Knight Foundation Issues Awards for Mobile Info Sharing

The Knight Foundation announced the eight most recent award winners of its Knight News Challenge on mobile innovation. The eight recipients will receive $2.4 million from the foundation to develop their projects.

 “In 2013 the number of Internet-enabled mobile devices is expected to be greater than the number of computers for the first time. These eight Knight News Challenge projects, and the innovators behind them, are helping to stretch the ways people around the world are engaging with information and using it to shape their communities,” Michael Maness, VP for journalism and media innovation at Knight Foundation.

The challenge was set up by the John S. And James L. Knight Foundation in 2012.

Winners of Knight Foundation challenge receive $2.4 million for mobile innovation projects

The programs are exciting efforts to bring information technology to the grassroots. There are even benefits for news organizations looking to bring home stories from other parts of the world. The WITNESS project is one of the most interesting for news organizations because, if successful, it will allow national and local news outlets to have air information from a war, civil unrest or natural disaster with more confidence about the information’s authenticity.

The Knight News Challenge: Mobile Winners


Project Lead: Jon Gosier, Philadelphia, Pa.

Twitter: @jongos, @abayima


Abayima wants to build an open source application that people can use to store information to SIM cards – effectively turning the cards into storage devices and their mobile phones into e-readers. This app is particularly useful for sharing news and information in countries where communication networks are unsafe to use due to surveillance or where authorities or other circumstances have shut off access to the Internet altogether. The team has successfully piloted a program with Ugandan activists during the country’s 2011 elections, while all SMS traffic in the country was monitored for voices of dissent. 

Cafédirect Producers’ Foundation (CPF)

Project Leads: Kady Murphy, Claire Rhodes and Kenny Ewan, London, UK

Twitter: @we_farm; @TheCPFoundation


The Cafédirect Producers’ Foundation designs projects to support small-scale farmers. This project will build a platform allowing farmers to ask questions and share knowledge about any farming topic, have it translated by volunteers, answered by farmers in other communities and returned to them via basic SMS messages. Knight funds will enable the project, called WeFarm, to expand on successful pilots in Kenya, Peru and Tanzania, where farmers exchanged more than 4,600 SMS messages, an average of more than 70 per user, on topics such as frost control and animal husbandry.

Digital Democracy

Project Lead: Emily Jacobi and Gregor MacLennan, New York, N.Y.

Twitter: @emjacobi & @digidem

Digital Democracy, a nonprofit that builds community technology capacity in marginalized communities, will create and combine existing open software to produce a tool kit communities can use to share their stories and make informed choices. The team will work with local partners in the Peruvian Amazon to deploy and test the tool kit and train residents in its use.


Project Lead: Chris Csikszentmihalyi and Jude Mukundane, Los Angeles, Calif.

Twitter: @RootioRadio, @csik

RootIO project complements radio by mixing its power with new mobile and Internet technologies. RootIO is an open-source toolkit that allows communities to create their own micro radio stations with an inexpensive smartphone and transmitter, and to share, promote and collaborate on dynamic content. The project will be piloted in Uganda in partnership with the Uganda Radio Network, UNICEF Uganda and UNICEF Innovation Unit.


Project Leads: Michelle Lee, Serena Wales, Alex Yule, San Francisco, Calif. and Philadelphia, Pa.

Twitter: @textizen, @mishmosh, @gangleton, @yuletide


Textizen creates new ways for meaningful civic participation. Started as a Code for America pilot project in Philadelphia, Textizen identified early best practices by experimenting with several types of campaigns. One, for example, asked for feedback on public transit changes by posing a text-to-vote question at a bus stop. The team will license the software to cities seeking to create new open, engaging channels for civic participation.


Project Leads: Kacie Kinzer, Tom Gerhardt, Caroline Oh, New York, N.Y.

Twitter: @kaciekinzer, @tomgerhardt, @carolineyoh

Current tools for recording oral history, such as video cameras and professional audio equipment, can be difficult to use and hamper the social nature of a conversation. This project will make it easy to record and share stories among generations and communities. Target groups include rural ranchers in New Mexico whose lives reflect a disappearing culture of endurance and gifted storytelling.

Wikimedia Foundation

Project Lead: Kul Takanao Wadhwa, San Francisco, Calif.

Twitter: @wikimedia, @wikipedia

News Challenge funding will help create software to bring Wikipedia to lower-end, more basic phones – the kinds the majority of people use to access data outside of the West. Specifically, efforts will be focused in three areas: developing features to improve the mobile experience regardless of how feature-rich the device is; increasing the number of languages that can access Wikipedia on mobile; and improving the way feature phones access the platform.


Project Lead: Sam Gregory and Bryan Nunez (at WITNESS) and Nathan Freitas and Harlo Holmes (at Guardian Project), New York, N.Y.

Twitter: @SamGregory, @Tech_wit, @N8FR8, @Harlo

More and more ordinary people use their mobile phones to create and share media about conflicts or civil unrest. News organizations and others have trouble authenticating the origins of photos, videos or audio. In collaboration with The Guardian Project, the international human rights organization WITNESS seeks to solve this problem by launching the InformaCam app. The mobile app allows users to incorporate key metadata in their video (who, what, where, corroborating identifiers), watermark it as coming from a particular camera, and share it in an encrypted format with someone the user trusts. News outlets, human rights organizations and everyday people could use the app to verify a breaking news story using first-hand video from a citizen journalist, share evidence of war crimes from a conflict zone, or even verify the images of a fender bender that someone could take to small claims court.



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Filed under Connections, Freedom of Information, International News Coverage, Story Ideas

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