Building civic tech tools for accountability in Lagos

On 9–11 March, the Global Editors Network (GEN), News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) and Code for Africa, with the support of Google, gathered some of the best media innovators from the region for an Editors Lab focused on creating prototypes to better hold political powers accountable for their actions and promises.

The Editors Lab started with a one-day bootcamp coordinated by the Code for Africa team who invited a slew of experts to teach our participants some new skills. The day was a crash-course on the most important techniques and tools needed to analyse public spending information, including a foray through open budget processes.

Oleseun Onigbide from BudgIt

Experts Oleseun Onigbide and Samuel Atiku from BudgIt, Nkechi Okwuone from Microsoft and Blaise Aboh from Orodata Science were on hand to impart important knowledge on in data literacy and to share their favourite data visualisations.

Communicate complex ideas in a simple, attractive, shareable & accessible way using infographics - Blaise Aboh
GEN’s Evangeline de Bourgoing presenting to the NAN Editors Lab teams

On day 2 started the hackathon, with thirteen teams competing to create civic tech tools for accountability. The participants were from the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), The Punch, The Nation, Sundiata Post, The Sun, This Day, The Cable, Daily Trust, TVC and a few freelance professionals joined the competition.

Google News Lab first showcased a few of its tools and how they can be used by journalists. Google’s representative, Taiwo Kola-Ogunlade presented different ways Google Search and Google Sheet can be used as precious tools for finding accurate data and enriching stories.

Code for Africa’s Justin Arenstein presented inspiring projects giving the teams insights into great initiatives and processes. He shared a lot of great examples of stories, data-driven and open-source tools from around the continent aimed at holding government powers more accountable for their actions and promises.

Code For Kenya’s Tax Clock is a free online tool showing users how much of their work day is spent working to pay tax

The teams combining developers, designers, researchers, data experts, civil society & journalists got to work on their prototypes, refining their concepts and putting some of their newly-acquired skills to the test.

At the end of the first day and after mentorship from Taiwo Kola-Ogunlade, Justin Arenstein, Jacopo Ottaviani, GEN’s Évangéline de Bourgoing, Oradata’s Blaise Aboh, BudgIt’s Samuel Atiku and Code for Africa’s Ademola Oduguwa, the teams had their minds set on what their were going to build on the next day.

And the winner is…

At the end of Saturday’s intense working sprint, the teams gathered to pitch their work to a jury composed of The Interview Managing Director Azubuike Ishiekwene, Code for Africa’s Justin Arenstein, Lillian Nduati and Ademola Oduguwa, data journalist Jacopo Ottaviani and GEN’s Evangeline de Bourgoing.

The team from the Punch (Kelvin Bawa, web lead, Temiloluwa Bamgbose, multimedia journalist and John Abayomi, online editor) won with their prototype Moja.

Moja is a social media driven project designed to compare the needs of a community — Federal constituencies in Nigeria — to the projects actually done in the community. It works by giving details of a constituency project and allowing residents of the constituency to tell if the project is really needed and if it is working.

Jury member Azubuike Ishiekwene said of the winning project:

“Giving the opportunity to the community to express itself and react to government spending in areas that affects them directly is fantastic. Moja is a great idea nicely executed to do so. Having an Editors Lab here in Lagos has been a wonderful opportunity for Nigerian publications to learn from experts and put their skills to the test.”

Special mentions went to the team from TVC for their prototype iVerify and to the ORMIDataNG team for ORUData.

The winning team from Punch: Kelvin Bawa and Temiloluwa Bamgbose

Check all the prototypes developed during the NAN Editors Lab here