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by Parker Snyder, United States Jun 12, 2007
Technology   Opinions
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Forward to a Friend How Internet Video Can Help Rwanda Re-Invent Itself

Three changes have taken place in the last few years. Have you noticed? Internet video exploded in popularity. Rwanda entered the world's map. And my father bought an iPod. What do they suggest about changes in the way people consume media? Alot. If you're interested in what this means for a third world country emerging from conflict then read on.

My fiancee and I came to Rwanda to start a media site dedicated to broadcasting stories of good work. During six months while living in Kigali, we made more than a dozen trips through the country to meet people doing good work. To help each of these organizations, we made a short 5-7 minute video about their good work and streamed it online at our media site.

Video for Free
For the organization it was a unique opportunity, one that just a few years ago would have been out of their reach. After composing the video story, we offered it to them in full quality on DVD for free. What would have some years ago cost a few thousand dollars and weeks of studio production was given for free to the person or organization doing good work. Here's how it works.

The price of video has fallen. A laptop capable of editing video is now just a few thousand dollars. A camera capable of shooting high quality video (HDV) is within the price range of most consumers. What is lacking, to make a video work, is a trained group of volunteers. If a team of film makers could assemble in the 3rd world and produce video shorts collaboratively, then organizations with no marketing budget could have access to promotional media. For the first time, production quality video could be offered free to people doing good work.

It worked for 80 Percent Angel. Our volunteer team: two Polish and three American. A musician, graphic designer, videographer, writer and photographer. Four of us came to Rwanda. To produce the video stories we collaborated across the internet. One wrote the script, one shot the video and another designed the graphics. The model has some challenges. At times, it was a struggle to get the music composed. It's of course easier if everyone works in-country. But at other times it worked well. Not convinced in could work for you? Here's how it worked for Stani.

Stani's Bees
A traditional beehive produces 5 kg of honey but a modern beehive can produce 50 kg. It's not expensive to build, it just takes knowledge. For the last 5 years, Stani Gebala has been working in a village outside of Butare to teach local farmers to construct modern beehives. A farmer using Stani's methods could save his family from extreme poverty. Here's how a video short helped him out.

But when we met Stani, funding for his beekeeping classes had gone away and he was about to cancel a weekend workshop. We asked him if we could come to his village in the south of Rwanda to make a video about his beekeeping methods. There we stayed for a few days as he taught us to move a honeycomb from an old bee hive to a new one. Then we produced a 6 minute video called Stani's Bees and streamed it online. By connecting Stani to our community, we could then attract resources to help him teach beekeeping. After linking his video to a volunteer description at YouTube & Idealist.org, Stani could finally get people from the developed world to come and help him.

Everyone has a resource network. Some are small. Others are big. But the internet allows you to leverage your message to the world! Through the power of a global community, people living and working in Rwanda can connect to resources beyond their own networks. Stani was just one example. Your company, organization or mission could be another.

An iPod?
I mentioned earlier that my father bought an iPod. My father is 65 and had never used a computer, but he bought an iPod which required him to buy a computer. Now he downloads media from the internet just like you and me. Outside of Rwanda, people like my father are consuming media differently than just a few years ago. No longer is he sitting in front of the TV late into the night. Now he's in front of a computer.

To reach people like my father it's no longer necessary to produce a feature length documentary and pay many thousands of dollars to distribute it through merchants where he buys DVDs. Instead, produce a video short and stream it online. People like my father whom you might normally never reach, may come across your video in their internet searches for information or in their quest for entertainment. Make sure to connect your video to internet searches, for example: mountain gorilla--and you could attract a much wider audience to your work.

Re-Branding Rwanda
For Rwanda, a country known internationally for it's genocide, cheap internet video could help it re-invent itself as the Switzerland of central Africa--peace, prosperity & technology. The country could change it's image if each of the organizations doing good work in Rwanda would make a short video and collectively all of those videos could make it to the portals where people are consuming media. Through the internet, anyone with a computer could enter Rwanda's success story.

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