By Anele Ngcoya

What is the Africa Data Hub? 

In response to the global Covid-19 pandemic, the Africa Data Hub was established to serve as a free one-stop-shop for newsrooms, researchers, and the public to access near real-time Covid-19-related data in user-friendly formats. The focus of the hub has since broadened to health, gender, and equitable economic recovery in Africa, as these will prove critical in the continent recovering from the effects of the pandemic. 

We seek to support and promote quality data-driven journalism and in turn, facilitate evidence-based decision-making about the pandemic across the continent. Our efforts and resources are directed at contributing to journalism in Africa in the following ways:

  • Streamlining the data pipeline so that journalists can find trustworthy, comprehensive, and easy to share datasets on Africa to save time and resources.
  • Providing otherwise inaccessible data from Africa and thereby diversifying coverage of new stories and narratives through an African lens.
  • Helping to “demystify” data and to upskill journalists with the skills and tools needed to use data in their stories effectively and succinctly.

What are the issues you’re trying to solve when it comes to journalism? 

News organisations struggle to find reliable accurate datasets of interest, especially for Sub-Saharan Africa. When sourced, data is then often very difficult to analyse and even more difficult to share in user-friendly formats. Journalists also face incredible resource constraints because while the expectation is to publish more stories and in different ways, there are fewer hands on deck in newsrooms. An added challenge is that journalists also often lack the capacity, time and skills to source, clean, analyse and use data in a story for impact (despite an appetite for data journalism).

Africa Data Hub aims to fill this gap and meet these needs.

Why is data such a helpful element in journalism? 

Data offers a unique opportunity for journalists to report with accuracy and nuance. Data can provide the perfect mechanism for unearthing new story ideas, offering alternative angles to existing narratives or presenting examples of trends and outliers that may otherwise be missed.

As we have pioneered the Africa Data Hub, we have seen the critical link that this hub serves in connecting journalists and newsrooms to much-needed analytical support and data, which in turn connects whole populations to key information that they can trust. These shifts in news coverage will not only make for richer media consumption by audiences, but may also stimulate greater audience engagement, readership and revenue for newsrooms. 

What are some of the major features of the ADH and what value does it offer to journalists? 

All dashboards, data exploration tools and training resources that we produce as ADH are focused on assisting journalists in Africa to make better use of data in their reporting. Our products and services serve journalists by helping them to do the following: 

  • DATA REPOSITORY: Journalists can find appropriate and accurate data that may otherwise be inaccessible. ADH hosts dataset(s) that have been verified as credible and accurate, and include important metadata about the source of the data. These datasets can be downloaded for further analysis.
  • DATA RESOURCES: Journalists can explore datasets through the data visualisations and tools that ADH provides that can spark other story ideas and/or further digging. There are options to embed and download these data visualisations.
  • TRAINING: Journalists can learn the fundamentals of data journalism from finding data, to ‘interviewing’ data, creating data stories and presenting data in meaningful ways for their audiences (including the use of visualisations, widgets and other data-related graphics in stories). We also offer specific training tailored to newsrooms’ specific skills and needs. 
  • FELLOWSHIPS: ADH has recently launched two fellowship opportunities that provide specific training as well as resources to support the writing of data-driven stories. The Community Journalism Fellowship seeks to improve the coverage of under-reported issues in local communities in Nigeria while the Data Journalism Fellowship targets young journalists in Kenya with less than three years of work experience, pushing them to use data in interesting and innovative ways in new media.

Who makes up the Africa Data Hub team? 

Our project team consists of six organisations based in five different African cities.  Open Cities Lab (OCL) is a transparency non-profit based in Durban, which is leading this project in cooperation with four other key organisations: the civic tech organisation OpenUp in Cape Town, the data visualisation company Odipo Dev in Nairobi, the data visualisation company Orodata in Nigeria, and South African data journalism organisation Media Hack Collective. Media Monitoring Africa is the sixth partner that acts as a research partner by providing insights into the coverage of news media over time. 

What are the next steps and future vision for Africa Data Hub? What are you trying to achieve? What’s in the pipeline for ADH? 

The past year has seen the successful implementation of the Africa Data Hub programme and platform, with significant momentum establishing and growing the Covid-19 data pipeline throughout the continent, and setting up partnerships with newsrooms and other related stakeholders.

We have a vision of ADH becoming the go-to portal that houses health data for use by journalists on the African continent. Our next steps are to continue: 

  • Building on the experience and impact that ADH has made by strengthening relationships with stakeholders, including other data suppliers, and widening the reach of the hub. 
  • Transitioning to include data, tooling, and resources that contextualise the implications of Covid-19 in other sectors (non-health-related). As well as expanding our product offering to include other health-related data.
  • Expanding the continental reach of ADH by capacitating and empowering more newsrooms in Africa on the use of quality data and data visualisation tools in their stories.
  • Testing and creating infrastructure to enable ADH to become its own self-sustaining entity (either within or outside of Open Cities Lab).

How can you contact us?

Journalists and organisations in the journalism, data science, and data visualisation space can get in touch with us via email; to stay updated on the products we create and the training we offer, follow our social media pages and sign up for our newsletter here.

Anele Ngcoya is the junior project lead at Open Cities Lab.

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