U.S. – Africa Tech Challenge

Seeking innovative responses to counter disinformation and propaganda in Africa

Overview

Feb 28
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Thank you for your interest in the U.S. – Africa Tech Challenge to showcase technologies to counter propaganda and disinformation, supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Global Engagement Center (GEC), in partnership with U.S. Embassy Nairobi, the European Union, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, Twitter, Park Advisors, and Informa.


PURPOSE

The purpose of the U.S. – Africa Tech Challenge is to advance the development of promising technologies that offer innovative solutions to help expose, understand, or counter propaganda and disinformation within Africa. As such the event aims to accomplish the following objectives:

  1. Identify and financially support the most promising technology to accelerate its progress in identifying, exposing or countering disinformation and propaganda and to measure the technology’s impact over time.
  2. Facilitate ongoing, constructive engagement between the U.S. government and African governments, technology companies, media, civil society, and other stakeholders that increases collaboration and results in exposing and defending against adversarial disinformation and propaganda across the continent.

For examples of the types of challenges and use cases the U.S. – Africa Tech Challenge aims to address, please see the following:

  • The spread of inauthentic and false information around key events like elections
  • The spread of false information around public health topics, including COVID-19
  • The spread of manipulated information pushed by state actors like Russia, China, or Iran
  • The sharing of propaganda developed by non-state actors like al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, ISIS, and others
  • The spread of false, manipulated, and inflammatory information about specific social groups (e.g. on the basis of ethnicity or religion)
  • Identification/tracking of inauthentic account creation methods (specifically for mobile versions of popular social media platforms)
  • Raising awareness of disinformation and developing approaches to counter it.

APPROACH

Phase I of the Challenge provides an opportunity for organizations to submit an application on their technology to be reviewed by a panel of evaluators who will select up to eight participants. The eight selected participants will be invited to present their tool at a virtual technology demonstration in April 2021. Up to three participants will be chosen to receive an award between 50,000-250,000 USD.

Phase II of the Challenge will be held virtually on the margins of Informa’s East Africa Com on 11-12 May 2021. It will consist of virtual panel discussions and networking with technologists, governments, civil society, and media to share lessons learned and opportunities around countering disinformation. The eight participants from Phase I will all be invited to Phase II.

Please note
Given that the Tech Challenge is focused on the African continent, this call for submissions is only open to companies domiciled and headquartered in Africa.

The U.S. – Africa Tech Challenge is focused on technologies that are market-ready and available for immediate implementation and use. While continued feature development is expected and necessary, technologies still in the proof-of-concept phase will be given lower consideration than those ready for immediate use.


APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS

The Phase I Application should be submitted in PDF format via email to africatechchallenge@disinfocloud.com no later than 8:59 PM Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) on 28 February 2021.

The application must consist of the following elements to be deemed eligible:

  1. A cover page clearly identifying the following:
    • Name of participant or organization
    • Address of participant or organization
    • Place of registration
    • Point of contact (full name, email address, phone number)
  2. Complete answers to all of the questions in the “Requested Information” section below
  3. Be no longer than eight pages total (excluding cover page).

REQUESTED INFORMATION

Please respond to the following questions in completing your submission:

Overview of technology

  1. Company and technology names
  2. In which category does your technology fit?
    • Adtech tools
    • Consumer-level disinformation awareness tools
    • Counter-disinformation technology integrators (e.g., social media innovations/apps)
    • Information verification tools (e.g., blockchain-based validation)
    • Online media processors (e.g., “fact-checker” sites)
    • Messaging tools
    • Psychological resilience tools (e.g., media literacy systems)
    • Social listening and disinformation detection tools;
    • Tech-enabled games against disinformation
    • Other
  3. How does your system help to solve the problems of propaganda and disinformation?
  4. How was your system conceived and what was your original goal?
  5. Who are the likely users of this technological solution?
  6. Who would be the target audience of the technological solution?

Technical details

  1. How does your system integrate with other systems?
  2. How quickly can we put your system to use?
  3. How many people are required to implement, use, and maintain your system?
  4. Can your system be fully automated?
  5. How would we transfer your system’s results to decision-makers?
  6. What are your current technical limitations, and where do you see future limitations arising?
  7. What kind of support for your tool do you offer?
  8. Is training/onboarding included? How long does the process take?
  9. What are the minimum technological requirements for the proper use of your system?
  10. Can a user use your system offline?
  11. How can we measure the performance of your system?
  12. How can we measure the impact of your system?
  13. Can we customize your system according to our needs?
  14. How often is your system updated?

Operational details

  1. What are the differences between your system and similar technologies? How is your technology unique?
  2. How is your system sold (i.e., as a service, product or other)?
  3. Do you offer a free trial use of the system?
  4. Has your company worked with the U.S. or any other government?
  5. Who are some of your current customers?
  6. How many licenses, and for what time period, could we expect to get?

If selected as a winner of the U.S. – Africa Tech Challenge, how would you allot the funding award (assume an award of 150,000 USD for the purposes of this question)?

Do you have existing partnerships with local organizations (for example, non-governmental organizations, media, fact-checking organizations, etc) who could make use of your tool for countering disinformation purposes? If not, are you willing to form local partnerships and provide use of your tool to enhance the work of such groups?


Proposal Scoring Criteria

All submitted Proposals are ranked using the following Scoring Criteria:

  • Potential for impact in countering adversarial propaganda and disinformation – 30%
  • Innovative approach in countering adversarial propaganda and disinformation – 20%
  • Demonstrable immediate usefulness of the technology for GEC partners – 20%
  • Experience in the development of similar technological solutions – 10%
  • Rapid ability and capabilities to make technologies available for use – 10%
  • Project budget, a ratio between administrative and direct project costs – 5%
  • Location of the company (is it domiciled and headquartered in Africa?) – 5%

Play the videos below to hear from the experts on the Tech Challenge to come

Activity