KNC12 NETWORKS | InvestigateNet: Microcollaboration for journalists | Knight News Challenge 2012

My Knight News Challenge proposal for a microcollaboration tool for journalists to eliminate barriers to newsgathering and foster collaboration among journalists everywhere.

InvestigateNet: Microcollaboration for journalists

1. What do you propose to do? [20 words]
Enable journalists to surmount structural barriers to newsgathering, through microcollaboration, by linking them with social tools and technologies.

2. Is anyone doing something like this now and how is your project different? [30 words]
Services like Quora, StackExchange, WikiAnswers, LinkedIn Answers, Facebook Questions, and journalism discussion lists/forums, are nominally similar, but address neither the South’s technology limitations, nor journalists’ structural, privacy or security needs.

3. Describe the network with which you intend to build or work. [50 words]
Investigate Net enables microcollaboration on a local to global scale.
It connects journalists around the world to peer-sourced information unavailable otherwise, through low-bandwidth communication technologies such as:
– lean/mobile Web site
– text or SMS messaging
– e-mail
It uses open source technologies [e.g. Apache, FrontlineSMS, osTicket], and connects through APIs to Twitter, Facebook, etc.

4. Why will it work? [100 words]
InvestigateNet eliminates structural, practical, technological and financial barriers by linking journalists who find it impossible to get information to peers with easy access.
Explainer video: [Long link]
InvestigateNet was inspired by an African journalist unable to identify the value and uses of mined minerals: Experts wouldn’t talk. Poor Internet access and a basic mobile phone limited his communication.
The information he sought, I could get in minutes.
Journalists at the Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Kiev in November 2012 who expressed enthusiasm to use InvestigateNet included the Forum for African Investigative Reporters, Global Investigative Journalism Network, and Investigative Reporters and Editors.

5. Who is working on it? [100 words]
Saleem Khan is a Toronto-based journalist, founded Innovate News; and journalism working group chairman at the University of Toronto ThingTank Lab.
Innovate News gathers executives, managers, journalists, designers, technologists, and academics to resolve challenges facing journalism.
ThingTank Lab is an open community lab that experiments, prototypes and makes digital/physical media, i.e., “Internet of things.”
Saleem launched, managed, edited and reported for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) technology news service, was news and global technology editor for Metro, the world’s largest international newspaper; and was an editor at Toronto Star newspapers.
He was chairman and director of the Canadian Association of Journalists for a decade.

6. What part of the project have you already built? [100 words]
We have developed the concept, produced paper-based prototypes of the system and how it works, produced a basic mock-up video, and identified open source tools and technologies that we will use to build this project.
The main obstacle to InvestigateNet is a lack of funding. The project lead is not a programmer [but is learning to code], and relies on rotating volunteer programmers and user experience designers with expertise in open source development, software design and security.
Funding would allow us to focus on building a working prototype and iterate into a viable tool.

7. How would you sustain the project after the funding expires? [50 words]
We have encountered venture capitalists, private companies, NGOs and news organizations that have expressed interest in investing in InvestigateNet once a working prototype is available, or in purchasing beta or release-candidate licences.
We will also sustain the project by selling consulting services and training, a freemium pricing model, and ancillary merchandise.

Requested amount from Knight News Challenge: $350,000
Expected amount of time required to complete project: 1 year
Total Project Cost: $350,000
Name: Saleem Khan
Twitter: @saleemkhan
Organization: Technovica
Country: Canada