innovateAFRICA: Why We’re Funding LiveWire

LiveWire seeks to connect South African news media to grassroots protests and community activists through their Grassroots app.

The project believes direct and real-time access to community organisers will revolutionise mainstream reportage, because the media currently primarily report social unrest reactively based on police or government communiques.

“LiveWire will change this. It will allow bottom-up journalism and will give a voice to marginalised people by alerting newsrooms the moment communities start organising a protest or when a spontaneous protest starts. It will give reporters direct access to community spokespeople, to memoranda, and to ordinary citizens who have taken to the barricades,” explains LiveWire project lead, Luke Jordan.

Jordan is co-founder at Grassroot, which is using its proven community organising technologies and established activist network to build LiveWire. The existing mobile and web-based apps already have 20,000 users who use the toolkit to help mobilize communities around issues ranging from sanitation and service delivery protests, to efforts to improve safety in shantytown communities. LiveWire will give journalists real-time access to the average of 128 meetings or activities planned using Grassroot tools every week.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest daily newspaper, the blue-collar tabloid Daily Sun, has agreed to pilot LiveWire by connecting its Johannesburg newsroom to communities in Soweto.

Examples of reports / photographs published by community activists on the LiveWire platform.

The University of Johannesburg’s Research Chair in Social Change reports that mainstream media currently report retroactively and focus largely on violent protests, with little systematic analysis of the reasons or on dynamics that lead to protests.

innovateAFRICA is investing into Livewire because, as newsrooms resources and reporting staff shrink, it is important to leverage technologies to help bridge the disconnect between the media and disempowered communities to aid public discourse about ‘burning issues’ before they turn violent.

innovateAFRICA’s investment was made possible because Jordan’s team delivered a proposal with a clear and feasible workplan, a reasonable budget and an experienced, knowledgeable team.

Budget: $25,000
Team: 
Luke Jordan (Project Lead)
Nokwanda Sihlali (Community Builder)
Esau Dlamini (Media Specialist, Editing & Training)
Vjeran Marcinko (Senior Developer)
Locations: Soweto, Johannesburg (South Africa)
Duration: 10 months


Code for Africa (CfAfrica) is the custodian of innovateAFRICA and is the continent’s largest independent digital journalism and civic technology initiative. It operates as a federation of autonomous country-based digital innovation organisations that support ‘citizen labs’ in five countries and major projects in a further 15 countries. CfAfrica runs Africa’s OpenGov Fellowships and also embeds innovation fellows into newsrooms and social justice organisations to help liberate data of public interest, or to build tools that help empower citizens. In addition to fellowships and tech labs, CfAfrica runs the $1 million per year innovateAFRICA fund and the $500,000 per year impactAFRICA fund, which both award seed grants to civic pioneers for experiments with everything from camera drones and environmental sensors, to encryption for whistleblowers and data-driven semantic analysis tools for investigative watchdogs. CfAfrica also curates continental resources such as the africanSPENDING portal of budget transparency resources, the openAFRICAdata portal, the sourceAFRICA document repository and the connectedAFRICAtransparency toolkit for tracking the often hidden social networks and economic interests in politics. CfAfrica is an initiative of the ICFJ.

The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) is at the forefront of the news revolution. Its programs empower journalists and engage citizens with new technologies and best practices. ICFJ’s networks of reporters and media entrepreneurs are transforming the field. It believes that better journalism leads to better lives.

CFI (agence française de cooperation medias) is the media cooperation agency of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development, and is responsible for coordinating and implementing French aid policy for promoting and enhancing the media in developing countries. CFI works alongside players operating in the media industry (TV, radio, written press, social media), whether state-owned or privately owned, in order to strengthen the modernisation and democratisation procedures that France so avidly supports. CFI is currently involved in around thirty projects that fall within four major programmes: media and pluralism, media and enterprise, media and development, and media and human resources.