Looking for reliable data in French? Meet Africa Check’s Infothèque

September 20, 2019
Category: Fact-Checking,IFCN

English-speaking journalists, researchers and citizens from Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa know that, since 2016, they can count on Info Finder. The digital tool, developed by Africa Check, helps people to find reliable data they can use to verify how accurate a piece of information is.

This week’s good news is that this repository of facts and sources “has given birth” to a French version. Infothèque is running on Africa Check’s French website and covers Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire.

“A recent Africa Check audience survey suggested that our French-speaking audience was even more distrusting of government data as a source of accurate information than our English-speaking audience”, said Liesl Pretorius, the editor of the English version, in an e-mail to the International Fact-Checking Network. “So Infothèque tackles this challenge.”

Both systems — the English and the French versions — gather more than 500 reliable facts and sources about 14 different topics: agriculture, crime and justice, economy, education, elections and political parties, environment, governance and service delivery, health, housing, land, migration, natural resources and energy, sex and gender, and welfare and population. All information comes from publicly-available sources and, if researchers can’t find what they are looking for, there is also a field to send requests.

By offering good data to the public, Info Finder has seen rising pageviews on Google Analytics and the team receives a steady flow of questions.

“We want Info Finder’s pageviews to keep increasing but we’re not chasing clicks,” Pretorius said. “I want to be sure that Info Finder is solving a user problem. The close to 200 questions we’ve received since March, tell me that it is.”

Health, welfare, population and economy are the most-searched topics, but questions are never quite the same, says the Info Finder editor.

“The questions range from ‘What is the most current data on femicide in Kenya?’ to ‘How many immigrants are there in Johannesburg?’ Popular question topics include health, service delivery, crime, migration, population, economy and education,” Pretorius said.

To make sure the information offered is the best available data, the team keeps in touch with experts and, at regular intervals, reviews the primary sources shown in the Q&A section of the tool. Updates are frequent and need to cover all 14 topics in the repository — not an easy task.

Infothèque will work on the same principle. According to Samba Badji, Africa Check’s editor of the French site, inaccurate information is rife in Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire. With the launch of Infothèque, the editorial team will be able to better understand the audience’s information needs in these countries and respond proactively.

“We want to ensure that accurate information on key topics is made more widely available to the public and that this information is presented in a way that is easy to understand,” said Pretorius. “Ultimately, Africa Check wants to promote accurate, evidence-based understanding.”

Infothèque and Info Finder are free and were developed with the support of many partners, such as Code for Africa, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Luminate, Millennium Trust and Open Society Foundations.

Cristina Tardáguila is the associate director of the International Fact-Checking Network and the founder of Agência Lupa, in Brazil. She can be reached at ctardaguila@poynter.org.