AfriLeaks, an anonymous whistleblowing platform for Africa, is now up and running. DW takes a look at how the platform works and at the push for open data in Africa.
The anonymous whistleblowing platform AfriLeaks, has now been launched slightly later than the original start date in November 2014. Unlike the longer established Wikileaks, the Africa version won't release secret information directly to the public, according to Khadija Sharife of the African Network of Centers for Investigative Reporting (ANCIR) - the organization that hosts the platform.
"[AfriLeaks will] provide a secure tool for connectivity between the whistleblowers and the media who then investigate the substance and character of the leak," she told DW in an interview ahead of the launch.
AfriLeaks is not about disclosure
Whereas the aim of Wikileaks has been to publish and disclose information, AfriLeaks is there to provide leads for stories to media and research organizations. The new platform will allow whistleblowers to choose the media or research organization to which they want to send the information.
AfriLeaks is just one of many initiatives aiming to make whistleblowing easier on a continent plagued by corruption and a lack of transparency. In February 2013, WildLeaks, an online platform for reporting poaching and wildlife crimes was launched.
"In certain countries, [corrupt] people are able to control the police, are able to control corrupted parts of the security agencies," Andrea Crosta, founder of WildLeaks, told DW in an interview. "It's a very risky business to report, unless you have an anonymous way to do so."
WildLeaks is a global platform, but more than half of the "significant leaks and leads received so far came from Africa," says Crosta. And some of the leaks contain important information on influential government officers or politicians, he adds.
Verifying the facts
But whistleblowing platforms can be abused. "Leaked information is rarely without motive and agenda," said ANCIR's Sharife.
This information could be used to misrepresent circumstances and undermine the credibility of the media house that reports it, so "verification is the difference between being useful and being used," she added.
However, verifying the facts in most African countries can be challenging because the data isn't that reliable, according to Africa Check editor Julian Rademeyer. Africa Check is a fact-checking website that was set up by the Agence France Presse Foundation and the Department of Journalism at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. The free service monitors claims made by politicians and institutions, and checks whether there is evidence to support them.
"We have done a number of reports where the data is lacking, or the data is problematic - we then point that out," says Rademeyer. "And that's the other side of the project. There's a campaign for more open data and better data."
Campaign for open data
Initiatives like Africa Check, WildLeaks and AfriLeak show that Africans want more transparency.
"There are growing signs of people pushing for more access to information," Rademeyer says.
In 2014, the African Development Bank launched an open data platform for 20 African countries. Four years ago, the Kenyan government launched its own open data initiative.
The launch of AfriLeaks takes place after the first dozen media houses have been trained on dealing with the information, according to ANCIR's Khadija Sherife.
Any "credible media house" is welcome to participate, following evaluation and training by ANCIR, she told DW.