Moroccan journalists and technologists are joining forces to fill what they call a “digital information gap” in their country.
In Rabat and Casablanca, they’ve launched chapters of Hacks/Hackers, an international grassroots journalism organization working to redefine the future of news and information. Hacks/Hackers has more than 50 chapters worldwide.
Journalist Chama Darchoul founded the Moroccan chapters in partnership with digital strategist Ayman Salah. Salah also helped launch Hacks/Hackers chapters in Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia as part of his Knight International Journalism Fellowship.
Darchoul said she and her friends were working toward founding a media think tank in Morocco under the name “Academy of Media Development,” when she heard about Hacks/Hackers from Salah during a professional trip to Egypt. “It was the first time I learned of this concept, and the idea appealed to me greatly, especially since it corresponds with the goals of the academy we founded,” Darchoul says. “One of our goals was to lessen Moroccan journalists’ digital information gap.”
The group has organized presentations on digital and social media, including interactive voice response (IVR) technology, crowdsourcing, video-sharing through YouTube, and website analytics. It also plans to send a "new media bus" around the country this year to teach journalists, technologists, students and citizens about digital media and technology.
Hacks/Hackers Rabat is working on a mobile media project that will let farmers know specific dates they can reach the Moroccan Agriculture Ministry to receive seeds, fertilizer and weather reports related to farming and agriculture.
The unpopularity of smart phones and linguistic, social and geographic differences across Morocco are barriers to innovation in the country. To overcome these obstacles, Salah says the groups will develop user-friendly and simple technology that is available to everyone, including those without strong reading and writing skills.
“Hacks/Hackers is no longer just an option,” he says. “It is vital to developing media, and allows media to use technology to bridge the gap and achieve a more direct impact with the audience.”