Andela recently hosted the “Fighting Fake News” Hackathon. Supported by BBC News, the Andela Hackathon was one of many events being held as part of the broadcaster’s ‘Beyond Fake News’ series, a project aimed at tackling the problem posed by the spread of disinformation.
After a 24-hour sprint involving 52 software developers, 16 teams presented their ideas to a panel of judges comprising of Jackie Christie [BBC Head of Partnerships – Africa TV Co-Productions], Shikoh Gitau [Head of Products – Safaricom], Frank Tamre [Software Engineer, Instructor & Mentor] and James Smart [Journalist].
Three teams – Thibitisha (Kiswahili word meaning confirm), iCODEAI, and SeeTheLight – presented the strongest concepts according to the panel. Their winning prototypes utilised Artificial Intelligence (AI), image manipulation detection techniques, and crowd-sourcing to fact-check, verify and distinguish fake news from legitimate news on text, video and photos. Each of the teams – comprising of 11 members combined – were invited to pitch their solutions at the BBC’s Beyond Fake News Conference held in Nairobi on November 12, 2018. Most recently, the teams have also been offered a six-month mentorship opportunity with Safaricom at the firm’s Alpha Innovation Hub to receive mentorship.
(TOP: The winners pose for a photo with the Andela and BBC representatives. Photo: Andela).
“We began the Safaricom Alpha Innovation Hub to drive our purpose of transforming lives by exploring innovations and partnerships that create additional value for our customers. Our collaboration with Andela seeks to harness the power of technology for social good to empower people in making informed decisions,” said Joseph Ogutu, Chief Special Projects Officer, Safaricom.
Themed ‘Technology for public good: countering fake news online’, the Hackathon was held to showcase how technology can be used for the public good, to counter fake news online. It opened with a diverse panel of experts including Brice Nkengsa [Co-Founder & Director of Engineering, Andela], Joshua Mwaniki [Country Director, Andela Kenya], Jackie Christie, Pinky Ghelani [Speaker, Presenter & Moderator] and moderator Rehema Kahurananga [Communications Manager, Andela] who provided further context as to why curbing the consumption and spread of fake news is vital and requires a multi-pronged approach including technology.
“There are many forms of misinformation but we define fake news as the deliberate spread of false information for political or commercial gain,” said Christie. “Trust underlines everything that we do. When trust is undermined we’re in trouble as a society. We’re using media literacy to educate both the young and old in fighting fake news.”
Nkengsa added, “Hackathons are typically unrestricted environments with little to no guidelines on what processes or technologies to use for the participants. This enables them to push the envelope. The participants have the opportunity to pursue ambitious ideas in a highly collaborative environment. Hackathons are also a great way to reach out and engage with the developer community.”
Over the next six months, teams Thibitisha, iCODEAI, and SeeTheLight will receive mentorship on product development and iteration at Safaricom Alpha. Wanjiru Catherine, an Android Developer and AI enthusiast and a member of Team SeeTheLight, stated. “I enjoyed the ideation and the designing phases during the Andela Hackathon as i had an opportunity to air my ideas, and we could argue out our differences and later converge to one idea. Getting selected as one of the final teams and being able to receive mentorship through Alpha is really a humbling opportunity.”