Viewfinder: Video Helps the World's Poor

How can video help achieve the UN’s Millennium Development Goals? The eight MDGs form a blueprint agreed to by all the world’s countries and leading development institutions. Goals range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by 2015.

Over one billion people (one-sixth of the earth’s population) live on less than $1 per day. Each day, more than 20,000 people die because of extreme poverty. While saddening, there is hope. Soon, you may be able to apply your passion for video to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Camcorders, computers, televisions and video projectors help train teachers in remote parts of India. In Central America in the late 1970s, a program of interactive radio instruction (IRI) used audiotape recorders and FM radios in primary school education. Today, IRI is worldwide, and the audio recording and editing are done with computers. In early 2007, a small test with teachers in Northern Zambia used portable media players (PMPs) like iPods for the IRI audio programs. PMPs gave the teachers control over the presentation. Every class in Zambia must listen to the same lesson at the same hour on the same day with radio-delivered audio lessons. However, in an accelerated class, the students can listen to more advanced lessons and skip ahead of those listening via radio.

You may be able to participate in the MDGs by producing short videos to educate the poorest of the poor around the world. There is a great need for training village workers in health, farming and infrastructure. Vidcasts on PMPs played on battery-powered video projectors are bound to play a role in this challenge. Expanding access to sexual and reproductive health information will help control the spread of AIDS and curtail spiraling population growth. To achieve the MDGs, we need to provide access to electricity, water, sanitation and the Internet for hospitals, schools and other institutions.

Jeffery Sachs at the Earth Institute recommends that developed and developing countries jointly launch a group of Quick Win actions to save and improve millions of lives and promote economic growth. These include a massive training program of community-based workers to ensure that, by 2015, each local community has expertise in health, education, agriculture, nutrition, infrastructure, water supply and sanitation, and environmental management. They also need expertise in public sector management and promoting gender equality and participation.

You can help by volunteering to train local video producers in the developing world or producing vidcasts from your hometown for use on PMPs. We can make poverty history, and your knowledge of video can help.

Matthew York is Videomaker’s Publisher/Editor.

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