Google News Innovation Challenge expands to Africa

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Google has expanded its Google News Initiative (GNI) Innovation Challenge to the Middle East, Turkey and Africa.

It invites proposals from media organisations of every size to address increasing engagement with readers and/or explore new business models through the use of innovative technology.

Traditional publishers, news start-ups and media associations that aim to build innovative digital media projects to create quality news content are all eligible to apply.

GNI is the tech giant's global effort to work with the news industry to help journalism thrive in the digital age. The news industry has a serious challenge ahead in building a successful, sustainable business model for high-quality journalism in the digital age, notes Google.

Google provides news partners with tools to help them better understand and connect with their audience, improve their products and power their technological infrastructure.

A panel of judges will evaluate the submissions and fund selected projects up to $150 000, with funding for up to 70% of the total project cost. The funding will be reviewed against several criteria, including a "sharing component"; for example, a project proposal can include publishing findings or holding a public seminar to encourage applicants to share the knowledge and learning with others.

"News publishers in many parts of the world are grappling with questions of how quality journalism can thrive in the digital age. With economic models changing and new ways in which people are consuming news, innovation in the news industry has never been more important," says Madhav Chinnappa, director for news ecosystem development at Google.

The Google News Initiative is Google's effort to help news players in their transition to a digital future, focusing on three pillars: elevating and strengthening quality journalism, evolving business models to drive sustainable growth, and empowering news organisations through technological innovation.

Google says it has trained more than 4 000 journalists across Kenya, Nigeria and SA over the last two years.

Ludovic Blecher, head of the Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge, notes: "We're excited to bring the GNI Challenge to the region. We want to make sure that all news organisations, large and small, legacy publishers as well as new entrants, have the opportunity to inject new ideas into the regional news industry."

The application window for project submissions will open in June, and will extend for one month. More information on eligibility, rules and criteria, and funding will be published on the GNI Web site.

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