During a 14-year career as a journalist, Dina Aboughazala reported on issues impacting people's lives across the Middle East. But she found that many existing news services concentrated on what was happening in big cities, while lesser-known areas were often ignored. To highlight undiscovered voices with interesting stories to tell, last year Aboughazala started the journalism platform Egab.
Egab, which connects journalists from the Middle East and Africa to international media outlets, is one of 22 successful recipients for the Google News Initiative’s second Middle East, Turkey and Africa Innovation Challenge.
It will use the funding to build a platform for contributions. “This means we can empower more local journalists across the Middle East and Africa to tell diverse stories about their communities to global audiences: stories that defy stereotypes, represent our part of the world more fairly and engage more audiences,” Aboughazala says. “We will now be able to do that at a larger scale through the online platform we will be building.”
We launched an open call for applications in February and received 329 applications from 35 countries. A rigorous review, a round of interviews and a final jury selection process followed.
Today, we’re announcing $2.1 million in funding to projects and initiatives in 14 different countries. Recipients include startups and online-only media platforms alongside some of the bigger names in news across the region, and cover topics ranging from audience development to virtual reality storytelling. We placed an emphasis on projects that reflect and demonstrate a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in the news industry.
Here are just a few of the recipients (you can find the full list on our website):
- Messenger Reader Revenue: The Standard Group in Kenya is going to integrate bots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) onto a WhatsApp number so that its audience can prompt and interact with it to access news. Via a subscription, the uniquely curated content will feature categories such as farming and investigations.
- The Citizen Bulletin: Zimbabwe Centre for Media and Information Literacy is building a loyal audience around hyperlocal journalism. The project is an open-source WhatsApp bot for news distribution and audience engagement.
- Habari RDC: Habari Streaming is a mobile application in the Democratic Republic of Congo that offers subscriptions to videos and podcasts. In a plan to diversify their source of income, Habari RDC created a user experience platform that provides paid content to its users.
- 263Chat: Radio is the most accessible medium for Zimbabweans. To reach new audiences, 263Chat has established a podcast network to provide an alternative media source.Eco-Nai+: Nigeria’s first digital geo-journalism platform providing access to interactive geo-data through web and mobile applications.
- Eco-Nai+: developed by Richmond Hill Media Limited (Ripples Nigeria), will host environmental data such as on drought, rainfall and erosion, while carefully tracking and making changes to environmental phenomena to help track climate change.
We’ll be following their progress alongside the previous recipients who are already impacting the news ecosystem with initiatives that increase reader engagement and make for a more sustainable future of news.