Code for Africa gets $4.7m boost from Bill and Melinda Gates foundation

Data journalism and civic technology organisation Code for Africa has received a US$4.7-million investment from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.

According to a blog post written by Code for Africa head Justin Arenstein, the funding will be used to help the organisation’s civic technologists work with newsrooms around the continent.

“The three-year programme at Code for Africa (CfAfrica) initially targets newsrooms in three regional ‘hub’ nations, in Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa,”Arenstein writes. “It will expand to include Tanzania in 2016, and will also tap into CfAfrica’s digital experimentation in newsrooms elsewhere in Africa”.

A part of the grant has already been put to use, allowing the organisation to hire the likes of former Mail & Guardian editor Chris Roper as well as the former editor of Kenya’s Star newspaper Catherine Gicheru.

Code for Africa has also been working with the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation for some time now. This latest initiative, Arenstein writes, grew out of a series of pilot projects by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ).

According to Code for Africa, the grant will also:

  • Underwrite the establishment of Africa’s first cadet school for data journalism, in South Africa, in partnership with Code for South Africa and the School of Data[Memeburn has been informed that the school will be based in Cape Town].
  • Pioneer sensor journalism and drone journalism projects across a number of countries to give citizens ‘actionable information’ on issues ranging from air and water pollution, to poaching and natural disasters or civil unrest.
  • Embed civic technologists and data journalists in newsrooms to help explore ways to improve journalism by using data-driven content, mobile platforms and audience engagement technologies to create ‘cross media’ stories such as LivingWage.
  • Expand on CfAfrica’s successful data literacy d|Bootcamps, which were pioneered in Kenya in 2012, and have since seen African technologists share their expertise at events in 25 countries across the world, from Nepal and Moldova, to Bolivia and the USA

These new initiatives, it says, will expand on the 90+ projects already in its portfolio.

The organisation says that that the funding also sync with a separate new US$1 million innovation fund, that will replace the African News Innovation Challenge later this year, something which it hopes will “strengthen the continental network of 30 000+ enthusiasts in Hacks/Hackers Africa who bring together journalists and technologists to collaborate on media projects”.

“In many places, the media has lost touch with real people. Our aim is to make journalism relevant again to ordinary people. Journalism needs to tackle the issues that keep people awake at night: like how to keep your children safe, healthy, and educated,” says Arenstein. “To do that, media organizations have to discover what their audiences really care about and then develop journalism that gives the audience actionable information.”

Arenstein founded Code for Africa as an ICFJ Knight Fellow back in 2012 along with the African Network of Centers for Investigative Reporting (ANCIR) and Hacks/Hackers Africa.



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