InfoTimes team is a small team of young enthusiast digital journalists, information designers and programmers. Working together at InfoTimes small newsroom, we’re a self-funded entrepreneurship that’s considered Egypt’s only data-driven journalism news agency.
We focus on practicing the fourth estate role of media through data journalism. Pushing for further transparency in Egypt and MENA region, we tackle various topics that are crucial to the struggling democratic construction. We covered topics that varied from gender equity and unemployment to the President’s decisions and public spending.
Pioneering in the field of data-journalism in Egypt and MENA region, we do not only aim for achieving the watchdog role of journalism through data, we also aim for spreading the culture and view of data-driven storytelling among the journalists community as well as the public in general.
Generally speaking, our audience basically includes people who have internet access in Egypt. Specifically speaking, we target the highly-influencing communities and individuals, like the community of journalists, researchers, academics, politicians and every decision maker.
We’re always trying to ring alarms for these segments, as they can further drive the public discussion on topics that we cover. We shed light on the crucial issues that are hidden in the darkness of silence.
Depending on our pioneering vision, we fund ourselves mainly through giving training and workshops on data-driven storytelling for other newsrooms. We also give consultation on all aspects related to data and its use in the journalism field. In addition, we also work with other human rights and academic institutions to help them unleashing the power of data for social and academic causes.
What makes this project innovative?
We also work all the time to use every digital tool for better storytelling and better journalism practice.
At the same time, this also means that we struggle with ourselves on multiple levels. First, on the manpower level, we struggle to find talents that are capable of leading the innovation in the field, beside being willing to continuously learn and develop. In multiple cases, we fall in short of the required skills for the projects that we plan. Furthermore, the unavailability of wide range of public open data limits our potentialities. So, we always workaround.
For example, in one of our topics that we covered is the analysis of the Egyptian President’s decrees. The full dataset of decrees was not available online and could not be scraped by any mean that we are aware of. So, we completed the dataset, of more than one thousand individuals, manually and we verified it manually.
In some other cases, we become very happy to work with outsider innovators who create unique tools for web scraping. One example for this, is that we created our own tool to scrape Sisi’s tweets that we analyzed in one of our stories as well.
What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?
We’re also a hub for digital journalists in the whole MENA region. During the first data journalism conference for Arab journalists this year, we met up with journalists from a great number of Arab and foreign countries. We always tend to work with them on unique projects. We already have scheduled meetups with journalists in Lebanon and Tunis in the upcoming months.
We measure our impact through multiple ways. First, through training requests that we receive, and they're always on the rise. Second, through the website visitors traffic. We’ve launched a new version of our website to present better experience for the users.
Source and methodology
In addition, in the absence of transparent governmental policies and well established open datasets, we see media archive as a fortune of data mines. For instance, in the story of matricide and uxoricide, we depended on the news stories reported by the highly visited news website in Egypt, Youm7, because of the unavailability of such dataset, either publicly or even that can be acquired privately.
However, we always spend our time then to verify our data. Sampling the data we have, we verify the cases that the stories reported on through internet research as well as live sources on the ground.
Another cornerstone in our methodology is that we always work to make the data available for our readers in its cleanest form. We are committed to complete transparency regarding our sources and our methodologies. We receive a number of questions from the readers on how we do our stories, and we always respond in detail.
Our data sources are highly varied. Some of them are governmental sources, like the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS). Others are of NGOs, like Daftar Ahwal, and other international organizations like the World Bank.
Some adhere to the notion of ‘show, don’t tell’. But what we aim for, basically, is to show and tell. We believe that the craft of storytelling itself is always the basis for every kind of journalism. So we never drop the art of storytelling in favor of our visuals.
For data cleaning and analysis, we mainly used Google Sheets, Microsoft Excel and OpenRefine. In some other instances, we used SQL. For data visualization, we used a wider range of tools, including online tools, like Infogr.am, Google Data Studio, Flourish and ZingChart. The main tool that we used was Tableau Desktop. We also used D3 library in some cases.
Islam Salahuddin - He has his own perspective in seeing things, he can come up with a story out of few understandable numbers, and the way he tell you the story, you would wish he won't stop writing.
Jihad Elshebeni - We're very sure that she has a magical power in her pen, she can write the minimum amount of letters, yet she can express the maximum out of it, and we have no idea how she can do this, but with a mind like hers, dedication she has we think that could be possible.
Mohamed Nasr - He's the person who can dig deeper till he reaches the facts, don't underestimate his powers, he will know you well since the first meeting, he used to analyse, search, understand all the data he got.
Henar Khater - She can turn everything upside down with her powers, she can find the beauty in the darkest places, unleashing the creativity, as she unleashes the beast inside her, they say love what you do till you do what you love, lucky her she's already doing what she loves.
Mohamed Sayed - He knew he got the talent from the beginning, so he didn't waste the chance, joined our force to become the younger member of our team, yet one of the most creative minds that we have.
Abdelrahman Eyad - A well-self-established freelance digital journalist, with a magical crave for storytelling. He headed for data-driven journalism willing to learn and to maximize his potentialities.
Nawafel Shehabi - An intern who joined us from Bahrain. She has a powerful will for learning and storytelling. She is also interested in deep research and interactive journalism.