• Wednesday, April 24, 2024
businessday logo


How Fu’ad Lawal is archiving Nigeria’s history on cloud

How Fu’ad Lawal is archiving Nigeria’s history on cloud

Fu’ad Lawal is the Chief Archivist at Archivi.ng, an artificial intelligence (AI) startup that digitises old Nigerian newspapers and makes them accessible to everyone online.

In 2020, he shared his dream on how he intends to archive old newspapers online that centred on Nigeria’s political, social and cultural history. However, the company couldn’t push through until it became a legal entity.

Archivi.ng is a digital archive and search engine for every important news story published since Nigeria’s independence in 1960 to create an open resource for the public, researchers and journalists.

According to a report by the rest of the world, Lawal biggest motivation came from life in the newsroom.

“As a journalist, it was frustrating to write about a particular place but not find any information online. It’s hard to build context, which is very crucial in creating deep reporting.”

“So, we started asking questions like – What’s the past, how has it led to the present, and where can we access the past? After a while, we decided to scan old newspapers that were only available in hard copy and make them readily accessible online. Then, we realised how much this will help Africa’s advancement in AI. Now, we will be a point of sourcing for most generative AI, which currently lacks African context,” he said.

In an interview, Lawal said starting Archivi.ng required a lot of effort, from seeking publishing rights to purchasing a scanner, as that was the major equipment needed to get this information uploaded online.

“We ensure that once a paper is being scanned we check for quality, then we upload and send to the cloud, this allows everyone to access the newspapers seamlessly.”

“So far, we have scanned over 4,000 newspapers, across 50,000 pages in two decades (1994 to 2010). And have raised over $37,000 in funding since 2020.”

“We have full access to the archive papers from P.M. News, a Lagos-based publication founded in 1994. Other legacy publications like Punch and The Guardian are in the pipeline. After collecting the papers, we tag them manually, scan them, and then upload them on the platform with keywords. When people search for a particular keyword, scanned papers relevant to the search pop up.”

“Think of a person, place or event, and hit search, you’ll get results instantly. We will continue digitising these papers, so you have more results until we’ve digitised every newspaper and magazine published” he said.

The company’s goal is to archive at least one newspaper each day from January 1st, 1960 – December 31st, 2010, scan at least 360,000 pages of everything from articles to obituaries, and even vintage ads, and 700,000 Stories about the mundane to the magnificent aspects of daily life from past Nigeria.

“Funding is important for every startup, and so our company will be raising more funding going forward,” he added.