Google launches journalism award for Africa, Middle East


The Google News Initiative (GNI) has announced the opening of the third Innovation Challenge for Middle East, Turkey & Africa where selected projects will be eligible to receive up to Sh17 million ($150,000) each in funding.

The programme is part of Google’s Sh34.1 billion ($300 million) commitment to help journalists thrive in the digital age.

News providers of all sizes are eligible to apply until Tuesday, April 5. Projects will be evaluated against five criteria which are innovation, impact on news ecosystem, diversity, equity and inclusion; inspiration; and feasibility.

Google will finance up to 70 per cent of the total project budget and the remaining 30 per cent will be provided by the applicant.

“Over the past three years, we’ve seen news providers in the region advance a diverse range of topics from data journalism and new readers revenue models to digital newsroom tools designed to tackle climate change reporting,” said Ludovic Blecher, head of Google News Initiative Innovation.

“The Middle East, Turkey and Africa is a region rich with talent, high potential and opportunities. This year, we’re looking forward to seeing fresh ideas and innovative approaches to big challenges the news ecosystem is facing.”

The challenge which has been running since 2019 has seen 43 projects selected from 18 countries including Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana among others.

Recipients of the 2019 and 2021 Innovation Challenges answered a call for projects which would increase reader engagement and/or explore new business models. The ideas ranged from digital membership schemes to Arabic language search tools.

Kenya’s independent media firm Africa Uncensored was selected in 2020 after submitting a project based on aggregating news from members of the public to produce news at scale by giving a voice to marginalised persons.

The Standard Group Plc’s project was among those picked last year. The project aimed at addressing the declining revenue on legacy products and changes in consumer habits through the messenger reader revenue project.

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