Google News Lab partner Code for Africa and Kingston-based civic tech non-profit, the SlashRoots Foundation are combining efforts to offer Jamaican news organisations access to digital tools to help them mine open data and offer new services to Jamaican audiences.
The two organisations recently collaborated on an open data literacy bootcamp for journalists, government and non-governmental organisations hosted by the World Bank and the Jamaican Open Data Portal at Mona School of Business, The University of the West Indies (UWI).
Following the workshop, SlashRoots will host a series of monthly meetings to enable workshop participants, techies and journalists to continue collaborating on projects and learning new skills.
“We at Code for Africa believe that open data collaborations, for journalists as well as civil society organisations, are vital to providing citizens with actionable information that they can use to improve their lives,” a news release quotes Code for Africa Deputy Director Chris Roper.
“There are so many opportunities for Jamaican and African media and data people to share ideas and technologies, and to avoid replicating things that have already been built. The boot camp was an opportunity to pass on skills and to evolve ideas that are going to lead to some significant projects,” added Roper, who is also former editor-in-chief of South Africa’s Mail & Guardian newspaper.
SlashRoots Co-founder David Soutar agreed. “Open data is opening up a wealth of possibilities for us in the Caribbean. SlashRoots has seen how effective these tools have been in the hands of African journalists and we’re willing to do whatever we can to see these opportunities made available to journalists and news organisations here in Jamaica,” he said.
Roper argued that ,“Journalism is becoming increasingly networked and collaborative.” This, he said, can be even greater for the Caribbean, where language barriers are relatively lower than in his continent.
“Sweet spots can be journalists concentrating on certain industries – in several African countries Australian mining companies were not using the same safety standards they did in Australia. Newsrooms collaborated across borders and eventually even got a law passed in Australia because of that work. But that could have never happened had a newsroom worked in isolation,” he continued.
Code for Africa works across 12 countries and the tools built during previous projects are available to Jamaica, ranging from mapping information to drones, to even a project to help newspaper readers use SMS messaging to distinguish genuine from bogus medical practitioners.
Its online learning academy developed with Google News Lab can also be repurposed and made available for Caribbean-based journalists.
Since 2011, SlashRoots has partnered with a variety of government agencies, development organisations, academic institutions and private sector organisations to better utilise technology, user-centred design and data to improve public services and create innovative solutions to complex problems.