Leaders International, a new DW Akademie partner, works on economic and entrepreneurship projects in the Middle East. With the Digital Innovations for Peace project, it will focus on supporting media in the region.
Fawzi Bourouina of Algeria created an interactive news platform capable of verifying information on social media. The open source platform uses natural language processing and machine-learning techniques to detect fake news patterns and then flags them.
For years, the organization Leaders International (LI) has dedicated itself to tangible, definable work around the Middle East and North Africa, a region often and unfortunately defined by political and economic instability. And it has a lot to show for its efforts across sixteen countries.
In the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), LI, which has its headquarters in Brussels and offices in Ramallah, Amman and Tunis, helped eight "ecopreneurs" find a natural and effective way to extend the shelf life of fresh produce. In workshops, they revised their business model, found new funding and expanded their market reach.
In Tunisia, the organization fostered the Trans-Tunisia Trekking Trail, or 4T, which can diversify the country's tourism and support sustainable tourism as an alternative to coastal tourism, which the country has for long relied on economically, but is no longer viable or resilient enough following the COVID pandemic.
And in Jordan a few years ago, the Leaders International Skills4Work project supported apprenticeships for refugees, tapping into the abilities of young people, women-headed households, and people with both physical and mental impairments.
In entering a partnership with DW Akademie earlier this year, LI aims to help media outlets to improve matters in a perhaps less visible but no less consequential arena. The Digital Innovations for Peace project, funded by the European Union and the German Foreign Office, will focus on supporting media across the region as they struggle to tamp down misinformation.
"Working in media can be tricky," said Anan Abu Rmieleh, communications manager, Leaders International. "But we've seen how DW Akademie has been successful in implementing several media projects in other areas of the world, not only in media development but also in tackling misinformation. We felt this would be a good partnership."
"The benefit of this partnership is that we can combine media with technical expertise supporting entrepreneurs in the Arab world to develop tools that suit their local needs," said Susanne Stephan, DW Akademie’s program director in Libya. "Tools that are developed by them and for them, helping to combat disinformation and promote peace in the digital sphere."
In regularly monitoring funding opportunities, said Maria Wirths, DW Akademie project officer for the Middle East and North Africa, the organization found an avenue to help media workers make their work more profitable and innovative.
Specifically, said Anan, they saw a good match in Digital Innovations for Peace and, in proposing the partnership, suggested involving Palestinian, Lebanese, Libyan, Algerian, and Tunisian entrepreneurs. The project, he said, would include crowdsourcing instruction, tools for fact-checking, hackathons and start-up pitching ideas, all of which align with Leaders International's focus on entrepreneurship and the region's innovation ecosystem.
"We believe entrepreneurship provides better solutions because there's then competition to provide better services," he said. "We can provide fact-checking tools but when a project ends, the tools fade. Entrepreneurs, however, are seeking profits. There's an incentive."
At a recent fact-checking hackathon with 35 participants, LI recognized four winners. At a crowdsourcing competition with 30 participants, three participants received prizes for their ideas. Among the winning fact-checkers was Fawzi Bourouina, from Algeria, who created an interactive news platform capable of verifying information on social media. Built with open-source tools, the platform uses natural language processing and machine-learning techniques to detect fake news patterns and then flags them.
Mousa Abu Qaoud of Lebanon, another winner, expanded on his already existing fact-checking platform, chayyek.com, which now has a new digital reading system for disabled users navigating the platform. And Achref, a Libyan digital entrepreneur, was recognized for his Bahy app which offers media and information literacy training, safe content production and lessons in online safety for children.
Everyone participating in the events, said Anan, is a tech entrepreneur but "they are focusing on things like hate speech, fake news and best [jounalistic] practices. And with their knowledge and experience in business, they're able to propose solutions to some really large problems."
Digital Innovations for Peace (DIP) is a project funded by the European Union and the German Foreign Office, implemented by the consortium of DW Akademie, Leaders International/Leaders Organisation and Elbiro.