Video blogs are an interesting and engaging method of presenting information, especially in areas with low levels of literacy.
The availability of broadband internet has increased rapidly in developing countries in the last few years, but it is still almost exclusively limited to users in the larger towns and cities. Because of this, most organizations working with rural communities use simple web 2.0 tools, such as blogs, to present information, usually in text form. It might seem strange then to make videos, which are typically very large files that take a long time to download, for farmers who might not even have a computer. But the team at Ghana Information Network for Knowledge Sharing (GINKS) are convinced that it is important to start using this technology now.
‘At the moment we are still trying to catch up with the western world,’ explains Prince Deh, assistant country coordinator at GINKS. ‘If we wait until everyone has broadband access in Africa that might take another five years, at least. By that time, there may be web 3.0 or even web 4.0. How would we catch up then? We need to act now to promote the use of technology of all kinds in Africa, especially in rural areas.’
Vlogging is easy. The GINKS guide
Minimum tools required to make a video blog:
- A video camera
- A computer with video editing software installed
- An internet connection
- A blog account
- An online video account
The video blog making process:
- Record the video, e.g.: an individual telling a story or a person sharing an experience.
- Edit using video editing programs such as iMovie, Final Cut Pro or Windows Movie Maker.
- Upload the edited video onto a video site on the internet, e.g.: Google video, YouTube or blip.tv.
- Link your video with your blog.
- Transcribe the video you have uploaded into text to add to the blog.
- Announce the video link by RSS feed or email newsletter.
GINKS produces video blogs, also known as vlogs, on subjects that are relevant to the communities they work with in rural Ghana. One particularly popular video blog explained how farmers can use their mobile phones to get market information. Despite the poor connectivity among their target audience the video blogs have proven to be more popular than the more traditional, static pages of the GINKS website, which received just under 500 visits since January 2007, compared with nearly 900 users visiting the blog site since it began in April.
For Deh, it is easy to explain the success of the video blogs. ‘Videos are powerful. If you watch someone speaking you understand much more than when you just read about it. And video blogs can still be used by people who have difficulties reading. Plus they are cheap to make, it’s easy and doesn’t take too long to learn the process. Once you go through the process it doesn’t take more than a day to learn how to produce a video blog.’
Another advantage of putting videos on the web is that they can be distributed to a large potential audience at low cost. But Prince Deh admits he is sometimes frustrated that the videos don’t reach their main target group – rural farmers. At the moment the members of the GINKS team are promoting video blogging primarily to other NGOs and government institutions. ‘We’ve had very good feedback from several organizations and government ministries who have seen the videos and want to know more, and especially how we can reach more people,’ says Deh.
Although progress so far has been slow, the Ghanaian government is now working to improve internet access across the country. There has also been increased investments in rehabilitating and refurbishing old rural communication centres, which should also help in opening up the GINKS network and their series of video blogs, to farming communities. As the technology becomes more affordable, Deh hopes that farmers will be able to produce their own video blogs.
‘The only means of communication at the moment in rural areas is through mobile phones, so most people save their money to buy one. Very few of these phones can record videos, but that will change in the near future. Then farmers would have almost all the resources they need to produce their own video blogs. They could then also access an old PC they and use free editing software, available from the web. We’re still talking some years away,’ he adds, ‘but we have already introduced the idea to farmers, and many of them are very interested. They want to document their experiences and make them available to others. The big advantage too is that people don’t even have to be able to read and write to make a video blog.’
The team at GINKS ensure that they keep up to date with the latest developments, following technical improvements until they find something else they can use in their work. In the meantime, they are continuing to promote video blogging to other organizations as a way to reach rural communities.