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Quirky news game app wins Sub-Saharan Africa’s first media hackathon

This past weekend, the Editors’ Lab hackathon held in Cape Town saw a total of fourteen teams compete to develop the most innovative news-driven mobile app or website to further active citizenry. The team from the Sunday Times came out top with the development of an app called Party Match.

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The app is described as being a cheeky ‘dating game’ that wants to help South Africans find the political party that would best match their personal interests. The application will further help newsrooms across South Africa to track opinion trends amongst users.

Party Match was developed by Loni Prinsloo (journalist), Fiona Krisch (designer) and Carla Goldstein (developer) who won the R20 000 cash prize plus an all expense paid trip to the GEN Summit and Global Data Journalism Awards in Barcelona, Spain in June next year.

Jury member and AMI chief digital strategist Justin Arenstein notes that it was mainly the creative execution of Party Match that impressed him. “Although not the most technically accomplished project, Party Match won because it demonstrated the local potential for news games and the importance of humour in building audience engagement around ‘boring’ issues such as politics,” he said.

“We focused on just one issue: how do you get South Africa’s apathetic young to engage with politics?” said Party Match team designer Fiona Krisch. “How do you get them to think about what each party has to offer, and how this impacts on their lives? Party Match is our solution.”

City Press was awarded second place for their cross­ media app designed to help the estimated 3 600 people raped every day in South Africa. LifeCoach tries to guide rape survivors through the process of reporting and prosecuting their attackers, while also linking them with their nearest counsellors and support networks.

The jury, which consisted of Burn Media Michelle Atagana, Editors’ Labs manager Antoine Laurent and Arenstein further awarded Media24 digital news team, for BuyLine and then Jason Norwood­-Young, for his Strike Season. The former is a light­weight pay wall platform that fences individual articles, with payment via USSD using airtime credits from users’ mobile accounts. Norwood­-Young’s BuyLine is an interactive infographic CMS that helps newsrooms quickly and clearly explain complicated union demands and employer counter offers during South Africa’s fiercely contested strikes.

Atagana notes that even though some of the projects such as BuyLine didn’t manage to win, she still expects to see them go public soon. “Jason was a one-­man army. And, the only reason that BuyLine didn’t win is because it didn’t speak to the ‘Active Citizenry’ theme of the hackathon. The same goes for other strong contenders, such as Eyewitness News’ NewSense API project,” she notes.

The event, which is a first of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa, was hosted be media publisher and organised by the Global Editors Network, the African Media Initiative and Google. All of the fourteen projects submitted can be viewed online at GEN’s Editors’ Lab.

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