By Prince Osuagwu
Search engine giant, Google has released a whopping $2.1 million to about 22 media innovators who were shortlisted in the second Google News Initiative (GNI) Innovation Challenge for Africa, the Middle East, and Turkey.
Applications for the second GNI Innovation Challenge opened in February and ran until 12 April 2021.
Google said a total of 329 established online-only publishers, news startups, publisher consortia and local industry associations applied from 35 countries across the regions showing the diversity and the appetite for innovation of the news-ecosystem.
It added that after a rigorous review process, and a round of interviews and a jury selection process that followed, 22 innovators were successful in the final selection.
Head of innovation at Google News Initiative (GNI), Ludovic Blecher, said: “The vibrancy of the markets in the 14 countries projects were selected from, could clearly be seen in the vast range of news players, topics and technologies considered.”
He announced that part of the winners included South Africa-based Olduvai Pty., an online-only publisher, which developed Scrolla. Africa, a data-light platform that makes news available to millions of people in southern Africa, who would otherwise be unable to afford data costs.
Naij.com Media Limited, owner of Legit.ng in Nigeria, was selected for ReCo, a solution that improves Internet user experience by making content recommendations based on user preferences on their home page and within articles.
Standard Group PLC in Kenya is solving the challenges of declining revenue from legacy products and changing media consumption habits of audiences with The Messenger Reading Revenue Project.
The applicants’ innovations addressed issues ranging from audience development to virtual reality storytelling and recipients were able to clearly demonstrate their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
Blecher added that: “We are excited about the 2021 GNI Innovation Challenge projects and we will be following their progress alongside that of previous recipients, who are already impacting the news ecosystem with initiatives that increase reader engagement and make for a more sustainable future for news.”
A few other 2021 GNI Innovation Challenge recipients are:
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.