GNI Innovation Challenge 2021

Working with the news industry to help journalism thrive in the digital age

The Google News Initiative (GNI) is our global effort to work with the news industry to help journalism thrive in the digital age. Through rounds of regional funding, the GNI Innovation Challenges will empower news innovators from around the world to demonstrate new thinking in online journalism and the development of new publishing business models. In turn, we hope to share knowledge generated from the projects with the wider industry.

The Middle East, Turkey and Africa GNI Innovation Challenge gives everyone an opportunity to inject new ideas and innovation in the news ecosystem. Following this turbulent period for the news ecosystem with the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are turning our attention to new opportunities for news providers who play such an important role in tackling misinformation and building trust with readers. That’s why we are focussing on creative projects that demonstrate opportunities to increase reader engagement and support the development of new business models.

What is the GNI Innovation Challenge?

As part of this program, the GNI will fund a set of projects from around the world that meet specified criteria, with the intent of producing learning and thought leadership to share with the wider industry.

The second GNI Innovation Challenge in the Middle East, Turkey & Africa region focuses on reader engagement and new business models in any form. It follows the highly successful first round of the Challenge for the region which saw 21 projects from 13 countries receive $1.93 million in funding. As before, Google will fund selected projects up to USD $150,000 and will finance up to 70% of the total project cost. Special discretion on the total project cap may be considered by the Jury depending on the scale and impact of a very large collaborative effort.

Application Process

The application window opened on 22 February 2021 at 10 GMT, and closes on Monday, April 12 at 23:59 GMT. Only online applications in English will be considered. Applicants are asked to provide descriptions, detailed project plans and budget information via our online application form. They are also required to accept the Middle East, Turkey & Africa GNI Innovation Challenge Application Terms and Conditions.

Application Eligibility Requirements

The Middle East, Turkey & Africa GNI Innovation Challenge is open to organizations of every size, including freelancers and sole traders, that aim to produce innovative, original journalism and to enlighten citizens with trustworthy journalistic content, whose projects focus on encouraging a more sustainable news ecosystem.

Eligible Regions

Incorporated organizations need to be incorporated in one of the eligible countries within (countries listed in Terms & Conditions) in the Middle East, Turkey & Africa. Unincorporated organizations need to be registered in the Middle East, Turkey and Africa or, if unregistered, have their principal place of business based in the region.

Eligible Projects

All ideas are welcome but we require all projects to have clear indicators showing the impact of the project from a user perspective and/or from a business perspective (eg: audience indicators, business plan when relevant). Successful projects will also need to be delivered within one year.

We encourage innovative projects – focused on but not limited to – the areas below:

  • Business Models
  • Distribution
  • Interface
  • Social
  • Workflow

Projects can be experimental but must be measurable with well-defined goals. We encourage applicants to clearly underline the opportunities of the project by providing clear key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs should have a significant digital component.

Projects will be evaluated against five main criteria:

  1. Impact on the news ecosystem: Projects should demonstrate potential for significant positive impact on the creation of new revenue streams and/or change the way people consume digital news.
  2. Innovation: Preferred projects will be innovative (use of technology, business model, new reader engagement approaches etc) and be transformative for the applicant and for users.
  3. Feasibility: Projects should demonstrate clear indicators and metrics, or even a business plan when relevant, and set out key risks and mitigation steps.
  4. Inspiration: How can the project help news organizations learn from each other? Willingness to share knowledge, open source code or/and to contribute to the improvement of the ecosystem overall.
  5. Diversity: Preferred projects will be able to demonstrate their self-defined commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion whether that is within their audience, organisation or content. Google is committed to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and works to support companies/projects which are inline with such values.

Project Funding

Google will fund up to $150,000 for selected projects. Special discretion on the total project cap may be considered by The Jury depending on the scale and impact of a very large collaborative effort. Google will finance up to 70% of the overall costs of the selected projects. The remaining self-funded costs can be operational costs. Eligible expenses include personnel costs, engineering costs and the purchase or licensing of any equipment, tools, hardware, software and other assets or materials needed for the project as well as marketing expenses (capped to 20% of the total amount requested). Editorial expenses are not part of the eligible costs and will not be covered. Funding may not be spent on general and overhead costs.


Applications to the Middle East, Turkey & Africa GNI Innovation Challenge are reviewed by a combination of the Google Project Team and a Jury. The Project Team will review all applications and interview a selection of applicants and then make a recommendation on funding projects. The Project Team includes, but is not limited to:

Joyce Baz – Head of Communications, MENAI
Ludovic Blecher – Head of Google News Initiative Innovation
Sarah Hartley – Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge
Iftach Yair – Strategic Partner Manager, Tel Aviv
Amer Alsaleh Strategic Partner Manager, Online Partnerships Group
Marwa Morgan – Product Experience Strategist, Google News
Harith Mokhlif – Senior Publisher Solutions Consultant
Taiwo Kola-Ogunlade – Communications manager, Nigeria

The Jury will vote on projects and is responsible for oversight of the GNI Challenge.


April 12, 2021
Organizer Google
Website Visit website
Africa, Antarctica Region, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Europe, Fiji, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Kiribati, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Nauru, Nicaragua, Northern America, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Suriname, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela
Sectors Creative, media and entertainment