USD1m fund to spur media innovation

The African Media Initiative (AMI), the continent's largest association of media owners and operators, has announced a USD1 million fund to spur innovation in the news industry.

The new African News Innovation Challenge (ANIC) is designed to encourage experimentation in digital technologies and support the best innovations that strengthen African news organisations.

AMI chief executive Amadou Mahtar Ba confirmed that Omidyar Network, Google, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, and the U.S. Department of State have all pledged either funding or technical support for the initiative.

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers has also committed expert business mentorship and marketing support for ANIC winners.

"Traditional media are still growing in Africa, but media organisations know that they need to go digital and mobile to prepare for the future. Many, however, don't have the resources to experiment or take risks, especially in this economic climate," said Ba. "This competition is our way of saying: 'We're here to help. If you come up with an innovative idea to improve the African media landscape, we'll help make it happen.'"

Winners in the annual contest will get seed grants ranging from USD12,500 to a maximum of USD100,000 for more ambitious projects. To build robust business models, the grantees will also receive technical advice and start-up support, as well as one-on-one mentoring from some of the world's leading media experts.

"We're trying to nurture a culture of innovation in African media," said AMI's digital strategist and ANIC project manager Justin Arenstein. "We want the winners to get their products to the market quickly, and we want to remove as much risk as possible. These pioneers will have access to experts that most media simply do not have."

Arenstein is working with AMI as part of a Knight International Journalism Fellowship administered by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), with funds from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The contest will target solutions to technology challenges facing African media, including ways to strengthen data-based investigative journalism, audience engagement, mobile news distribution, data visualisation, revenue streams and workflow systems.

"We're casting the net as wide as possible," said Arenstein. "As long as the solution is scalable and appropriate to local market conditions, we're happy to consider it."

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