InnovateAFRICA, a fund for digital journalism experimentation, has chosen 22 digital projects for $1-million in seed grants and technology support.
World Bank, Ford Foundation, Google NewsLab and Huffington Post are among the members of the jury who chose the winning projects.
The winning projects were chosen for trying to solve local problems using technology that have the potential to be scaled globally, according to Code for Africa. These include finding innovative ways to use bots, drones and sensors to improve journalism. They use technology to tackle issues ranging from frontline war reporting to fake news.
The fund is managed by Code For Africa, providing kickstarter funding to digital journalism pioneers. Code for Africa operates CitizenLabs across the continent to help fast-track digital transformation in newsrooms and social justice organisations.
The 22 projects were selected from 736 applicants in 49 African countries. Each proposal underwent a two-month technical review process. The 73 strongest ideas were evaluated by a jury of international experts.
Each project will receive seed grants of $12,500 to $100,000.
“We’ve selected some of the brightest innovators in this space to experiment with leapfrog technologies, but the real focus is to help teams build real-world solutions to real-world problems that can immediately be adopted and scaled by mainstream media companies and civil society,” said Justin Arenstein, innovateAFRICA founder, in a prepared statement.
Arenstein is a veteran South African investigative journalist and media entrepreneur. He’s recognized internationally as an expert in data-driven journalism and related new media technologies, according to the International Center for Journalists.
“The world is facing challenging political and socio-economic realities. We need the media and other civic watchdogs to provide the checks and balances needed to help us navigate an uncertain future,” said Ory Okolloh, juror and director of investments for Africa for Omidyar Networks. Okolloh co-founded the Ushahidi crowdmap platform, along with a string of other ‘hacktivist’ initiatives.
The winning projects include ways to report in hard-to-access places using drones, sensors or satellites; and new ways to harness artificial intelligence and web robots for improved news gathering and audience engagement. Several projects attempt to improve visual storytelling in Africa, combining cartoon illustrations with viral video techniques, data visualisations and immersive storytelling that includes 360-degree and virtual reality imagery, according to Code For Africa.
“These projects represent exciting new approaches to tackling the challenges that face today’s media, both in Africa and around the world,” said Jerri Eddings, a juror and senior program director at the International Center for Journalists. “The increasing threat of fake news is particularly troubling because it undermines the free flow of credible information that underpins modern societies. We need innovative solutions to such problems … innovateAFRICA has surfaced so many creative ideas for facing these challenges.”
InnovateAFRICA’s partners include Omidyar Network, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the CFI, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF), the Global Editors’ Network (GEN) and the World Bank.
These are the winning projects, in their own words. Click through for a full list of names of the people and organizations who chose them to receive funding.
“Government gazettes are a goldmine of actionable information. We will liberate Nigeria’s gazettes by digitising and turning them into structured searchable data for free access by journalists, activists and business users.”
“We will tackle fake news and ‘post-fact’ information in the news reportage by creating a journalist-sourced verification information network integrated directly into social media platform timelines.”
“We will pioneer rapid-deployment news gathering tools using Facebook/SMS-based chat-bots, that will help journalists quickly collect opinion data and eyewitness accounts though polls and surveys.”
“Much of Africa is still offline. Outernet will harness satellite and radio technologies to broadcast digital news and interactive data journalism content to rural audiences in Africa who don’t have traditional Internet coverage.”
“We will build West Africa’s first data-driven platform that uses parliamentary records and investigative research to strengthen citizen oversight of elected politicians and Parliament itself.”
“Mainstream media is out of touch with grassroots communities. We will build on our popular petition and community mobilisation tools to create a crowdsourced ‘PR Wire’ service that alerts mainstream broadcast and print media about mass events (pickets, marches, protests) by grassroots communities.”
“Africa is awash in unverified data. We will further develop AfricaCheck’s ‘info finder’ tool by expanding the number of pre-verified data sources to help media and the public to check claims.”
“We will create South Africa’s first geo-data tools and journalism for checking the safety/ health rating of your local hospital or clinic, based on official government audits or inspection results.”
“We will establish Africa’s first Graphic Journalism hub for visual storytelling, using graphic novel/comic animations, to produce news as mobile-optimised social video and graphic novels for multiple African media partners.”
“We will transform the well-established African Defence Review (ADR) into an African version of Bellingcat that uses satellite images and other digital ‘open intelligence’ sources to shine a light on African war zones and the murky economies that fund conflict.”
“We will launch East Africa’s first online portal for Freedom of Information (FOI) requests in Kenya to help journalists and citizens use new access to information legislation to create high-impact public interest stories.”
“We will use our proven expertise at creating viral audiences around social video to build an African version of Buzzfeed/Vice that combines hard-hitting journalism with video-first formats.”
“We live in a globally connected world. But we do not understand it, and it scares us. DollarStreet will expand its use of photos as data to show how people on same income level live very similar lives across Africa and the globe.”
“We will create Africa’s first interactive site for journalists and media organisations to disclose their interests to help combat conflicts of interest and to help fact-checkers identify credible media professions in their fight against fake news.”
“We will create a citizen science network in Durban’s shantytowns that uses air and water quality sensors to boost data-driven science journalism and real-time civic activism, through a network of clubs at schools and civic labs for adults.”
“We will implement a cloud-based workflow system and collaborative workbench for the regional PesaCheck fact-checking network to improve news verification in three East African countries.”
“We will digitize the existing AfriCartoons archive of 1,000s of news cartoons and will redevelop our existing fanbase of 400,000 people on Facebook to supply African online audiences with ready-made and bespoke graphic content: editorial cartoons, comics, animations, caricatures, illustrations, and line-drawn infographics.”
“We will develop an easy-to-use sensor journalism starter-kit for small-to-medium sized African newsrooms, that will include hardware/software, to help journalists establish their first ‘citizen data’ projects.”
“We will establish Africa’s first investigative sensor journalism initiative, installing underwater microphones along Tanzania’s coast to track and map explosions from dynamite fishing in real-time, supported by camera drones to speedily identify and track boats involved in the explosions.”
“We will bring Quartz’s chart-building and data visualisation platform, Atlas, to newsrooms and organizations across Africa for free, and will build a database of Africa-focused data sources and visualisation templates to make data journalism more accessible.”
“We will establish Africa’s first drone journalism hub, in Tanzania, as the basecamp for the continent wide africanDRONE community of certified drone journalists, mappers, and story-tellers.”
“We will build an open source newsbot to help African news organisations deliver personalized news and engage more effectively with audiences via messaging platforms.”
1.) Jerri Eddings: International Center for Journalists (ICFJ)
2.) Mohamed Nanabhay: Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF)
3.) Ferial Haffajee: Huffington Post (South Africa)
4.) Taiwo Kola-Ongunlade: Google NewsLab
5.) Ory Okolloh: Omidyar Networks
6.) Azubuike Ishiekwene: Global Editors Network (GEN)
7.) Toby Shapshak: Stuff magazine
8.) Antoine Laurent: Fonds Pour l’innovation Numérique de la Presse (FINP)
9.) Samir Abdelkrim: StartupBRICS.com
10.) Florent Youzan: Agence Française de Coopération Médias (CFI Médias)
11.) Fatoumata Niang Niox: Jokkolabs Senegal
12.) Wilfried Rütten: European Journalism Centre (EJC)
13.) Craig Hammer: World Bank (Global Media Programme)
14.) Rosemary Okello-Orlale: Ford Foundation
15.) Nasr ul Hadi: ICFJ India
16.) Anthony Wafula: HiVOS East Africa
17.) Juliana Rotich: Africa Tech Ventures
18.) Sameer Padania: Macroscope