22 Pioneering Digital Media Projects Getting Paid To Tell Africa’s Stories And Hold Governments Accountable

Written by Dana Sanchez

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.

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About Dana Sanchez
Dana Sanchez was born in South Africa and is a U.S. citizen. After working in advertising, she went back to school and earned a master's degree in journalism from the University of South Florida. As a business writer, she won regional and national writing awards. As editor of a daily newspaper, she coordinated staff writers, freelancers and photographers in the fast-paced environment of daily news. Dana was an editor at Moguldom Media Group for four years, helping to build and manage a team of staff and freelance writers. She works now on Moguldom.com for Nubail Ventures. A long-distance hiker and cyclist, she writes about the business of technology.