BBC World Service launches Kenyan hackathon to ensure its digital future in Africa

BBC World Service

The BBC World Service is one of the most pervasive and important radio offerings on the planet. As the world inevitably spends less and less time listening to physical radio sets however, the service has to ensure that it still has a presence in the digital space.

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One way it’s aiming to do that is by teaming up with BBC’s digital innovations team, Connected Studio to hold a hackathon event on 3-4 February in Nairobi, Kenya, to generate and develop ideas that will help it connect with digital audiences across Africa.

Part of BBC Future Media, Connected Studio works with digital agencies, technology start-ups, designers and developers — including BBC staff — to deliver innovation. Its aim is to add new functions, features or formats across the BBC’s online services, improving audience experience and optimising the BBC’s digital media products. While Connected Studio has held such events in the UK, this is the first time it’s coming to the African continent.

The hackathon in Nairobi, organised in partnership with BBC World Service, has a brief to reinforce the international broadcaster’s appeal to mobile phone users who do not currently access BBC content relevant to them – via the use of social media and chat apps.

According to the BBC, more than half the African traffic on its site comes from mobile devices, so it clearly feels that it could be better tailoring content to them.

Participating teams will be judged on a set of criteria. Successful ideas will be selected for a pilots funded by the BBC. The selection will be announced at the end of February.

Dmitry Shishkin, BBC World Service Group Digital Development Editor, says: “We are excited to be holding this hackathon in Kenya where our audiences have been increasingly using mobile devices to get to digital content, including news. We are looking forward to this forum of tech talent from around the world, hoping that it will deliver amazing and practical solutions that will make the BBC’s news content attractive to our young, digitally savvy African audiences. Engaging and partnering with local tech companies is part of the BBC’s long-term commitment to serving African audiences.”

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