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Internet search giant Google has awarded US$2.7-million to media watchdog, the International Press Institute (IPI) as part of a new project to support digital news in Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
The cash injection will back the IPI News Innovation Contest, which is set to provide grants to non-profit and for-profit organisations “working on digital, including mobile, open-source technology created by journalists and/or for journalists and distributed in the public interest.”
Ahead of the announcement Luke Mckend, a Google executive for Africa, spoke to memeburn in an exclusive interview. He affirmed the creation of local content will be a key component of the search engine giant’s effort to make itself highly relevant for emerging market users.
Three types of ventures will be supported by the US$2.7-million in funds: training, the development of economic models for news outlets and platforms to ensure reliable news sources.
“A free press empowers people, and a thriving, independent, innovative news industry is vital to any country’s development,” providing “a mirror to the societies it is meant to serve,” says Alison McKenzie, IPI’s acting director.
The IPI is a global network of editors, media executives and journalists whose stated goal is “the furtherance and safeguarding of press freedom, the protection of freedom of opinion and expression, the promotion of the free flow of news and information and the improvement of the practices of journalism”.
The group was founded in 1950, at Columbia University and lays claim to being one of the oldest global human rights organizations in the world.
“The role of digital innovation in news has been amply demonstrated by recent events in Tunisia, Egypt and more recently Bahrain,” states the group’s website, which broke news of the grant from Google.
“In the era of the internet it’s important that innovation in journalism continues to flourish and we’re keen to help encourage that,” added Google’s external relations director for Africa, the Middle East and Europe, Peter Barron.
Google has consistently stated that finding local content, particularly in emerging markets, is one challenge the search engine giant plans to meet head on.
“By forging continued cooperation with industry leaders like Google Inc., IPI is working to ensure that people can have access to information they can trust,” the group stated in a press release from their Vienna-based headquarters.
Over in Africa, Google’s Ghana-based program manager for tech outreach in Africa, Bridgette’s Sexton, says the continent is a market with immense possibility when it comes to the creation of new content and new businesses using Google: “We aim to help strengthen an internet ecosystem in Africa that is vibrant and self-sufficient in the long-term,” she says, indicating the potential in Africa extents across the entire spectrum of emerging market economies.
Those seeking to take advantage of the US$2.7-million fund have until June 1 to submit grant applications online at www.ipinewscontest.org.