Africa’s first data-driven investigative journalism initiative launches today with $500,000 in grants and technical support for reportage that changes lives.
The new impactAFRICA initiative will seek to support pioneering data journalism that tackles development issues, such as public healthcare, in six initial African countries: Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.
“We will help newsrooms use data and digital tools to produce the type of hard-hitting reportage and compelling storytelling that shapes public discourse and gets the attention of policymakers,” says impactAFRICA manager Haji Mohamed Dawjee. “This isn’t just journalism for the sake of journalism: we’re looking to change lives.”
Dawjee was director of social media accounts at Ogilvy Africa before joining Code for Africa (CfAfrica) in December to run impactAFRICA. She also has previously served as deputy digital news editor at the Mail & Guardian in South Africa.
The first of four impactAFRICA calls for applications opens today, January 18. The deadline for submissions is April 15.
In this first call, impactAFRICA will provide technical and material support to 10 projects shortlisted from the applications. It will then award three additional cash prizes for the best of these projects: for the best investigative report; the best data-driven story; and the best service journalism project.
Proposals should focus on in-depth reportage into hidden, neglected or under-reported health and development issues. The resulting projects should offer compelling storytelling, told in an original way that uses digital techniques for improved audience engagement, and that also uses data to personalise or localise stories for maximum impact.
The full details and guidelines are here.
“The digital revolution has changed what people expect from news. No one wants to be force-fed news about ‘big issues’ anymore. The public is also tired of fearmongering. Instead, people want to be empowered by the news. They want to understand how news affects them personally, and they want to know how to use any insights they get from the news to do something tangible,” says CfAfrica founding director Justin Arenstein. “Technology enables us to help newsrooms meet these expectations.”
impactAFRICA will therefore facilitate an intensive skills programme to help journalists prepare their applications. This includes a series of StoryLab workshops and webinars, along with regular online StoryClinics where global experts and mentors will help applicants brainstorm solutions to technical challenges. Details about the skills programme, which is open to all Africans who want to participate, can be found here.
CfAfrica technologists at labs in all six focus countries will help successful applicants build innovative story projects, using everything from data-driven mobile technologies, to data visualisation and interactive mapping. CfAfrica will also support grantees to maximise the reach of their projects, by helping to secure syndication into media across the world.
The initiative grows out of a partnership between CfAfrica and the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ). A consortium of donors led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), and including the World Bank and CFI Media Cooperation (CFI), is funding impactAFRICA.
BMGF’s support has also enabled CfAfrica and ICFJ to recruit some of the continent’s most innovative digital news pioneers as ICFJ Knight Fellows, including the former editors-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian in South Africa (Chris Roper) and Star newspaper in Kenya (Catherine Gicheru), along with a former executive producer from the Guardian newspaper in the UK (Stephen Abbott Pugh) and a veteran editor in South Africa (Ray Joseph). In Nigeria, pioneering civic technologist Temi Adeoye manages CfAfrica’s local CitizenLab.
“This initiative will help African journalists leapfrog many of the obstacles facing their newsrooms, by taking advantage of new technologies and by drawing on the continent’s best digital strategists,” says Mohamed Dawjee. “It will also help African journalists set new benchmarks for investigative reporting, strengthening scrutiny on issues that affect the health and wellbeing of African citizens.”
impactAFRICA will also leverage its international partnerships, through ICFJ, to connect African innovators with their counterparts elsewhere in the Global South.
“How can we use technology and data to enrich coverage of key development issues in Africa?” says ICFJ president Joyce Barnathan. “Just follow the winners of this contest—and you’ll see.”
Arenstein founded CfAfrica as an ICFJ initiative in 2012, as part of his ICFJ Knight Fellowship, along with two other organisations: the African Network of Centers for Investigative Reporting (ANCIR) and Hacks/Hackers Africa. All three organisations are intended to help watchdog media and civic activists harness digital tools to empower citizens.
In addition to the current investigative reporting contest, impactAFRICA will offer a second investigative contest in late 2016, and will also offer two other thematic competitions for beat reporters. Register here to be kept informed about the upcoming contests.
Code for Africa (CfAfrica) is the custodian of impactAFRICA and is the continent’s largest independent open data and civic technology initiative. It operates as a federation of autonomous country-based digital innovation organisations that support ‘citizen labs’ in five countries and major projects in a further 15 countries. CfAfrica runs Africa’s OpenGov Fellowships and also embeds innovation fellows into newsrooms and social justice organisations to help liberate data of public interest, or to build tools that help empower citizens. In addition to fellowships and CitizenLabs, CfAfrica runs the $1 million per year innovateAFRICA fund and the $500,000 per year impactAFRICA fund, which both award seed grants to civic pioneers for experiments with everything from camera drones and environmental sensors, to encryption for whistleblowers and data-driven semantic analysis tools for investigative watchdogs. CfAfrica also curates continental resources such as the africanSPENDING portal of budget transparency resources, the openAFRICA data portal, the sourceAFRICA document repository and the connectedAFRICA transparency toolkit for tracking the often hidden social networks and economic interests in politics. CfAfrica is an initiative of the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ).
International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) is at the forefront of the news revolution. Its programmes empower journalists and engage citizens with new technologies and best practices. ICFJ’s networks of reporters and media entrepreneurs are transforming the field. ICFJ believes that better journalism leads to better lives. Over the past 30 years, ICFJ has worked with more than 92,000 professional and citizen journalists and media managers from 180 countries. ICFJ work through strong local partners, such as Code for Africa, and a network of dedicated alumni. For more information, go to www.icfj.org.