Google announces news initiative innovation challenge recipients

Two Kenyan companies are among 34 recipients of the third Google News Initiative (GNI) Innovation Challenge drawn from Africa, Middle East, Israel and Turkey.
The recipients, among them 21 journalists and publishers from 10 countries in Africa, were selected for their diversity in promoting diversity, equality and inclusion in the journalism industry.
The GNI Innovation Challenge is part of Google’s $300 million commitment to helping journalism thrive in the digital era and has seen news innovators step forward with many exciting initiatives demonstrating new thinking.
“This year, we sought to broaden our criteria to include digital innovation initiatives that promote goals like reader engagement, new reader income, subscriptions, disinformation among other things,” said Ludovich Blecher, Head of Innovation, Google News Initiative.
Kenya’s WANANCHI Reporting and Nation Media Group were the recipients who met all the five criteria requirements including impact on the news ecosystem, equity and inclusion, inspiration, innovation, diversity, and feasibility.
Others are Nigeria’s Dubawa, and South Africa’s Quote This Woman+, RegionWeek from Burundi and Congo Check from DRC.
WANANCHI Reporting provides features that allow both the unserved and underserved Kenyans from remote and excluded areas to tell their stories and highlight diversity in a manner that avoids misrepresentation by allowing them to contribute to the news ecosystem through their technology-driven interactive platform.
“Following a thorough assessment, a round of interviews, and a final jury selection, 34 projects from 17 countries were chosen to receive $3.2 million in funding,” said Blecher.
Google says this year’s challenge received a total of 425 submissions from 42 countries, representing a 27pc increase in total applications.
Notably, there was a significant increase in applications from news organisations undertaking fact checking activities at 118 percent when compared to previous innovation challenges in the region.
Proposed projects which use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) also showed significant growth at 92pc, reflecting a trend across the news ecosystem to embrace cutting edge new technologies and data.

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