Abidjan: the first media innovation marathon

Abidjan: the first media innovation marathon

May 7, 2015

The first "hackathon" (media innovation marathon) under the #AfriqueInnovation programme launched by CFI and Code for Africa was a great success.

From 17 to 19 April 2015, seven teams of journalists and web site developers accepted the challenge of working out new ways in which to gather, process and disseminate news in the internet and mobile-telephone age.

Devising ways in which to inform the people

To include those with low literacy levels and to reach out to the most remote areas of Côte d'Ivoire – that was the task of the team that made such a success of the hackathon organised in Abidjan from 17 to 19 April 2015.

The project was christened CI50sec by its innovators: CI for Côte d'Ivoire and 50sec for 50 seconds. Fifty seconds was the length of the local-language news flashes to be delivered by the team set up for the event, which was organised by CFI and Code4Africa within the context of the #AfriqueInnovation, réinventer les médias programme.

After 48 hours of (practically) non-stop work at the ESATIC (African ICT Academy), the 40 or so participants selected from 120 applicants described their thoughts so far and the quickest among them presented a prototype of the app or service they had devised.
This was an extremely demanding exercise ... a minute and a half for a free presentation followed by ten minutes of questions/answers involving the judges.

The judges

The panel of judges was composed of experts who had also acted as the participants' mentors over the course of the weekend as a whole:

    The winners were chosen in accordance with 4 criteria characteristic of the #Afrique Innovation programme:

    • Usefulness – Is the product/service genuinely useful?
    • Design – Is the product/service user-friendly?
    • Originality – Is the product/service unique and/or innovative?
    • Quality – Does the product/service improve the quality of information available to the target-public?

      The honours list

      1. CI50sec
        A voice server that can be accessed via mobile, designed to provide those with impaired literacy skills with access to news. A central production team holds three sessions per day in the main local languages.
      2. KwaRadio
        A mobile app providing rural and local radio broadcasts when listeners are outside the broadcasting region (in Abidjan or abroad).
      3. Titrophone
        The front pages from the Côte d'Ivoire press, via SMS. Subscribers to the service receive newspaper headlines.
      4. Africa Tender Check
        System for monitoring invitations to tender and their fulfilment.

        The three other projects – Quoi de neuf ?, Insight and Wahoo – were not ranked by the judges.

        The winners

        The winners went away with a certificate of performance, but that was not their principal achievement.
        Over the course of 48 hours, all participants gained fast-paced experience of the life of an innovative project: setting out the original idea, enthusiasm followed by doubt, hard work, fatigue, distribution of tasks to the team members, and (on occasion) raised voices.
        The experience was one of total commitment, involving meetings, passionate exchanges of views and shared group meals.

        These same challenges face the traditional media, which will have to face up to the fact that, in order to stay abreast of technological progress and, above all, the ways in which their audiences access the news they offer, they must embrace innovation. Around 70 decision-makers from the traditional media, also, were invited to a conference on the topic of "Innovation in the media", which took place just a few hours after the Abidjan hackathon.

        On the half-day programme

        • L'évolution des usages des TIC en Côte d'Ivoire, avec Diaby Mohamed, an IT expert consultant and blogger.
        • Innover dans les médias ivoiriens, a round-table session led by Israël Guebo, a journalist, blogger and founder of the E-Voir agency with Lacinan Ouattara, multimedia service head at RTI, Patrice Allegbe, Alerte-Info.net director, and Donatien Kangah, from InfoPress.
        • Les changements dans la formation aux métiers du journalisme, using the example of Studio Mozaïk (radio training) with Claude Cirille, editorial manager at Studio école Mozaik.
        • Des métiers nouveaux au sein des rédactions, a round-table session led by Israël Guebo, a journalist, blogger and founder of the E-Voir agency, Edith Brou, Community manager, Florent Youzan, Developer and web project lead, and Justin Yarga, data journalist.
        • Quelle interactions avec les blogueurs et autres amateurs ? with Cyriac Gbogou, Association des blogueurs de Côte d'Ivoire president.
        • Les opérateurs téléphoniques : partenaires ou concurrents, a round-table session with Laurent Duprey, MTN and Yann Leguen, managing director at Yoomee Côte d'Ivoire.
        • Quel cadre réglementaire pour les médias de demain ? with Me René Bourgoin, managing director at the HACA ( Audiovisual Communication High Authority).
        • Conclusions with Serge Michel, Le Monde Afrique and Boris Bachorz, AFP's Africa bureau chief.

        The next innovation marathon involving the media will be taking place in Dakar from 22 to 24 May 2015. After that, there will be simultaneous events at Douala and Antananarivo from 19 to 21 June 2015.

        The programme then continues with free distance training (MOOC), which will commence in early July 2015 and will offer two parallel courses, one for web journalists and the other for web and mobile developers.

        Crédits photos : Philippe Couve, Abidjan, avril 2015

        Afrique Innovation, un projet :


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