Need your phone charged?


...because I know a man who can.

Here's a roadside stall in Northern Uganda where the owner claimed he could charge pretty much any handset, all thanks to the solar panel he had rigged to his roof. All this in an community where access to running water is scarce and sanitation is far from guaranteed. But with this sort of resourcefulness, it really could be 2013 in many developing communities much sooner than you think.

ICT's are transforming lives in rural Africa and this is set to increase. Broadband internet is already widely available in many communities, but mobile broadband is where everything seems to be heading. Of course all the major players know this and this is why they are scrambling of a piece of the African pie. Orange, Vodafone and others are all heavily represented in is just a matter of time.

DMI Interview


Earlier last year I interviewed my former boss Roy Head about United Nations TV in the Former Yugoslavia for this project.

I also took the chance to discuss his work at Development Media International (DMI) and the relative merits of different media for delivering development messages to developing communities.

DMI produce media campaigns (Radio and TV) that focus on key health issues  such as infant mortality, hygiene and maternal health - issues that have key impacts on societies, but which are often sidelined in the news media by the big ticket items like HiV and Malaria. DMI's focus is on producing behavioural change in communities, rather than relief aid.

Worth a watch, interesting points.

Technology and the rise of UGC


My third essay for my master's project has focuses on technology and the rise of User-Generated Content.

Adopting and adapting new technology has been a feature of documentary filmmaking from the outset. This essay examines the relationship between the documentary film maker and technology, arguing that technology has always had a critical role in not only shaping the way in which documentary film has been made in the past, but that technology continues to shape approaches and methodologies in film and television today. However, whereas in the past the major beneficiaries of these technological advances have been professional documentary filmmakers, the most notable beneficiaries of the recent technological advancements have been amateur filmmakers, including users in developing societies. This essay looks at the links between technology and documentary film and examines how new technology is driving changes in both production and distribution, with particular reference to engaging audiences in developing countries.

The essay seems to have been well received, gaining another distinction. You can down load and read the essay here. It remains unchanged from the file that was submitted for assessment. 


Wave of the future?


One of the issues that I am currently looking at is to what extent is it possible that mobile phones can be used as a platform for distributing crucial information to development communities. Will the mobile phone networks in developing countries soon be reliable enough to deliver video content?

There are lots of instances of mobile phone networks being used as two ways data streams for rural communities, for example, to aid farmers to get more information on market prices and also on farming techniques. There's a good little film by IFAD about a project in Tanzania here. However, from what I have read and seen, the big issue for rural communities is still bandwidth and expense.

The Grameen Foundation also runs projects in Uganda to educate farmers by mobile phone, using a network of Community Knowledge Workers (CKWs) as human information hubs (see this piece in the Observer). According to the Grameen foundation website, they are rolling out a project to deliver agricultural lessons to farmers via mobile phones, but I ma told by Grameen that the network is still not up and running and that the main reason for this is bandwidth.

As part of my studies and for research into some new film projects for Wild Dog, I commissioned my friend and colleague, Ugandan journalist William Odinga to write a short piece about the way film and TV is watched in Uganda and to look whether people are yet using mobile phones as a viewing platform. Despite the fact that broadband is now available in Kampala, local network provider MTN is offering 3g mobile broadband in "80% of the country" (and I am relaibly told that fast mobile broadband is a reality in Kampala), William reports that most people still only really have access to the internet at work in the office. While computers in the Global North are now very affordable, a machine that may cost as little as £300 on the high-street in the UK is still a big ticket item for families in a country when the average wage is still only $460 per year. William's piece is available to read here.

All these issues not withstanding, mobile phone technology is an ideal platform for developing communities. It is relatively cheap to install and as Gelvin has argued, it is harder for governments to close these networks down, should they choose to do so, because government officials also rely on the networks as a communication tool.

Wave of the future?

Snjezana Video Letter


This film was shot in the sprig of 1995. Directed by Rob Mackey, the film was part of UNTV's "Video Letters" series.

In the film, a young Serbian border guard, Snjezana recalls happier times in a letter to her Croatian friend Branka from Karlovac, where they were together at school.

A few short months after this film was made the Croatian military launched "Operation Storm", a successful, but brutal action to retake the Krajna region of Coratia from rebel Croatian Serbs who had held the territory since the start of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.

The film is now part of the UNTV collection at the Imperial War Museum.

Why this Blog?

I have set up this little blog as a means of gathering information and data for my Masters project. I will use the blog to collate some of the material that I find and post links to interesting content.

I am also planning to add some film reviews to the blog in due course.


If you have something constructive to add to the debate, please join in.

I will be moderating all the comments on this blog and my editors pen will be ruthless with any unsolicited and inappropriate nonsense!

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All Photographs © Andy Johnstone/Panos Pictures 2000-2012