Nuno Vargas invited me to mentor at a hackathon for the International Center for Journalists Hala Nigeria program, a health journalism/technology initiative. The two-day boot camp helped teams from Nigerian newsrooms turn their print stories into useful digital tools.
I gave a short presentation and helped teams design and build their projects, but of course I also learned from having my American newsrooms experiences challenged.
Build for users
Hala Nigeria journalists had intimate knowledge of their audiences — rural mothers, commuters, malaria patients, Ebola survivors — thanks to their reporting in the field. A design thinking talk by Nuno guided content and technology decisions, and Knight fellow Justin Arenstein demo’d some amazingly useful Code for Africa projects.
The news apps I’ve built look nice on desktop computers, but everyone at the Hala Nigeria camp understood their audience uses mobile phones. We discussed social media and the differences between native and responsive apps and tested prototypes by whipping out cell phones.
SERIOUSLY, MOBILE (especially feature phones)
Anecdote: I was one of the only iPhone users at the story camp.
Survey: According to slides 11 and 12 of the TNS Global report below, 82 percent of Nigerians own a mobile, but only a quarter of them use smart phones. The vast majority are on feature phones.
Texas Tribune taught me to think responsive, many of the apps I developed for and tested with smart phones would be useless to many Nigerian mobile users.
Problems? Hack nah!
Projects focused sensitive health issues in rural areas of Nigeria. In the absence of data, many of the teams created forms and developed marketing strategies to build custom datasets with input from their target audiences.
Martin Virtel also offered an example of an impactful app that only required two numbers.
Vanessa Odinong’s reporting on maternal health issues in Northern Nigeria reminded me of Texas Tribune’s focused women’s health coverage. Ayeni Gbenga’s artistic eye and reporting interest immediately amde me think of the comics journalism of Darryl Holliday and Washington Post. Temitayo Olofinlua pursued medical negligence stories as aggressively as I’ve seen any statehouse reporter track down official documents.