Google launches funding challenge on news innovation

It is Google’s effort to help news players in their transition to a digital future. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Google has launched Africa and Middle East Google News Initiative (GNI), an innovation challenge seeking to fund Kenyan-based journalists on creating digital projects around news distribution, diversification and monetisation.

The innovation challenge which was officially opened on June 18, 2019 and scheduled to end on September 2, 2019, is calling on Kenya’s news innovators with ideas around new business models and better ways of reader engagement to send in their applications.

Ludovic Blecher, Head of Google News Initiative (GNI) innovation, said the GNI challenge is a key way for news innovators across the world to demonstrate new thinking in the practice of digital journalism and development of new business models.

“The challenge gives everyone the opportunity to inject creativity and new ideas and try things they wouldn’t have tried without this approach. We cannot innovate if we stay in silos; we have got to break the silos,” said Ludovic Blecher.

The GNI is the global umbrella that pulls together everything Google does to help individuals in shifting from convectional media to the digital era. It is Google’s effort to help news players in their transition to a digital future, focusing on three pillars — elevating and strengthening quality journalism, evolving business models to drive sustainable growth and empowering news organisations through technological innovation.


In developing countries in particular, digital media has not been fully adopted by media firms as they still rely on conventional media to communicate, inform, entertain and educate. However, GNI will help members of the Fourth Estate to adopt the digital media so as to enhance their operations.According to the Kenya Media Landscape Report 2019, digital migration has increased media accessibility in the country from 45.5 million people in the second quarter of 2018 to 46.6 million in the third quarter of the same year.

“As at 30th September 2018, the number of active mobile subscriptions in the country stood at 46.6 million. This marked a growth of 2.4 per cent when compared to 45.5 million subscriptions recorded as at 30th June 2018. Subsequently, mobile penetration rose by 2.3 percentage points to stand at 100.1 per cent from 97.8 per cent reported in the last quarter,” read the report in part.

During the launch of the initiative, ICT CS Joe Mucheru said that digital media industry in Kenya is an enabling factor of the digital blue print.