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Google has launched Africa and Middle East Google News Initiative (GNI), an innovation challenge seeking to fund Kenyan-based journalists on creating digital projects around news distribution, diversification and monetization as the number of active social media in the country stands at 46.6 million.

In developing countries, in particular, digital media has not been fully adopted by media firms as they still rely on conventional media to communicate, entertain and educate. However, GNI will help members of the fourth estate to adopt digital media so as to enhance their operations in the field of the media industry.

According to the Media Landscape Report 2019, digital migration has increased media
accessibility in Kenya from 45.5 million in the second quarter 0f 2018 to 46.6 million in the third quarter of the same year.


“As at 30th September 2018, the number of active mobile subscriptions in the country stood at 46.6 million. This marked a growth of 2.4 per cent when compared to 45.5 million subscriptions recorded as at 30th June 2018. Subsequently, mobile penetration rose by 2.3 percentage points to stand at 100.1 per cent from 97.8 per cent reported last quarter,” read the report in part.

The innovation challenge which is scheduled to end 2 nd September 2019 was officially opened on 18 th June 2019 is calling on Kenya’s news innovators with ideas around new business models and better ways of reader engagement to send in their applications.

Ludovic Blecher, Head of Google News Initiative (GNI) Innovation said the GNI Innovation Challenge is a key way for news innovators across the world to demonstrate new thinking in the practice of digital journalism and development of new business models.

“The challenge gives everyone the opportunity to inject creativity and new ideas and try things they wouldn’t have tried without this approach. We cannot innovate if we stay in silos; we have got to break the silos,” said Ludovic Blecher.

The GNI is the global umbrella that pulls together everything Google does to help news players in their transition to a digital future. It is Google’s effort to help news players in their transition to a digital future, focusing on three pillars – elevating and strengthening quality journalism, evolving business models to drive sustainable growth and empowering news organizations through technological innovation.

Speaking during the official launch of the initiative, the Ministry of Information Communication Technology (ICT) Joe Mucheru said that digital media industry in Kenya is an enabling factor of the digital blueprint.

“I see the news industry in Kenya as an enabler and a benefactor of the digital economy blueprint I, therefore, encourage Google and all its partners here to continue the good work they are doing in innovating around areas such as future proof, quality journalism,” said Joe Mucheru.

Mucheru added that mass media can help spur economic development by interrogating and keeping in check public policy, harnessing diverse opinions in governance and funneling public consensus towards progressive change.

Over the last two years, Google has trained more than 4000 journalists across Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa through the Google News Label. So far across Europe, the GNI Innovation Challenge has received over 5,500 applications, and 662 projects selected in 30 countries.

This will help in shifting social media users from betting into using digital as a communication tool. For instance, according to an annual report for 2019 by Hootsuite and We Are Social, betting and sports-related sites dominated the top internet search queries in Kenya in 2018.

Latest statistics by Alexia ranked Google and YouTube as the leading search queries with the highest number of visitors followed by digital medial platforms including The Standard, Nation and Tuko.co.ke respectively.

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