Knight News Challenge

The Knight News Challenge accelerates media innovation by funding breakthrough ideas in news and information. Winners receive a share of $5 million in funding and support from Knight’s network of influential peers and advisors to help advance their ideas. The first round of 2013, which opens in February, will invite innovators from all disciplines to focus on tools for open government. In 2012, three challenge rounds, each focused on an emerging trend, drew more than 2,500 entries.

Challenge 1 - on NETWORKS: Winners were announced June 18.

Challenge 2 - on DATA: Winners were announced Sept. 20.

Challenge 3 – on MOBILE: Winners were announced Jan. 17.

Anyone, anywhere can apply for the challenge - whether for-profit start-ups or non-profit ventures. For more information on a variety of topics - from guidelines for for-profits, on intellectual property licensing, open source software and more - visit our FAQ.

Abayima, Messaging when Mobile Networks are Compromised

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1. What is your project? [1 sentence]

Abayima turns the world’s four billion low-tech feature phones into cheap e-readers and writers.

2. How will your project use mobile tools and approaches? [2 sentences]

Sim cards are used every day, all around the world to allow people to make calls, but no one to our knowledge has ever used them to distribute content. Abayima turns humans who have mobile phones into the content delivery network - the crowd becomes the carrier.

3. Who will use it and why? [1 sentence]

Over 5 billion people around the world use mobile phones daily - activists, journalists, and humanitarian organizations often have to distribute information to them when mobile networks are insecure or shut down and can now do so using Abayima.

4. Please list three ways they would learn about your project.

Rather than rely upon high-tech infrastructure, Abayima relies upon centuries old information networks inspired by the Jewish resistance, the underground slave escape routes in the United States, Navajo code talkers, the war scouts of Sparta etc. There is a long lineage of using ‘no or low-tech’ means of encryption to protect sensitive information.

As a technology Abayima is a way of storing information on SIM chips which can then be placed in a mobile phone on the other end to be read. People will become aware of the products in the following ways:
  • Abayima relies upon human networks, so we will market directly to individuals around the world who use low-end phones.  When people use the service to produce messages, every new person they share a sim with becomes a new user.
  • We will train activists to use the product as a secure and reliable way to move information when freedom of speech is threatened or non-existant.  These activists will train other activists and so on.
  • We will also seek to monetize the platform by marketing to publishers who are looking for new ways to reach audiences in emerging countries.  This is a truly new way to publish content at scale, and thus fits into their publishing budgets.

5. What connections have you made, or will you make, with others [communities, organizations or networks] about your project? [2 sentences]

This project was piloted by election monitors and activists in Uganda and supported by a grant from Indigo Trust in 2010.  We seek to form partnerships with humanitarian organizations seeking technologies to help secure communication for activists, particularly in times where democracy is compromised (in places like Syria, Egypt, and Tunisia).

6. What part of the project have you already built? [1-2 sentences, feel free to include links]

We prototyped a one-time version of Abayima during the 2010 elections in Uganda when mobile networks were being ‘scrubbed’ for content that weren’t in support of the current leader.  

With this award, we would dedicate a full time staff member to the project and work with them to develop a new version that can be scaled globally.

7. What does success for your project look like? [1-2 sentences]

Imagine, if instead of purchasing newspapers, rural citizens could simply share or purchase sim cards with new content on them.  
If Abayima is successful, it will change the world’s poorest can distribute information, not just in times of crisis or compromise, but at any time.

8. What resources do you need to succeed? [1-2 sentences]

We need access to journalists in countries where communication infrastructure is weak or state-controlled.  

We also seek to work with more networks of activists who can help to prove the viability of the project as an alternative means of communicating with mobile phones.

Additional details:
Please list who is on your team:
Jonathan Gosier (USA), Matthew Griffiths (UK), Ahmed Maawy (Kenya), Barbara Birungi (Uganda)
Expected number of months to complete project:
Estimated Project Cost:
Email address:
Organization [if applicable]:
How did you learn about the contest?
Team Member was Previous Awardee

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