How Data Journalism Is Reshaping Media Development

Map from Ekuatorial.comAs we all have known for a while, journalism and the way it is delivered has changed drastically over the last decade, as more people turn to technology for their news.  Up until recently, journalists in the developing world had a harder time delivering the news due to lack of resources.  However, data reporting and other tech innovations have made it easier for reporters to do their jobs, but it also presents new challenges.

Following Rio + 20 in 2012, Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the Brazilian environmental news agency O Eco launched InfoAmazonia, an interactive mapping platform highlighting environmental concerns throughout the nine countries of the Amazon basin.  It sources its data from a wide range of stakeholders and partners and users can easily embed the richly designed maps on their websites or social media.  InfoAmazonia has become the go-to place for information and discussions about the world’s largest rainforest.

Earlier this year, the Earth Journalism Network and the Society of Indonesian Environmental Journalists (SIEJ)also launched Ekuatorial, a similar environmental platform that looks at climate change concerns in Indonesia.  What makes this project slightly different is that local journalists are able to collect data and produce reports that will be distributed to both Indonesian and international media outlets.  This gives more opportunity to showcase reporting that would normally not get much attention outside local communities.

There has also been a great deal of interesting data journalism occurring in Africa.  South African journalists formed a group called Oxpeakers.  They use data to report instances of rhino poaching in their country.  On its website it shows the number of rhino deaths and poacher arrests per province in an up-to-date interactive map.

Internews Kenya has collaborated with Kenya journalists to create LandQuest, an initiative that reports on development projects in the country that are financed by both charities and private firms.  Data collected is used to “visualize the interplay between capitalism and altruism and its impact on wealth and inequality. The geo-narratives mapped along side development projects and private industry underscore the relationship between people, data and the politics of development.”  The project has raised awareness to how both developed and developing countries can come together and regulate public and private funds through data.

Some media outlets in South Africa, Uganda and Nigeria are even looking at ways to make revenue from data.  Traditional newspaper ads are no longer a profitable business model. The Star newspaper of Kenya recently started charging premium text messaging rates for mHealth apps.  For a small fee, users can find the nearest certified doctor or if they’re covered by their insurance plans.  This helps to reduce the amount of medical fraud among citizens.  The initiative was created by Code For Kenya, who believe users are willing to pay for this service if there is an added value.

These are only a small number of innovative data journalism projects currently happening worldwide.  Journalists from both developed and developing countries could take lessons here.

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