ANIC is looking for ideas that will transform the way that African media work. This means that your idea should offer significant and tangible improvements to existing tools or techniques, or should propose new ways for African journalists to gather news, tell stories, engage with audiences, or sustain media organisations.
Ideas that have the potential to be replicated or that could scale continentally will have an advantage.
No. A handful of local companies and individuals are dabbling with data journalism, but none offer free public support. DataDesk will kickstart wider experimentation plus fast-track the liberation of data ‘feedstock’ for app building
Even though relatively well-resourced, South African journalism is seldom data/evidence-driven, and has failed to harness hyperlocal/hyper-personalisation opportunities presented by new technologies and available public data. Consolidating data resources, offering coding support, and showing journalists (through hands-on assistance) how to create ‘semantic’ reportage will improve audience engagement and contextual relevance of news.
DataDesk will embed a civic coder into an established technology incubator/co-working space in Cape Town, to provide free data scraping and analysis support for journalists and media pioneers. DataDesk will also offer short-term sponsored use of desks/workspace in the incubator, awarded competitively on merit, for ‘proof-of-concept’ data journalism projects as a form of ‘accelerator’ mentorship. DataDesk will in addition run regular workshops, seminars, and hackdays to help spread skills and kickstart new projects. All projects and activities will be documented, with all code open sourced, on a local HacksHackers data blog. DataDesk will help replicate the model in other HacksHackers chapters.
The project is being championed by the new HacksHackers chapter in Cape Town, with endorsement and community + technical support from ScraperWiki. Chapter coordinator and veteran newsroom editor / trainer, Raymond Joseph, will manage the initiative and run the planned outreach and training programmes that complement the actual helpdesk. The helpdesk will be staffed by a civic coder with python / json skills, who still needs to be recruited. Southern Africa’s largest association of freelance journalists and media creatives, SAFREA, plus the Professional Journalism Association, have both endorsed the initiative as a community resource, while Silicon Cape has pledged support from its community of technology entrepreneurs.
What part of the project have you already built? (100 words)*
ScraperWiki is already the world’s leading community for journalistic data scraping and civic coding. It is currently focused on building media participation in North America and Europe, and does not yet have resources to immediately conduct outreach or support in Africa. HacksHackers is meanwhile already the world’s largest forum for bringing together technologists and journalists for collaborative projects. It is currently rolling out a network of chapters across Africa. DataDesk is a perfect marriage between the two organisations and its free and public coding support would be a world-first for both organisations — and would serve as a model for replication elsewhere.
The core helpdesk services will always be free. Once proof-of-concept is available, HacksHackers Cape Town will fund the service through sponsorships from local technology and mobile companies, as well as membership dues. Any revenue-generating services / apps developed with assistance from DataDesk will also be required to pay royalties via a “pay if forward” scheme.