Google's Boosting African News Challenge to Improve Journalism

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Google, along with several other financial supporters such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the World Association of Newspapers & News Producers, have announced that it will be funding grants that help promote and enable journalism across Africa.

The African News Innovation Challenge, according its official website, "is the continent’s largest fund for supporting new media experimentation and digital news startups in everything from data driven journalism and investigative reporting, to newsroom management, audience engagement, digital convergence, and media business models." The ANIC is a branch of the African Media Initiative's broader project to assist African countries to utilize digital media tools in a way that hopefully improves the quality and impact of African journalism.

The competition launched today, May 10, and the deadline to submit ideas for the first round is July 10. Entry is limited to residents in Africa (thankfully) or someone who works with a partner in Africa, which AMI has set up a network to help people link up with a partner based in Africa.

A post on Google's official blog, the company is funding $1 million for the challenge.

The News Innovation Challenge will provide grants ranging from $12,500 to $100,000 for project proposals falling into four categories: news gathering, storytelling, audience engagement and the business of news. Proposals can include ideas that improve everything from data-based investigative journalism and crowd-sourced citizen reporting, to new ways of distributing news on mobile platforms, or new revenue models that help wean media off a reliance on advertising.

The point of the ANIC is to improve the way news is gathered and reported using digital ideas that utilize the internet, mobile platforms, data crunching, and so on. However, Africa isn't exactly the most technologically developed continent when it comes to the digital age. As you can see below in the map compiled from Akamai's "State of the Internet" report for the last quarter, most of the continent only has access to narrowband internet, which basically amounts to the speed of a dial-up connection (also known as as insufferably slow in high broadband-enabled parts or the world), and much of that is a new implementation.

Africa Narrowband Adoption

Africa also has the slowest average internet connection speed of any continent (excluded Antarctica, of course). Given these technological obstacles, it will undoubtedly require an inventive mind to be able to conceive "disruptive digital ideas" that eventually land entrants in the winner's circle.

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