Local Content: Needed to Connect With Communities

At the December Technology Salon, the word “Local Content” emerged as multifaceted term that has different definitions across development organizations and sectors. Priya Jaisinghani and Jonathan Dolan of USAID, and John Garrity of Cisco, led the discussion about what orgs are doing in regards to Local Content.

Participants’ definitions of Local Content ranged from news, entertainment, informational (i.e. health or ag), content created by development orgs, and narratives from communities. All of these types of information encompass Local Content, and salon participants agreed that there is a growing desire and need for orgs to use local content to connect with communities.

local_contentOne discussant said that using local content is a way to address the digital divide and promote inclusivity. However, there are barriers to aggregating, packaging, and delivering Local Content. Here are some of the challenges as proposed by Salon participants, as well as some of their solutions and ideas regarding the challenges:

7 Challenges in Aggregating, Packaging, and Delivering Local Content:

  • How to make content engaging: Participants tasked with creating Local Content had different successes in the type of content that drew traffic. Some participants said it is hard to compete with drive to know soccer scores while pushing content about public health. Other participants said that content about family planning methods had a high amount of views because the topic is taboo in certain regions, and people were seeking the information. One participant commented that the development sector has a lot of content, but especially in the education sector, the content does not yet have a high enough entertainment value to engage communities.
  • Lack of a business model in mobile: For participants working in mobile, Local Content has a lot of formatting and creating to be done. Driving the creation of Local Content by orgs creates a demand for data, and it’s unknown at this point whether Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) can meet the demand and provide channels.
  • Finding creators of content: While some participants opined there is plenty of content already among orgs, others contended that maybe we should create different content if what we have hasn’t engaged communities. As one participant shared, it takes a certain talent and amount of drive to constantly create content. How can orgs find those people? What keeps them motivated to make local content? How can Local Content drive interaction if it’s coming only from one side?
  • Language barriers and literacy: If an American movie is adapted as content in a foreign country, and subtitles are created, will communities be able to read the subtitles? And which dialects should be used if there are many for one given region?
  • Financing: There’s always the issue of the dollar bill y’all. Some orgs have figured out models to monetize local content. One participant shared a model used to work with youth in the media sector. This organization trains youth with journalism and multimedia skills, and then as they aggregate local content, sells it to media outlets and sometimes the stories are even picked up by major news outlets. In this case, local content is amplified, and young people learn skills and make an income. This participant also encouraged orgs to reach out to local media sources to covertheir projects. Several participants who have found ways to monetize Local Content advocated working with the private sector.
  • Infrastructure: One participant told about their work with foreign governments to expand the broadband infrastructure. In most cases what they found is once access is expanded, local content creation also expands. Communities can digitize their local histories, resources, and even use new technology to communicate with governments.
  • Governments: In the case that orgs are working with governments to spur Local Content creation, a few participants raised flags. One even called the government a “double edged sword” as a partner in spurring Local Content. Some governments want to use technology to communicate with constituents, and could offer a number of services online that would make people’s lives easier. However, in the case of oppressive governments, Local Content could be a source of punitive action. Participants working with media discussed the role of orgs in protecting creators if Local Content becomes a way for governments to track and target individuals.

Written by Asia Hege, a Kurante Associate and future development expert.

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