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Slowly making progress

12 Aug

 I’ve been back in the UK for nearly three weeks now, and I admit I’ve only just reached the end of my first, uninterrupted week of editing. Largely I suppose because I’ve managed to be rather distracted by sunshine! Thankfully this week has been a gloomy, ‘mizzley’ one in Cornwall.

This evening I feel a bit like I’ve reached a milestone. All my audio is now neatly clipped up and arranged in labelled folders. It’s taken many hours in front of Adobe Audition. Infact, I was beginning to feel like I was living inside my computer screen earlier today. I also imagine that this is only the start; Hello weeks of dreaming about waveforms. (Welcome to the world of a radio producer I guess!)

But it’s not all bad. Infact, really it’s far from it. The wonderful thing about this week, improved by the fact that it’s taken me nearly a month to sit down and sift through all my interviews, is the way that it has transported me back to my time in Kenya and in Ethiopia.

Listening to the stories of my interesting and patient interviewees, I could be back there. Perched on a wooden stool in a garden, or a chair inside someone’s rural home. Sipping at fresh, spicy and curiously chocolatey coffee, or watching chickens – ‘kuku’ in Swahili, ‘dora’ in Amharic – scratching the dusty ground. Listening to the birds, the cows, or the lorries racing by on the nearby road, or staring out over a bustling cityscape, or the undulating highlands. Holding out my microphone and worrying the whole time that what my interviewee is telling me will be lost in some freak electronic failure of the recorder. My memories have surged back.

But my next challenge will be to disassociate myself a little from these personal feelings and to think pragmatically about my documentary. I need to select the most appropriate stories and start to think about how I can best illustrate my experiences and my findings in audio format. Next week’s task.

I’ll also be winding up my interviews next week. I want to put some of the individual stories I heard when I was travelling into a much broader context. It’s important because, as I hope I’ve demonstrated by now in this blog, mobile phones really are having a dramatic impact on local, national and international economies. So I’ll be speaking to development professionals in the UK about my research and hoping to draw some solid conclusions.

For now though it’s back to Audition I suppose!

“Focus Clare!”

8 Jul

I’ve always been a bit of a dreamer.

One of my biggest concerns as I pack and prepare to leave for Kenya is that I might drift from my main focus on the impact that mobile technology is having on farmers and the charities which exist to help and support them. However, the excitement and discussion which surrounds mobile phones in the developing world is constantly making me think outside the parameters of this question.

So partly in an attempt to bulk out and give background, and partly because I want this multimedia documentary to capture as much of this explosive new industry as possible, I’m giving myself a few other pointers…

 

What technologies are being used?

What are the consequences of using these technologies on charities?

What are the consequences of using these technologies on farmers’ livelihoods and agriculture?

How are these technologies beginning to support agricultural businesses?

What are the global consequences of using these technologies?

Why are countries developing at different rates?

What does the future hold?

 

With all this in mind, I hope I’ll be able to conduct relevant and interesting interviews for my radio documentary.

Back to the to do list then…

Getting to the point

6 Jul

In three days I will be on a plane bound for Nairobi so it’s about time I get to the nitty gritty of my project. I’m going to use the next few days to think about the main questions that I hope my documentary will go some way to finding answers for. Beyond that, my blog will become a bit of a progress diary, a travel log. So check back to see how I’m getting on.

Mobile technologies are changing lives, especially in the developing world. Since beginning my project, many people I have quizzed have emphasised that technologies must not simply be seen as a tool for administering aid. I hope that this argument will raise it’s head during my documentary. But my focus will be to ask…

How are mobile technologies affecting the relationship between NGOs and farmers? 

In a way, the argument which says that mobile technologies should be used for change outside of the confines of the aid industry goes some way to answering this question. Are people so empowered by the technologies that they are using that they don’t need the support we’ve come to see as ‘conventional’ from Non-governmental organisations.

On Monday, Oxfam launched it’s largest ever emergency appeal in Africa. We are, they say, amid the worst food crisis in the 21st century, as the Horn of Africa suffers from widespread drought. The Guardian have produced another great interactive map which shows some if the facts and figures. (I will stop banging on bout their maps I promise) Notice it states that 10 million are in need of ‘humanitarian assistance’.

So what does humanitarian assistance mean in an age when the internet and mobile phones make it increasingly easy to start up businesses? Have we moved into an age where aid has altered from being about Geldof and his gigs? Or are these ten million people still needing instantaneous solutions?

The reality is that I won’t be visiting the people who are really desperately in need of food aid. But I do hope to talk to farmers about how they see development projects that they are part of, and how technology is making them think differently. I’ll also be talking to people who have seen NGOs and the work that they do evolve as attitudes, politics and technologies have all had their part to play in changing international aid and development.

If the Horn of Africa really is amid a food crisis, I’m hoping that my documentary might shed some light on the future.