Planning for Informality Website

Dexter is a natural language processing platform that evaluates online news articles to improve transparency, equal representation and veracity of published news. Dexter is a collaboration between OCL and Media Monitoring Africa (MMA).

Natural language processing
Data science & machine learning
User engagement

Free and fair media is critical in a healthy democracy, and assists in cultivating more engaged and informed citizens. Media has limited resources and time, and can only dedicate resources to particular topics and voices. The rise of digital media, demand for instant information, media echo-chambers and fake news have increased the importance of monitoring media outputs in order to hold them accountable.


Dexter is a cloud-based system that evaluates +/-150 sources of media daily, from local to international sources. Dexter uses natural language processing and machine learning to do big data analysis of English digital news and media. As new articles are processed by Dexter, human monitors verify the findings, enabling greater efficacy and effectiveness of the platform. 

There are over 2 million articles in Dexter’s database. The platform provides insights into trends related to age, gender and different demographics of journalists. Users can choose key words, key sources, people with certain affiliations in order to unpack a narrative as it occurs, or show the trends over time, along with general approaches by media houses to key issues.


Dexter is a powerful media analytics system that monitors media outputs at a much greater scale in order to analyse and evaluate the narrative across the country. MMA uses Dexter to understand where power lies in the reporting of news by identifying who has the loudest voice, and what voices and issues are being underrepresented. Dexter also provides key insights during crucial periods, such as elections, as well as evaluating how contentious topics and issues are being reported. 

Citizens are more likely to trust the media when they believe that the media is inclusive and fair; people are able to make better decisions when provided with the right information. A fair and free media ensures better decision making that impacts communities and people on the ground.

Moving forward

There is enormous potential within the data platform, and utilising its outputs to have a greater impact in realising the dream of a free and fair media. This technology can also be broadened to different languages, used in applications beyond news media, and used as a monitoring and evaluation tool in other spaces. The Dexter Project team at OCL is also collaborating with stakeholders at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the University of Pretoria to see how Dexter’s natural language processing capabilities can be used in other spaces.