More than 736 applications were made to the #InnovateAFRICA challenge, which is focused on developing ‘real world’ solutions to issues faced by the media in Africa.

IRIN needs your support to reach the final stage on 31 January when the winners will be announced. Read more about our idea below and share this page on social media using the #InnovateAFRICA hashtag, telling us what kind of multimedia storytelling (from 360 video to VR to drones) we should focus on first! The judges will meet on 15 January so help us spread the word today.

Our proposal

Build an immersive journalism unit that matches IRIN’s world-class reporting about crises in Africa with interactive, multimedia, multi-platform storytelling that can capture a much larger audience. 

Why it’s important

Cutting-edge technology is often used to showcase other sectors of news, from Olympic celebrities to conservation efforts, but it’s noticeably absent from the most important beat of our time: life and death. Africa’s pressing humanitarian crises demand the best journalism on the most engaging interfaces. 

The challenge we’re tackling

Commentators often complain about the paucity of media coverage of Africa. IRIN produces original, rigorously fact-checked, and in-depth articles from around the continent every week. But neglected, important stories struggle to break through and get the impact they need. In an age of information saturation, engaging global audiences in Africa’s complex crises requires creativity, resources, and careful treatments. Our immersive journalism unit will boost audience reach and engagement by developing content that catapults the audience into the story.

What success will look like

Taking a virtual reality journey through the Sahel on the back of a migrant smuggling truck, drone footage showing a formerly prosperous lakeside community stripped bare and impoverished by climate change and desertification, a 360 video transporting readers to a mine at the epicentre of conflict in Congo. In the age of Trump and Brexit, we need to get out of our bubbles and better connect to one another. Empathy can’t come from text alone. With the means to get the quality, presentation, and distribution right, the effect of our work would be dramatic: immersive drone, 360, and longform multimedia output that boosts audience reach and engagement.

How we will do it

IRIN delivers unique, authoritative and independent reporting from the front lines of crises to inspire and produce a more effective humanitarian response.

Founded in Nairobi in 1995, IRIN’s team remains very Africa-focused. The project will be led by Africa Editor Obi Anyadike and Multimedia Producer Miranda Grant, both based in Kenya. Editorial contributors will include our network of local stringers in 29 African countries. IRIN’s Director, Egyptian-Canadian Heba Aly, will provide oversight. This project will draw on resources and innovations already created by Code for Africa, and tap into the institutional knowledge of Bliss, the web design agency that built our existing platform. Content distribution partners like AllAfrica.com will amplify the message.

Our audience is influential and well-read, but time poor: We will apply the principles of design-thinking and the power of analytics to ensure our editorial content engages them effortlessly, delivering our stories in ways people want to consume on platforms they use.
Phase 1: Market research to better understand reader preferences.
Phase 2: Comprehensive design process, identifying the most appropriate tools to build out our digital infrastructure.
Phase 3: Real-time testing of existing innovations and extensive web and mobile development. 
Phase 4: User feedback and adaptation. By increasing the attractiveness and distribution of our work, we can dramatically expand the reach of our product.

The long-term outlook

We’re not looking at this as a fancy, one-off data visualisation exercise that stirs conversation for a few days and then disappears into the morass of information on the Web. We want to systematically design and build out IRIN’s digital infrastructure to replicate and scale immersive feature projects and experiment with new narrative techniques to tell the most powerful and engaging African stories of our time. 

Show your support

Help us make this work a reality by sending us your comments and suggestions on social media. Like, tweet or share this article using #innovateAFRICA.

(TOP PHOTO: Soldiers from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army – North (SPLA-N), climb through the mountains of South Kordofan, Sudan, April 25, 2012.)