The ability of fake news to hinder national development, apart from stirring havoc and provoking hatred in the society cannot be overemphasized.

Andela, a global technology firm that is building a network of technology leaders on the African continent, recently hosted the “Fighting Fake News” Hackathon, supported by BBC News in Kenya. The event was one of a series of events held as part of the broadcaster’s ‘Beyond Fake News’ series, a project aimed at tackling the problem posed by the spread of Fake news.

The programme themed ‘Technology for the public good: countering fake news online’ was held to showcase how technology can be used for the public good, to counter fake news online. The programme started with several panels of experts providing context as to why curbing the consumption and spread of fake news is vital and requires several approaches including technology.

Judges with 2 Finalists [L-R]_ Frank Tamre [Software Engineer], Shikoh Gitau [Head of Products – Safaricom], Two Finalists, Jackie Christie [BBC Head of Partnerships – Africa TV Co-Productions] & James Smart [Journalist]
“There are many forms of misinformation, but we define fake news as the deliberate spread of false information for political or commercial gain.” Jackie Christie of BBC, who was also a panelist during the session, said. “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.”

The event saw 16 teams pitch their ideas to a panel of judges out of which three teams were selected based on the strongest ideas as judged by the panel. The winning prototypes utilized 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.

The team was further invited to pitch their solutions at the BBC’s Beyond Fake News Conference held in Nairobi and also offered a six-month mentorship opportunity with Safaricom at the firm’s Alpha Innovation Hub to receive mentorship.

Joseph Ogutu, Chief special projects officer, Safaricom said “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.”

The three winning teams at the event team Thibitisha, iCODEAI, and SeeTheLight will receive mentorship on product development 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.”

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