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Delivering content to the developing world

Sameer Vasta's picture

IT training for kids who live in the surrounding farm areas of Stutterheim outside East London in the Eastern Cape. South Africa. Photo: Trevor Samson / World Bank Blog reader Vickesh, after reading my last post about the choice between different video communities on the web, pointed me in the direction of a recent article in the New York Times about the difficulties of providing web services to developing countries and still making a profit.

Of particular interest? The decision by Veoh to stop offering video to users in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe because of high bandwidth costs:

"I believe in free, open communications, but these people are so hungry for this content. They sit and they watch and watch and watch. The problem is they are eating up bandwidth, and it’s very difficult to derive revenue from it." -Veoh Chief Executive Dmitry Shapiro

Read the full article for a lot more examples from other services — Joost, Facebook, Youtube, etc — that weigh in on both sides of this discussion.

As someone that thinks about online strategy here at a global organization like the World Bank, this discussion is particularly important to me. One question that I keep asking myself: how we can provide content and engage in conversation that is happening across the web while also being accessible to a diverse international audience?

The fact that our global economic reality can make it hard for content communities like Veoh to deliver accessible content in certain parts of the world wasn't always a consideration in my answers to that question, but now I guess it should be.

(Photo by Trevor Samson, from the World Bank Flickr account.)


Submitted by Kevin on
The Open CourseWare initiative at MIT faces similar problems and motivations. I believe they have mirror servers strategically placed around the world to decrease the cost of providing online content to the world. Perhaps World Bank offices around the world could be of use for this.

That's a pretty good idea Kevin. One of my main concerns, however, is not the content we serve through our own site, but the conversations where we are engaging that take place outside our site's borders: on places like Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, etc. What is the impetus for those companies to provide equal and constant access to markets where they can not turn a considerable profit? How do we make sure those conversations happening in other places persist?

How about promoting living on the edge like Danny O'Brien does: Self-hosting isn't easy yet except for maybe Wordpress (and but it could be a worthy goal.

Hadn't seen that "living on the edge" video, really interesting stuff at first glance. I'll be sure to take a closer look at it in a few days. Thanks for sending over the link!

Or recognize that this presents an opportunity for African ICT firms that want to step up and take the place of American companies that are backing out.

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