Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Donates $4.7M To Fund Technology For African Journalism

imageCode for Africa has received a $4.7 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fund data journalism schools and projects, according to

Based in Nairobi, Code for Africa is an initiative that uses data to build civic technology capacity in civil society and the watchdog media. It has citizen labs operating across the continent. It describes itself as a people-driven movement that aims to empower active citizenry and strengthen civic watchdogs to help government shape and improve its services to citizens.

The organization plans to use the money from the Gates Foundation on technology for African journalism, expanding projects in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania — especially in the areas of health and development journalism.

The initiative grew out of a series of successful pilot projects by the International Center for Journalists, MyBroadband reports. The $4.7-million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will scale these successes in the hub countries.

Chris Roper, former editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian, will serve as the team’s data editor.

Roper said he intends using his business strategy insights to help other publishers develop robust revenue models.

“Once you liberate data, you can tell some fantastic stories about what’s really going on in the country, which are a lot more up-to-date than some of the other sources people can get hold of,” said Stephen Abbott-Pugh in the report. Abbott-Pugh led digital projects at the U.K. Parliament and the Guardian before joining Code for Africa as a Knight International Journalism Fellow in June.

Knight International Journalism Fellowships are designed to instill a culture of news innovation and experimentation worldwide, according to the International Center For Journalists.

Being able to build open data projects cheaply and fast so they can be replicated is central to Code for Africa projects, Abbott-Pugh said. Existing Code for South Africa and Code for Kenya initiatives will be expanded to other countries.

Code for Africa has initiatives incubating for launch in 2015-2016 in Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Tunisia, and Uganda, according to its website.

Some of Code For Africa’s success stories include a ‘Dodgy Doctors’ database to help readers in Kenya check their doctors’ credentials. Others include Gottovote, an app providing key registration information for elections that has already been reproduced in Ghana and Malawi, and Find My School, which helps parents choose the best school for their children.

Projects in South Africa have included detailed maps of election results, an open data portal, and a Parliamentary Monitoring Group.

Code for Africa plans to set up its first data journalism school in Cape Town, according to It will train journalists to understand and use data at boot camps that will last weeks.

Babatunde Akpeji, a Nigerian multimedia journalist, will lead efforts in Nigeria. Catherine Gicheru, an award-winning journalist, will lead the project in Kenya and Raymond Joseph, a South African editor and Knight Fellow, will lead the data school, according to

Roper and Abbott-Pugh will also be on the team as data editor and audience engagement leader.

“We want to (take) some of the risk out of digital experimentation,” said Justin Arenstein, Code For Africa founder, in a blog post accompanying the announcement. “One way to lower costs is to make reusable technology or data available. Another way is to help media partners build new business models on top of their new digital services. We’re aiming to do both these things.”

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