Knight International Journalism Fellowships

Sub-Saharan Africa: Strengthening storytelling & audience engagement through data journalism & civic innovation

Code for Africa, founded in 2012 by ICFJ Knight Fellow Justin Arenstein, is the continent's open data and civic technology pioneer, designed to spark the use of open data and “digital democracy” tools by media and NGOs to better engage citizens. It is a people-driven movement focused on empowering active citizenry and strengthening civic watchdogs to improve government accountability and public services.

Through this data-journalism initiative, media are starting to harness data in new ways to build compelling journalistic projects, using strong mobile and interactive web components. The Fellows are helping them to experiment with drones, sensors and other web and mobile toolkits to surface hidden stories, engage citizens through actionable information and drive systemic change in media, government and corporations.

To achieve this, the Fellows are employing a series of strategies, including:

  • Creating and expanding local CitizenLabs that build digital tools for journalism and help media to adopt them
  • Embedding developers and data journalists in media to enhance their use of data
  • Connecting communities of journalists and technologists through groups like Hacks/Hackers to spark collaboration and sharing of ideas
  • Leading boot camps and other events that build skills, and create teams and projects to jumpstart the use of data

The members of the team are:

  • Justin Arenstein, a South African media entrepreneur who serves as Code for Africa’s director, is providing pan-African vision and connecting it to his other initiatives for greater regional impact, including the African Network of Centers for Investigative Reporting, innovateAFRICA, impactAFRICA and Hacks/Hackers Africa.

  • Chris Roper, Code for Africa’s deputy director, is overseeing the work of the in-country Fellows and driving media synergies that can amplify the impact of this work elsewhere on the continent. Roper is also the lead organizer of Media Party Africa, which brings together some of the world’s most innovative journalists to talk about VR storytelling, drone and sensor journalism, investigative tech, chat apps and other ground-breaking media topics.

  • David Lemayian, the initiative’s lead technologist, oversees the development of Code for Africa’s journalistic tools and software. His projects help local newsrooms produce innovative storytelling and increase engagement with their audiences across platforms.

  • Jacopo Ottaviani, an Italian journalist and computer scientist, spearheads Code for Africa’s data journalism story production and engagement strategies.

  • Catherine Gicheru, the in-country fellow in Kenya, is working to transform media coverage of health and development issues by introducing new digital and data-focused tools, like Dodgy Doctors and PesaCheck, to local newsrooms. She is also expanding Hacks/Hackers in Nairobi.

  • Adi Eyal, the founder of Code for South Africa, is leading the establishment of Africa’s first data-driven journalism academy and newsroom. The focus of the academy is to train journalists to use data and digital tools to develop stories that increase and enhance audience engagement.

  • Omar Mohammed, the in-country fellow in Tanzania, is creating a team of developers and designers that will partner with local news media and enable them to launch their first data-driven stories.