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Political party matchmaker wins media hackathon

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A “dating game”” app designed to help South Africans find the political party that best matches their interests won 1st prize at sub-Saharan Africa’s first Editors Lab newsroom hackathon on the weekend.

The Party Match app was designed by an all woman team from the Sunday Times during a 48-hour brainstorming session hosted by digital news publisher 24.com, and organised by the Global Editors Network, the African Media Initiative and Google.

Team members Loni Prinsloo (journalist), Fiona Krisch (designer) and Carla Goldstein (developer) scored a R20,000 cash prize, plus an all expense paid trip to the GEN Summit and Global Data Journalism Awards Ceremony in Barcelona, Spain, in June 2014. While in Spain, the South Africans will compete with Editors’ Lab winners from 18 other countries during a Global News Hackathon.

‚””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,‚”” said jury member and AMI chief digital strategist, Justin Arenstein. ‚””The creative execution on Party Match was also heads above the other 13 contestants.‚””

The prototype app is designed for tablets, with smartphone and desktop versions planned. Newsrooms will be able to analyse data from the app, to help track opinion trends amongst users.

‚””The Editors’ Lab was a revelation for us. None of our team members had ever worked together or gone to a hackathon before, nor had any of us worked on a news app before. We were initially terrified, but then decided to keep it simple. We focused on just one issue: how do you get South Africa’s apathetic young to engage with politics? 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,‚”” said Krisch. ‚””The fact that we could pull together a working prototype in less than two days will rock our newsroom.‚””

City Press clinched 2nd place, securing technical support from Code for Africa 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. LifeCoach intends expanding to include other tutorials, to help South Africa’s emergent middle class navigate an increasingly complex world.

‚””This hackathon is without a doubt one of the most impressive we’ve organised anywhere in the world. The 13 teams that competed produced more working prototypes than at any other Editors’ Lab, except the one at the New York Times. The South African winners produced an excellent app, with a great idea and clever implementation at very high editorial and technical standards,‚”” said GEN’s deputy director, and Editors’ Labs manager, Antoine Laurent. ‚””South Africa boasts a really accomplished digital innovation community.‚””

The jury, consisting of Memeburn editor Michelle Atagana, Laurent and Arenstein, awarded two special commendations:

‚””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. Even though they didn’t win, we fully expect to see them go public, because they’re such important innovations,‚”” said Memeburn editor, Michelle Atagana.

Other projects that won technical support from Code for Africa include:

The other projects submitted by the 14 competing teams can be viewed online at GEN’s Editors Lab page and Hacks/Hackers Africa. The 14 teams were: BDFM (publishers of the Business Day and Financial Mail), Cape Times, City Press, Daily Maverick, Eyewitness News, Hacks/Hackers Johannesburg, SABC Digital News, South African Press Association (SAPA), the Oxpeckers Center for Investigative Environmental Reporting, Media24 Digital News, Media24 Magazines Digital Division, News24, Sunday Times, and West Cape News.

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