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Choose Your Own Fake News: This Game Aims to Fight The Spread of Misinformation in Africa

In 2017, Neema Iyer founded Pollicy a technology consulting and development firm to support the innovation of government service delivery across Africa. 

Pollicy, believes in the power of data to revolutionize how governments deliver services to their citizens. The ultimate goal of Pollicy is to digitally transform government services across Africa through an information-centric approach and craft better life experiences by harnessing improved data.

It it because of goals as such that the team at Pollicy embarked on combating the spread of fake news in Africa arguing that the spread of fake news, like a wild fire has the potential to disrupt economies or even cause avoidable chaos.

Through a partnership with the Mozilla Foundation, Pollicy has designed a web-based game dubbed “Choose Your Own Fake News,” which is aimed at tackling the spread of misinformation in East Africa, and Africa at large.

The game uses 3 real life examples of characters to help the player explore different scenarios that portray how misinformation can have real-life effects.

Speaking to Neema Iyer, the team leader and founder of Pollicy, we got an insight as to what the game aims at achieving. According to Neema, the game doesn’t serve as an avenue to directly combat misinformation but rather looks to help the player to think about the actions to take when they come across fake news.

Neema Iyer, team leader and founder of Pollicy

“It took us 6 months to complete the project. The game aims at giving a player a chance to think about the actions they would take in a bid to combat fake news,” she said.

“The whole point of the game is to scrutinize the information and news that you have. It’s just like role-playing out what you would do in a situation where you have information,” Neema added.

Choose Your Own Fake News” has three characters — Flora, a student who lives in Uganda, Jo, a shopkeeper in Kenya, and Aida, a retired grandmother in her 60s.

Players are expected to get into the life of whichever character they choose and look through videos and news headlines that have to do with job opportunities, vaccines, and election violence, the 3 major scenarios that the game has.

Flora is expected to make decisions around a job interview based on a sketchy Instagram post — whether to do more research on the company before scheduling an interview or go ahead without digging deeper, and fall victim of an internet scam.

Last year, Mozilla had an open call for the Creative Media Awards, and Neema grabbed the opportunity, applying for “Choose Your Own Fake News”, and it was accepted.

Through the Mozilla Creative Awards or CMAs, Mozilla selects and invests in people and organizations, like Pollicy, which create solutions centered around making the internet more inclusive and secure. Last year’s theme for the CMAs was specific to how artificial intelligence or AI plays a role in the spread of misinformation.

Pollicy’s “Choose Your Own Fake News”, among many other projects got $25,000 to execute, and the result, after months of brainstorming, and designing, is the web-based game.

Iyer, who drew the sketches for the characters in the game, said it was important to make them black because “Choose Your Own Fake News” is specific to Africans, she also added that as a technologist and artist, she prides herself in making her sketches black, as the race is often left out in many scenarios across the globe.

According to Neema, the game is not a full proof safe case underlying that it can single handedly tackle misinformation and fake news, however, it is a conversation starter in the direction of combating fake news in Africa.

Africa

This Organisation is continuously tailoring projects to save the girl child and support needy women in the Community

Started a few years ago, local tailoring entrepreneur Harry Patel under his company Tengi Styles has over the years joined the helping hand supporting local communities with emphasis to the girl child and women in the rural areas of Jinja District.

This is all done under the ‘Abaana Abaidho’ Organisation that runs on the ‘Changing a life’ tagline. Through numerous tailored projects, the Foundation is changing the lives of very many young girls, and women in local communities especially in Jinja.

Apart from selling some of the best custom made ‘Bitengi’ that they also deliver in Kampala, Tengi Styles has taken up the mantle to deliver and train girls and women in hands on tailoring skills.

With this initiative, the Company and foundation have not only supported girls and women in tailoring but have also donated sewing machines to these people to enable them utilise the skills they have gained thus offering them an opportunity of earning a living through tailoring and through Tengi Styles that already has a functional client base.

Harry Patel, Founder of Tengi Styles with one of the local football teams they support

The Foundation also engages young children under the school’s kids & community gala where they come together to play soccer/football as well as giving them scholastic materials to enable them go through school smoothly.

Brian Umony Foundation donating jerseys to the Abaana Abaidho Foundation

Together with local celebrities like Maro and the Brian Umony Foundation, who inspire young people to follow their dreams and use all available resources to better their lives have changed the course of life in rural Jinja

Through the use of fashion to change the lives of the needy and to empower the local person, Abaana Abaidho Foundation is continuously looking forward to create and tailor make programs and projects to better the life of the rural and ultra-poor person.

Who is Harry Patel?

 Source: Proud to be a Musoga 

Hari Patel aka ‘Waiswa’, from Buwenge, Jinja District, is ‘Proud to be a Musoga’. Hari qualifies as a ‘true’ Musoga, having been born, schooled and still lives in Buwenge. He is fluent in spoken and written Lusoga and loves Jinja.

He is very passionate and active about Busoga and owns a local charity, Abaana Abaidho, that uses football/sport to build confidence and unite the youth, and teaches vocational skills like tailoring.

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Africa

You Will be Stunned by Northern Uganda’s Aruu Falls

Friends, Aruu Falls is one place you must visit. These falls are located in Pader district Northern Uganda. Patrick Oruka and his friends decided to take off a weekend to visit these amazing falls. Patrick065073074-1066You want more? you will need to take a trip to Pader for this breathtaking experience.

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Africa

Uganda isn’t Kony, Idi Amin or Ebola

You have any white friends, right? Ask them what they think of “Uganda”. Am sure the answers you may receive will be related to poverty, AIDS, Ebola, hunger, tribalism or animals. Their faces will turn sorrowful and sympathy might linger in their eyes. They may give an example of how they helped to “Save Gulu” by donating to the “Kony 2012” campaign or dreamed of adopting a “Ugandan orphan”.

Most likely the view of the continent is that it is not a continent at all, but one large country, where everyone speaks the same language, eats the same food, wears the same type of clothing, and creates the same type of art. Yes, in their eyes, “Africa” is a homogeneous place of simple people with simple activities.

Mainstream media and educational system constantly feed our minds with this type of negative information on Africa. As a consequence, the average white person has a very narrow-minded image of the continent, filled with lions, malnourished children, corrupt officials and rebels. We rarely see or hear anything different and therefore see such images as the truth. But, for someone who has never been to the continent, can they be blamed for this ignorance?

There are mainly two sorts of Africa that appear on the media, the human Africa riven with poverty and violence, and the Africa of wildlife documentaries where humans hardly appear. There are the occasional travel documentaries but even here there seems a lot of emphasis on poverty and the primitive nature of just about everything.

The effect of the above perceptions, is that it leaves the world thinking that Africa is a dark continent already lost in the jungles of primitivism and barbarism. It makes Africa at the center of stereo-typing and it also makes us to be branded as an inferior race in the world thereby even affecting our self-esteem.

Because of such, I keep on wondering whether I should be annoyed with white journalists who broadcast embarrassing images of poverty in Africa, or at the African governments who tolerate and often create such misery in the first place? Much criticism has been levelled at western media for negative coverage of Africa. They have been accused by some of ignorance and racism. In many cases, this criticism is justified.

But why do many Africans, myself included, feel so strongly about how Africa is portrayed in western media? After all, the average Brit or German doesn’t give two hoots how their country is covered in say, Nigerian or Kenyan media. Europeans are not emigrating to Africa in large numbers so they simply don’t need to care how Africans view them.

Perhaps I should ask you, Does the whole of Africa have this demographic problem? Why do you focus on the slums and not on the positive stories? Why search out the most miserable environments to film in and continue propagating negative stereotypes of Africa as a nest of poverty and problems?
But as a proud Ugandan, I also know news media in general (African included), tends to focus on the negative and not the positive. Bad news sells well. People feel better about their lives when they hear others have bigger problems than them. A European who’s unhappy he can’t get a mortgage, will, however unwittingly, likely see his life in brighter lights after watching footage of people with no electricity, no running water and little food to eat.

It’s important to challenge the negative images and the perceptions circulated by the media particularly; whether in films, books, news and academic reports. It is vital to report, complain, blog about it. Challenge and object to it with whatever means you have. A pen or a keyboard are the most powerful tools. We are not just rebels or victims awaiting international aid or assistance for our children to be adopted by wealthy celebrity who will parade them. We are – just like every human being – complex characters journeying on this planet who deserve dignity and respect.

Of course there are many different and often positive stories to be told from Africa’s 54 diverse countries. But the continent currently has no microphone of its own on the global stage, no loudspeaker with which to tell its stories the way it wants them told. It has to wait in line hoping others lend it theirs from time to time. That won’t do.
Al Jazeera has succeeded in giving Arabs a voice on the global stage the same way BBC and CNN have succeded in giving a voice to the British and Americans respectively. Where is Africa’s answer to Al Jazeera, BBC and CNN?

More programmes about Africa, made by Africans, is the voice that is missing in this world. We need programmes which will not portray only wildlife, but the beautiful cultures of my country Uganda told by a Ugandan. We need new programmes which will not call Africa a country, but will appreciate that Africa has states like Uganda which are not at war but a pearl of hard working people.
This is Uganda they never show you. This is Uganda of people with dignity and stories changing our society. This is the Uganda the land gifted by nature and not conflict, poverty and diseases. This is Uganda of lovers, beautiful people and not people dying of hunger. This is Uganda they never show you that we want to tell the world about and be the voice of the voiceless.

If we Ugandans do not stand up to tell our own stories and positive stories about Africa as a whole, then we will forever remain misunderstood, misinterpreted and not respected. We will not only be untrue to ourselves but putting the future of our country at risk as the late Bob Marley once said… “ Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery because none but ourselves can free our minds!”

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