AI in the Newsroom; A Gathering of Thoughts on Innovation and Sustainability from Internewsers in Africa

While the mention of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has elicited mixed reactions globally, particularly in reference to its impact on the media industry, Internewsers in Africa and their partners have been looking to harness the benefits of this fast-evolving technology. For the first time since 2019, the Africa Project Management Unit (PMU) gathered in Dar es Salaam from 25 – 28 April 2023 to discuss the rapidly changing global media landscape and what it will take for teams to adapt and embrace technology, and the impact that this will have on communities.

Internews partners including Tony Charita from The Chanzo (a partner organization in the Boresha Harbari program in Tanzania), had an opportunity to share their experiences on integrating AI in the newsroom. He reflected on how his team has managed to streamline some basic tasks that have saved them time and enabled better utilization of limited resources. Churchill Otieno, the former editor of the Nation Group in Kenya, also shared his thoughts on the implications that AI presents for editorial staff navigating between adapting to the rapidly changing media environment, while ensuring news remains accurate and balanced. There is no doubt that the need for truthful and accurate news is still key in a space where misinformation can easily flourish.

Further discussions on sustainability drew on the incredible work and initiatives of local partners and subject-matter experts. South Sudan, Liberia, and Zambia for example, shared powerful stories on how the alternative use of solar energy is impacting not only the environment, but also the longevity and cost savings of local media. Additionally, presentations from Baraza Labs (Kenya) and Info Nile (Uganda) underscored the importance of applying innovative thinking to solve local problems. They showcased the use of data, drone technology, and smartphones in responding to longstanding issues such as those related to the environment.  

An example of innovative problem-solving that participants reflected upon was the use and impact of SMS-based training as a powerful tool for remote support, particularly in managing partnerships, as well as in making trusted information available to audiences. This was observed as a success in circumstances such as the Covid-19 pandemic, and in holding power to account in politically charged environments like Zimbabwe.

At the end of the four-day workshop, the participants’ learning was put to the test in the now-famous, “Golden Warthog” challenge. Teams had 3 minutes to pitch a project idea to a potential donor on the use of AI to support the work of Internews. In the end, Team Liberia impressed the panel of judges and emerged as the winner amidst all the great ideas shared by other competing teams.

This successful engagement in Dar es Salaam will no doubt strengthen Internewsers in Africa to continue to impact their communities by building resilient and innovative information environments.

One of the groups presenting their Innovative project using AI, to the judges
And the winner of the Golden Warthog- Team Liberia- Hooray!