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.

Virtual Town Meeting

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1. What is your project? [1 sentence]

Virtual Town Meeting is a mobile information sharing forum for increasing civic participation, measuring public opinion and producing analysis in an immediate, “need to know it now” manner.

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

Virtual Town Meeting will use the growing ubiquity of smart mobile media to provide citizens a virtual presence in city governance meetings. Instant polling data and analysis of verbal contributions will be aggregated and analyzed for immediate reports to city leaders, local media and the public.

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

Virtual Town Meeting restores the voice of the individual to community political discourse giving members of the community a simple means to provide their timely, contextual input on issues before governing bodies and also provide effect methods of collecting, analyzing, and responding to this public input.

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

A.   Public awareness campaign in local media

B.  Targeted demonstrations for disenfranchised and under-represented members of the public

C.   Community roll-out of free, platform agnostic, mobile application supported by local media, community organizations or governmental bodies

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

A.   Participation by local media - Lawrence Journal World, sister publications owned by World Company and/or student media - The University Daily Kansan, with testing in Lawrence, Kansas.

B.  Participation by City of Lawrence in single issue test implementation, software revision and 6-month assessment.

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

Initial development of mobile polling application, associated trend analysis and verbal language context algorithm software has begun. User interface design and reporting output in early wireframe stage.

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

Success will be measured against two criteria – increased percentage of population involved in debate and effectiveness of Virtual Town Meeting tools in providing connectivity to government body and analysis of that citizen participation.

Our assessment will be based on a pre-test measuring defined participation on a selected community issue by those who use traditional public forums and those who use Virtual Town Meeting and following the quantitative analysis of this data, and qualitative description of participatory satisfaction by those groups and the civic organization that employs the technology, Virtual Town Meeting will be adjusted as necessary and a six-month implementation program will be conducted in several communities to provide a greater sample for examination.

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

We ask the Knight Foundation for financial support of development and beta testing of Virtual Town Meeting. Following beta analysis, Knight funding would support product revision and analysis while the KU Media Informatics Lab and The University of Kansas Center for Technology Commercialization would undertake the eventual post-beta marketing.


Additional details:
Please list who is on your team:

Prof. Michael Williams is the director of the Media Informatics Lab in the School of Journalism at the University of Kansas.

His primary collaborator will be Dr. Perry Alexander, director of the KU Information & Telecommunication Technology Center, a Kansas Department of Commerce Center of Excellence and supported by the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation (KTEC), and the KU Center for Research.

Technology developers and research associates would be funded through this grant.

Expected number of months to complete project:

We propose an 18-month project for development, beta testing, revision and commercial production by end of July 2014. (Assuming receipt of award by early Feb. 2013).

Estimated Project Cost:

$350,000 ($150,000 for software design and development, $100,000 for application testing and analysis, $75,000 post-beta revision, $25,000 for promotion, citizen education and awareness, market development).

Name: Michael Williams
Email address:
Organization [if applicable]: 
Media Informatics Lab, University of Kansa

City: Lawrence, KS

Country: USA

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