

The Next Billion Users initiative is not an altruistic one, as the more people are online, the more data Google can harvest and sell to brands for use in product innovation and advertising.

“Those earning as low as $2 a day, spend that on something, say soap,” pointed out Vivek Wadhwa, Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School. “If Google can give data on what soap 30 million poor people use, it will be a goldmine for companies such as Lever.”

Not only that, but marketing can become more efficient. “At present, about one-third of the digital ads market is going to waste due to poor targeting,” noted Raman Kalra, entertainment, media and sports advisory leader at PwC India.

“If you have better data, returns can improve. As the user base scales to 1 billion in India, there are multiple ways to monetise — advertise, cross sell, market data.”

Sourced from Economic Times, Deccan Chronicle; additional content by WARC staff