Winners of $1m in Grants Focus on Citizen Engagement, Investigative Tools and Whistleblower Security

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Twenty digital journalism projects have earned $1 million in funding and technical support as part of the African News Innovation Challenge (ANIC).

ANIC is the largest fund for digital journalism experimentation in Africa, and is designed to spur solutions to the business, distribution and workplace challenges that face the media industry.

A jury of 15 international media strategists, technology innovators, and funding experts evaluated more than 500 project plans before selecting winners from a shortlist of 40 projects. The winners were announced by ANIC manager Justin Arenstein in Kigali, Rwanda, on November 28, at the African Editors' Forum annual general meeting.

"Africa's media face some serious challenges, and each of our winners tries to solve a real-world problem that journalists are grappling with. This includes the public's growing concern about the manipulation and accuracy of online content, plus concerns around the security of communications and of whistleblowers or journalistic sources," says Arenstein, a Knight International Journalism Fellow, who manages ANIC as part of a wider digital innovation program with Africa's largest association of media owners and operators, the African Media Initiative (AMI).

"The other major theme evident in many of the 500 entries to ANIC is the realisation that the media needs better ways to engage with audiences. Many of our winners try tackle this, with projects ranging from mobile apps to mobilise citizens against corruption, to improved infographics to better explain complex issues, to completely new platforms for beaming content into buses and taxis, or even using drone aircraft to get cameras to isolated communities."

Other significant trends include efforts to improve newsroom workflow systems, and boost media revenues.

Winning projects will receive cash grants ranging from $10,000 to $100,000, plus additional technology support from a team of four full-time developers at AMI's jAccelerator lab in Kenya, and business development support from some of the world's top media strategists affiliated with the World Association of Newspapers & News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). Ten of the winners will also be flown to the Knight Foundation's annual M.I.T. Civic Media Conference in the US, while the rest will be showcased at other important industry events.

The projects have the potential to be replicated by media elsewhere in Africa, or to be scaled up across the continent, to create wide and sustained impact.

"Finding and supporting great ideas for improving news reporting was just one of our aims. A second equally important objective was to kickstart a pan-African community of news innovators and journalism technologists. We are thrilled that ANIC seems to have succeeded, connecting people from across the continent and the wider world to work on collaborative projects. We're already seeing skills and knowledge exchanges outside of ANIC," says AMI chief executive, Amadou Mahtar Ba. "We intend nurturing this new community through a series of other digital initiatives."

Peter Barron, Google's Director of External Relations for Europe, Middle East and Africa said "We want to see journalism flourish in the digital age in Africa and the African News Innovation Challenge has helped spur some really exciting projects from across the continent. We're looking forward to seeing these projects unfold and to working further with African journalists who are using technologies to gather and tell important stories."

ANIC's founding partners include Google, Omidyar Network, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the U.S. State Department, the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).

The 2012 winners are:

1.) actNOW - Ghana

A mobile application that empowers audiences to act on investigative reportage, by providing simple tools for citizens to organize themselves into civic action groups around issues reported by the media, or to petition government or corporations in response to journalistic exposés.

2.) AdBooker - South Africa

An open-source, streamlined workflow management system for planning and managing media advertising. It will generate ad rates and manage bookings, artwork production and ad placements.

3.) Africa Check - South Africa/Nigeria

A pan-African, non-partisan and crowdsourced fact-checking service that systematically verifies claims made in media reports. The project is intended to improve the accuracy and quality of reporting by exposing incorrect assertions by sources quoted in the media as well as errors in news stories.

4.)    africanDRONE (renamed skyCAM) - Kenya/Nigeria

A pilot project that establishes Africa's first newsroom-based "eye in the sky" drones and camera-equipped balloons to help media that cannot afford news helicopters cover breaking news in dangerous situations or difficult-to-reach locations.

5.) Africa's Wealth (renamed NewsStack) - Nigeria/Namibia

A project to integrate a new generation of forensic data analysis tools such as DocumentCloud, Poderopedia, Overview and Mapa76, into a unified and reusable journalist toolkit. The kit will be used in a yearlong, pan-African investigation by 10 media organizations into the continent's extractive industries.

6.) Citizen Desk - Mozambique

This toolkit that allows news organizations to create a mobile-optimized platform for aggregating, verifying, publishing and rewarding citizen journalism. The platform will be integrated into the widely used Superdesk production management system and serve as a way to incorporate citizen journalism into a news organization's core workflow.

7.) Code4Ghana - Ghana

This "kick-starter program" helps Ghanaian media experiment with data-driven journalism. It will provide access to data scientists and programmers, specialized training and a series of public "hackathons" designed to build news tools that take advantage of the new Ghana Open Data Initiative.

8.) ConvergeCMS - Kenya/Tanzania/Uganda

An open-source and data-optimized editorial content management system and technical support program designed specifically for African media houses. It will help newsrooms centralize and manage content creation, dissemination, archiving and workflows.

9.) CorruptionNET - South Africa

An open-source mobile platform that gives citizen reporters a step-by-step toolkit for filing journalistic reports to newsrooms about corruption or other abuses of public resources. The citizens can report using SMS or MXit, Africa's largest social mobile network.

10.) DataWrapper - Nigeria/Senegal/Tanzania

An initiative that establishes a network of full-fledged data visualization desks in forward-thinking newsrooms across Africa. It will help improve the use of interactive infographics and data-driven visual news apps, using the open-source DataWrapper toolkit plus other powerful graphic tools.

11.) End-to-End (renamed LastMile Crowdmapping) - Liberia/Ghana/Kenya

A crowdsourced reporting tool built on top of the SourceMap.org platform to help African journalists and citizens tell complex investigative stories. This tool will visually map the people, places and events behind the "last mile" of supply chains, so that consumers can understand where goods originate in African industries such as cocoa or logging.

12.) FlashCast - Kenya

This platform will beam hyperlocal news to commuters in taxis and buses, using smart, location-aware LED displays. It also allows the audience to use their mobile or other digital devices to engage in conversation about news items with viewers in other taxis and buses.

13.) Green Hornet - South Africa

A plug-and-play toolkit for journalistic sources and whistleblowers, developed in collaboration with the Tor Project for use by investigative reporters in African newsrooms.

14.) ListeningPost - South Africa

Africa's first social media-focused newsroom will produce actionable information from citizen reporters. It will establish a customized Storyful dashboard that aggregates social media posts and will include mobile apps that commission and sell crowdsourced photos and news.

15.) MoJo: Keeping media honest by monitoring online journalism - South Africa

A user-friendly toolkit of analytical software for African media-monitoring projects and other civic watchdogs. It will help improve media professionalism by keeping the media honest, detecting online censorship and exposing plagiarism.

16.) openAFRICA - Kenya/Nigeria/Rwanda/South Africa

A digital document and knowledge management toolkit, coupled with the creation of a pan-African online archive, to house and search documents for investigative pieces. This kit will streamline freedom of information (FOI) requests to government agencies and then use semantic search and analysis tools to help journalists and the broader public assess these documents.

17.) ODADI (renamed Code4SouthAfrica) - South Africa

An incubator for watchdog journalism that embeds data scientists and programmers into newsrooms to build new data desks and news APIs. The group will receive additional support from a local civic technology lab, which will provide trainers who help the reporters use data in stories.

18.) Oxpeckers - South Africa

A narrative mapping project that uses satellite imagery and geographic data analysis in stories to expose cross-border criminals and syndicates damaging the environment through logging, poaching and ecological degradation.

19.) Wikipedia Zero - Cameroon/Ivory Coast/Tunisia/Uganda

An initiative designed to boost original content from African news media for the new Wikipedia Zero mobile platform that is available free of charge to hundreds of millions of Africans, in 37 African languages, via either SMS or mobile phones.

20.) ZeroNews - pan-African

A simple tool for African news publishers to disseminate their content, free of charge, on mobile channels, including Facebook Zero and various Google platforms, so that they can reach a new generation of mobile news consumers in a cost-effective way.

The partners:

About ICFJ

The International Center for Journalists is a non-profit organization that advances quality journalism worldwide. Its programmes include the Knight International Journalism Fellowships, and combine the best professional standards with the latest digital innovations. ICFJ believes that independent, vigorous media are crucial in improving the human condition.

About AMI

The African Media Initiative is the continent's largest umbrella association of African media owners, senior executives and other industry stakeholders. AMI's mandate is to serve as a catalyst for strengthening African media by building the tools, knowledge resources and technical capacity for African media to play an effective public interest role in their societies. This mandate includes assisting with the development of professional standards, financial sustainability, technological adaptability and civic engagement.

About Google Inc.

Google's innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day. Founded in 1998 by Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google today is a top Web property in all major global markets. Google's mission in Africa is to make the Internet an integral part of everyday life in Africa, by increasing its relevance and usefulness, eliminating access barriers for potential users, and developing products that are meaningful for countries in the region. Google is headquartered in Silicon Valley with offices throughout the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more information, visit http://www.google.com/africa, see our Africa Blog, http://google-africa.blogspot.com/ or follow us on Twitter twitter.com/googleafrica

About Omidyar Network

Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives. Established in 2004 by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam, the organization invests in and helps scale innovative organizations to catalyze economic and social change. To date, Omidyar Network has committed more than $500 million to for-profit companies and non-profit organizations that foster economic advancement and encourage individual participation across multiple investment areas, including financial inclusion, entrepreneurship, property rights, consumer Internet, mobile and government transparency. To learn more, visit www.omidyar.com.

Contacts:

Justin Arenstein, Knight Fellow and AMI's Chief Digital Strategist
AMI/International Center to Protect Journalists (ICFJ)
justinarenstein@gmail.com
+254 20 269 4004

Roukaya Kasenally, Director Programmes and Knowledge Management
AMI
rkasenally@africanmediainitiative.org
+254 20 269 4004

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