The International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, has emerged as one of the media organisations whose projects were selected to get support from the innovateAFRICA fund to pursue modern journalism innovations.
The project “OpenGazettes” which would be carried out by icirnigeria.org and another Nigerian media outfit, AfriLII, is aimed at digitising and turning government gazettes into structured searchable data for free access by journalists, activists and business users.
22 digital projects were selected for a $1 million support in seed grants and technology to tackle issues as diverse as fake news and frontline war reporting, as well as innovative ways for watchdog media to use ‘bots, drones and sensors to improve their reportage.
The projects were selected from 736 applications from across 49 African countries, with each proposal undergoing an intensive two-month technical review process that concluded this February with a final evaluation of the 73 strongest ideas by an independent jury of international experts.
One of the jurors, Ory Okolloh, who is also the director of investments for Africa at Omidyar Networks noted that “the world is facing challenging political and socio-economic realities” and as such, the media and other civic watchdogs must “provide the checks and balances needed to help us navigate an uncertain future.”
“It has therefore been fantastic to see not just the superb quality and range of entries, but also the diversity of ideas and collaboration that innovateAFRICA has fostered across the region,” she said.
Founder of innovateAFRICA, Justin Arenstein, speaking on the announcement of the winning projects said: “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.”
Also speaking, Jerri Eddings, a juror and senior program director at the International Centre for Journalists, ICFJ, said that “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, and it is heartening to see that innovateAFRICA has surfaced so many creative ideas for facing these challenges.”
The 22 innovateAFRICA projects will spend the next month refining their implementation plans and budgets, before receiving seed grants of between $12,500 and $100,000 each along with engineering support from Code for Africa’s civic technology labs across the continent, and business development and other strategic mentorship from global experts at the Media Development Investment Fund and Global Editors Network.
Another of the winning projects is ‘NewsBot’ by Nigerian newspaper, Punch and Kenya’s Atchai, which intends to “pioneer rapid-deployment news gathering tools using Facebook /SMS based chat-bots, that will help journalists quickly collect opinion data and eyewitness accounts through polls and surveys.”
Though only 22 projects qualified for seed funding, innovateAFRICA will also help the other 51 shortlisted projects explore alternate funding, industry partnerships and community-driven collaboration.
innovateAFRICA is currently the largest fund for digital journalism experimentation in Africa, and is managed by Code for Africa, as part of the International Center for Journalists, ICFJ, wider data journalism initiative in Africa.
Other partners include Omidyar Network, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the CFI, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Media Development Investment Fund, the Global Editors’ Network and the World Bank.