Dust To Digital: Year One

Let's just say there's going to be a lot of dust.

“That’s a crock of shit. This isn’t a platform. A platform is when the economic value of everybody that uses it, exceeds the value of the [entity] that creates it. Then it’s a platform.” - Bill Gates

We didn’t start this project just because we want archives to exist. It’s about the things we know will happen when you have access to over 500,000 stories across 5 decades of Nigerian history. Everything matters, whether it’s the economy to politics, social commentary, sports, business and arts. 

In the past few weeks, Nigerians everywhere have demanded an end to police brutality with the #EndSARS protests. One project that has become extremely important, now and for posterity is the POBIN Project

A few months ago, Kemi Falodun and a small team started collecting the names of people killed by Police Brutality on The POBIN Project. Their oldest record is of Dele Udoh, from 1981. It's been very difficult gathering these names, and it's hard not to imagine how much easier their work would become if they just had access to newspaper archives that will most likely have hundreds of reports about police brutality.

It’s an unexpected utility of the archives, one we weren’t even thinking about when we wanted to begin work on this project.

I think a lot about how publications will report about today’s realities with the newly unearthed context. What will the creators, analysts, scholars and insanely curious find and make?  And that’s what makes this most important for us; it’s not just about the questions we currently have, it’s the ones we don’t even know to ask yet.

To maximise the potential of what can be created from these archives, we need to make them open, accessible and sustainable. This is a delicate balancing act, but one that we must navigate. To keep them open and accessible, the core archives (i.e. the archived newspaper stories) will always remain free. 

We’re building a self-sustaining thing. 

In our pursuit of self-sustenance, we’ll be experimenting with different tools, tinkering a little here, and there. Think of it as a Lab. We look at the archives and say, “hmm, what if we built a repository to hold every statistic across five decades?” or “what if we, you know, start an actual publication, or podcast?”

These lab experiments will exist as living proof of why the archives need to exist. Some of them will create revenue opportunities which will help us in reaching self-sustenance.  Because our priority over the next year is archiving, we won’t enter full labs mode until we’ve successfully archived 70% of our year one archiving target. 

Year One

Many things are possible, but we have specific priorities from now till November 30, 2021: 

  1. Archive 18,627 days, one newspaper for each day; from January 1st, 1960 till December 31st, 2010. (One newspaper a day is not enough, but it’s a start, one small window into a whole new world of perspective)

  2. Build a home for all the archived stories on the internet. It’ll make the newspaper stories easy to find and engage with. It’ll also make it easy for people to financially support keeping the archives open. 

  3. Find the volunteers and resources to make all of this happen. 

We’ll work in three units. 

  1. The Archiving Ops is where we locate newspapers in public libraries and private archives, scan them into digital files, catalogue them, and get them ready for the Product Team. I’ll be working with Esther here to figure out a working system.

  2. The Product Unit is where the engineers, designers and writers figure out how to create the best possible experience for you, in the quickest possible time. Farouq will be leading the charge here.

  3. The Partnerships Unit is where we figure out all the relationships and opportunities that can be leveraged to help us achieve our goals within the next year. This includes securing access, raising funds, and securing vital partnerships. Derin will lead the charge here. 

These teams will be coordinated by a central ops effort led by Cynthia.

The next steps: 

  • Archiving: We start in December. You can follow @StartArchiving for progress updates. The team at Docuscan, a document management company, will be working with us to help us build out our processes. 

  • Fundraising Campaign: Over the next year, the goal is to raise north of $200k. We’ll be looking for checks of every size, and we’ll find them too. Ruby and Eruke will be on the partnerships end of things here. 

Your To-dos: 


In the light of conversations about what the future of Nigeria looks like, and how we can shape it, it’s important to understand how it has ticked for six decades. There’s no greater resource to understand how we got here than newspapers.

Let’s archive them, and make them accessible to anyone anywhere.

Update: Campaign launch plans got paused. We’ll have more updates soon.