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Africa hosts its first Media Party

The Media Party Africa takes place in Cape Town, 21-23 October, 2016
The Media Party Africa takes place in Cape Town, 21-23 October, 2016

Hacks/Hackers chapters in two cities - Buenos Aires and Miami - have held very successful “Media Party” events over recent years; Buenos Aires just held its fifth. Truth told, the Media Party in Buenos Aires is my favorite journalism/tech event of the year (I’ve even said so in a previous blog post here). I think it’s mainly because the signal to noise ratio at the event is one of the best I’ve seen.

The Media Party events combine keynote addresses, workshops, a media fair and a hackathon, and it attracts a crowd low on sales pitches and funding pitches, and high on making and sharing. They tap into a community of participants that spans technology, media, activism and culture, and a lot of the fun is in getting as far out of one’s comfort zone as possible - it’s one of the few media events where keynote speakers actually participate in the hackathon, even if they’re not coders.

The Media Party Africa, which will be held this weekend (October 21-23) in Cape Town will be the first in Africa, and it’s already sold out. The event is being organised by one of Africa’s powerhouse tech organisations - Code For Africa, who are focused primarily on building civic technology capacity within civil society and the watchdog media. Code For Africa describes itself as a people-driven movement that aims to empower active citizenry and strengthen civic watchdogs to help government shape and improve its services to citizens.

Because of Code For Africa’s strong involvement in the open data and data journalism communities, I expect the Media Party Cape Town to skew heavily in these directions, and rightly so. There is good momentum in several African countries toward open data, and sharing the skillsets required to work with that data is both necessary and commendable.

It’s also important to note the scope and depth of data journalism and of open data initiatives across the African continent. Kenya’s Star Health portal, created by Code For Africa with The Star newspaper, offers a number of innovative services to make a difference in the lives of everyday Kenyans. For example, “Dodgy Doctors” is a service that lets site visitors search the names of registered doctors - important in a country with a high number of people masquerading as health care professionals.

I've been invited to the Media Party to lead a workshop on citizen journalism verification, based on the work we've done in the areas of verification workflow and real-time reporting with our Verified Pixel and Citizen Desk projects. I'm calling the workshop “Is That Really True?” and we'll cover the basics of verification, plus some of the more recent developments in machine vision and automation.

I’m looking forward to the Media Party’s sessions, and will also be curious to learn more about the issues that are front and center on the minds of my African colleagues. Certainly there are a lot of issues that are similar; the constant discussion of business models comes to mind, maybe because no one has truly cracked the code there yet. As someone traveling to the Media Party from Europe, I’m looking forward to learning more about how things look from an African perspective.

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