Inclusion and representation: Enabling local content growth

28 Nov 2019 15:00h - 16:30h

Event report

[Read more session reports and updates from the 14th Internet Governance Forum]

How can locally relevant content be best supported, and how it can facilitate Internet adoption and digital inclusion? The discussion presented numerous case studies, aimed at illustrating some of the issues that the creative industry faces in some parts of the world.

Moderated by Mr Bertrand Mouillier (International Federation of Film Producers Association (FIAPF), the session tackled the creation of meaningful online spaces for communities. Several representatives from the creative industry participated, including Ms Sarika Lakhani (One Fine Day Films), Ms Vanessa Sinden from (Triggerfish Animation Studio in South Africa), Ms Sigrun Neisen (Deutsche Welle Akademie), and Mr Santiago Schuster Vergara (Chile).

Sinden began by talking about value chain in the division for professional content and the difficulties involved in trying to place the content within that value chain. The Triggerfish Animation Studio she works for is an independent animation studio focused on creating unique, African-flavoured content, to be shared with the entire world, and includes office-box hits like Zambezia and Khumba. She pointed out how the Internet plays an important role as a super-charged distribution system with all the services that have arisen from the broadband infrastructure, and added how enabling local content in reality means enabling the growth of the local industry and providing jobs for the people involved.

One way to contribute is to look at the broader picture instead of just focusing on the business of content making. Given that the education of future film-makers is important, the Triggerfish Animation Studio is contributing by providing scholarships and free online courses, which is another way the Internet may help small and independent producers around the world, and particularly in Africa. Local content has a universal message that is appealing to the global audience. Just as traditional story-telling has been passed on from one generation to another, and one tribe to another, digital platforms are now enabling these stories to be broadcasted to the entire world.

Neisen followed up by explaining how the Deutsche Welle (DW) Akademie is helping film-makers in Africa to bridge the development gap and showcase their work to the global audience. DW Akademie sees the film-making process as an opportunity to create local jobs, hence encompassing the whole chain of the process, not just the roles of directors and/or actors. Over the past nine years, DW Akademie has helped train 1 400 professionals in 20 African countries and taken part in over 30 joint productions. Special effort is put into training female film-makers by establishing a female-only film school in Nigeria. One Fine Day Films is a partner of DW Akademie, and Lakhani explained how their focus on the ground is to deliver such trainings by actually enabling the participants to make movies, i.e., learning through practice.

She also pointed out how, in order to be successful in creating the content, one also has to focus on training people how to deal with other aspects of the whole story – such as producing, marketing, and policy regulations. One of the organisation’s most recent activities is to create tax incentives for the film industry in Kenya, in order to attract more productions coming to the country, thus helping local professionals gain experiences and provide them with jobs.

Vegara on the other hand talked about how local music content is taking advantage of new technologies to reach a wider audience. Vergara referred to this approach as ‘small venues for big audiences’. One example are small SCD concert halls which use the Internet to promote the work of local Chilean musicians. In 2019 alone, they held 412 concerts, giving an opportunity to about 1 500 artists to showcase their work.

Another example is that of two local and independent label records – Sello Azul and Oveja Negra – which specialise in publishing local artists, after the major label record companies decided to focus on more commercial content back in the Nineties. Both of these labels became quite successful by 2010, and had the highest amount of albums launched in Latin America. In yet another example, the project Autores en Vivo, in Uruguay, focuses on the live broadcast of local artists holding concerts through their YouTube channel. The channel has reached 22 million visits.

Vegara also explained that many young people who work with musicians as promoters, agents, aids, etc. are changing the traditional role of publishing houses, as they are becoming ‘content agents’ in the chain of music production.

During the session, the audience asked the panellists how they were dealing with copyright issues. The presenters agreed that the best way to overcome these challenges is to partner up with streaming services that help authors fight piracy, while at the same time allowing the users to enjoy the content at a reasonable price.

By Andrej Skrinjaric