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Will the iPhone change development reporting?

Sameer Vasta's picture

 Video recording on mobile phones has existed for quite some time, and small portable video cameras (like the Flip Camera) have been around for a while too, but the arrival of the new iPhone 3GS may be the turning point in mobile video.

The new iPhone allows you to record, edit, and then share your videos from wherever you are, as long as you've got a mobile data connection. This new move by Apple got me thinking about how video is currently used in international development, and specifically, reporting on development projects.

iPhone photo by slowburn on Flickr

In my experience, a lot of the project reporting I've come across has consisted of long reports that are created at regular intervals throughout the life of a project. While these reports are absolutely integral to ensuring the success of a project, they generally don't tell a compelling story about the work that is being done or the people involved in the projects, whether they be development practitioners or beneficiaries.

Easy-to-record-and-share video capabilities can change all of that. By embedding video recording and simple editing software into a device that is already used by development practitioners — the mobile phone — it's possible to allow for more regular project updates and reports with a human angle: interviews from the locations, visual representations of work being done, and context around the work and the people it affects.

This is also increasingly relevant in areas of the world where broadband access may be limited, but mobile penetration is high.

Of course, these videos would not replace the longer status reports, but would supplement the reporting process — and, at the same time, make the work that is being done by international development organizations more accessible and understandable to people that are not directly involved by may have interest.

A good example of someone that is using video effectively to report on his development work is Tony Whitten, who submits video updates to the East Asia & Pacific on the Rise blog. Here's an example of some of the videos he creates:

The question I ask then is simple:

How can we make this kind of video (and photo/audio) narrative production easier for development practitioners? In essence, how do we help the Tony Whitten's of the world do more of what they are doing in an easier and more efficient way?

(iPhone photo by slowburn on flickr.)


If you didn't see it, you might want to look at the Open Video Conference that happened last weekend in NYC:

The Open Video Conference had some really great things come out of it, and I'll be sure to explore some of the notes in more detail. Thanks Kevin!

Submitted by giulio quaggiotto on
UK-based NGO Akvo have a rather interesting concept in this area: "real simple reporting", which perhaps could be the killer app of the development sector (rather than RSS)?

You're absolutely right Giulio -- RSR does seem like just the app we're all looking for. Maybe it's time to talk to Akvo and see if we can leverage their expertise?

Sameer, you are very much on the same page as we are with and the Akvo Really Simple Reporting tools. We'd love to talk more to you about this and we think have some really interesting experience working with nearly 100 partner organisations in this area. Do get in touch! Thomas

Submitted by Angelo on
Development is about improving people's lives. Using video brings development work to life and makes the mission of the World Bank and other institutions more tangible.

I think you hit the nail on the head there Angelo -- we need to make the work we do more human and more accessible. Video is one of the ways we can do that.

Just adding to Thomas's comments (I'm another Akvo co-founder), this piece on how Akvo uses video (and the related video strategy link) may be of interest. Look forward to sharing more ideas with all of you on this.

Submitted by evangineer on
I had similar thoughts when I first came across the Samsung i8910HD and it's HD video recording capabilities. The growing capabilities of smartphones is going to change what's possible in development, not just reporting. Think about data collection. Apps that deliver just in time information for meeting various development needs and so forth. Combine with cloud computing and the potential is immense.

I'm excited to see what the future has in store. But more importantly, I'm excited to work with people and organizations that are helping bring that future to our present. =)

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