By Paul McNally

A recent report from International Media Support (IMS) found that African media organizations are already taking steps to integrate AI into their newsrooms, but the progress is painfully slow. Most smaller media houses have not adopted any tools or strategies at all and this could leave them wide open to being left behind.

Develop AI is a new company based in Cape Town, South Africa. They are trying to address these issues for African newsrooms by reporting on AI’s developments on the continent through their weekly newsletter, offering training to African newsrooms on how they can use tools and code using ChatGPT and build AI applications on demand to help media businesses.

They have already built a disinformation and misinformation chatbot into WhatsApp (that speaks directly to ChatGPT) that can help you build arguments to counter any incorrect information in your life. They are also working on a production app that can build a news podcast from scratch in just a few minutes with no microphones required.

But maybe most importantly Develop AI are reaching out to as many African journalists as they can and building a WhatsApp Community around their interest in AI and desire for training. The extent of the training needed is interesting because it can range from simply being aware of a range of tools and knowing when to implement them to getting deep into the weeds of coding with Python and trying to build tools for your media business from scratch. There is a cost and benefit for being on either side of the spectrum, but it is clear that journalists (and maybe everyone) are going to need to engage to some extent with how AI is going to change our work processes. 

The tension for journalists in particular is the feeling that the media has been under financial threat for as long as they can remember and maybe this will be just another hit. Develop AI was formed by a journalist out of a “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality. However, expect positive reports in the months to come, especially from the people profiting from this tech. 

A questionably optimistic report was published in September by Boston Consulting Group and Microsoft (who own a huge chunk of Open AI) which concluded that AI “can address some of South Africa’s most pressing challenges” and “transform the lives of South African citizens”. We will see if this comes to pass, but meanwhile it is crucial for African journalists to know what they are dealing with.