With international awards celebrating outstanding work, courses appearing in universities, regular sections dedicated to it in major publications, and financial packages awarded to help journalists develop interactive digital storytelling skills, “data journalism” has, over the last decade, gained worldwide recognition. Questions still open for exploration include how sustainable is it and how is it manifesting in different parts of the world, with different government policies about making data available. Even so, assumptions that data journalism is a “new” phenomenon have been challenged as researchers continue to dig deeper into its past. Very few will doubt the opportunities and innovations it presents especially insofar as rethinking professional practice and retooling investigative techniques are concerned. But data journalism also presents empirical, ethical and professional challenges especially in regions of the world, where it either hasn’t taken off or it’s struggling to gain ground. While access to groundbreaking statistics and ability to adopt storytelling techniques such as computer graphics and visualizations could trigger others to seek sensational success, data journalism’s first priority is to inform adequately and accurately. Failure to do so leaves journalism, already facing intensified international scrutiny as a result of numerous challenges ranging from lack of public trust to “problems associated with normative values and democracy; the political economy of the news media; the relevance of audiences and public trust; definitions of journalism itself; and the salience of old and new forms of professional ideology,” vulnerable.
Janine Barden-O'Fallon and Erin McCallum
Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) can be defined as the systematic collection, analysis, and use of data to answer questions about program performance and achievements. An M&E system encompasses all the activities related to setting up, collecting, reporting, and using program information. A robust, well-functioning M&E system can provide program stakeholders with the information necessary to carry out a responsive and successful program intervention and is therefore a critical tool for program management. There are many tools and techniques needed for successful M&E of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) programs. These include frameworks to visually depict the organization of the program, its context and goals, and the logic of its M&E system. Essential practices of M&E also include continuous stakeholder engagement, the development of indicators to measure program activities and outcomes, the collection and use of data to calculate the indicators, and the design and implementation of evaluation research to assess the benefits of the program. Over time, language around “M&E” has evolved, and multiple variations of the phrase are in use, including “MEL” (monitoring, evaluation, and learning), “MER” (monitoring, evaluation, and reporting), and “MERL” (monitoring, evaluation, research, and learning), to name but a few. These terms bring to the forefront a particular emphasis of the M&E system, with an apparent trend toward the use of “MEL” to emphasize the importance of organizational learning. Despite this trend, “M&E” continues to be the most widely known and understood phrase and implicitly includes activities such as learning, research, and reporting within a robust system.
Amidu Olalekan Sanni
Of central interest here are the historical sources on Islam and Africa, the role and contributions of manuscripts to the narrative, and how the new cyber world has become a domain for those sources as instruments for the generation and utilization of knowledge. Africa came in contact with Islam right from the birth of the faith in the 7th century. Although Judeo-Christian, Late-Antique, and pre-Islamic materials provided the earliest historical sources on Islam and its people, the Qur’an, hadith (statements of the Prophet Muhammad), and the sira/maghāzī (biography/expeditions) were the first original sources on Islamic history on which later writings, including those from Africa, drew. The manuscript tradition in Islam is as old as the faith itself; it was one of the earliest material sources on Islamic sciences, and in the case of Africa, it provided a treasure trove of materials. At the beginning of the 21st century, the approach to scholarship and utilization of manuscripts changed radically, as digitization, creation of online databases, interconnected portals and links to universal portals, catalogs of manuscripts and published materials, among other innovations, redefined the ways knowledge of Islamic history is generated, accessed, and utilized.
Accounts written by foreigners—especially Europeans—about what they saw in Africa constitute one of the major sources for African history between c. 1450 and c. 1900. Some were published, while others remained in manuscript form. Unlike the ethnographic monographs of the early 20th century, they were generally written in a spontaneous and unsystematic manner, usually with a narrative structure, although in some cases an implicit “questionnaire” seems to have lain behind what was recorded. Historians of Africa must apply the rules of source criticism to such material. These include an obligation to examine the extent to which the material is really “primary” (rather than derived from sources that already existed and still exist today); what stereotypes and fixed ideas may have shaped the author’s perceptions and writing; how the expectations of the intended readership—including a desire for exoticism or sensationalism—may have influenced the content and style, in some cases even resulting in straightforward fabrication posing as authentic description; and whether the author’s personal background—for example, financial interests, ideology, or gender—could have led him or her to perceive and write about Africa in a certain way. Certain types of data contained in travel accounts, such as quantitative or linguistic information, require cautious analysis. Some travel accounts were accompanied by engravings or other iconographic material, and although it is tempting to use these simply as illustrations, they must be subjected to the same kinds of source criticism as are applied to the written accounts themselves. Despite these caveats, travel accounts are an indispensable source, whose full potential still remains to be discovered.