Featured Project: Unnayan TV – Video For Development

In Bangladesh, where many Internet service providers advertise 20Kbps – 40Kbps download speed as premium high-speed internet, to be able to watch videos on the internet can be a luxury. Facing this challenge Unnayan TV (development TV), an online video channel of Bangladesh, is regularly publishing video contents on development, human rights and educational issues of Bangladesh. The project has been recognized by Stockholm Challenge 2008 and Manthan Award South Asia.

Its founder Shahjahan Siraj, a citizen journalist and multimedia designer, reflects on his visions and experiences at Panorama blog:

As a multimedia designer, along with the numerous opportunity to interact with the professional world, I got the idea of “web and multimedia” as alternative platform for implementing my visions that give me enormous joy and happiness. My media work, plans and messages effectively spread worldwide through internet within the shortest time possible. This usually makes me happy and inspired to go forward.

According to Siraj, videos make him “Global Citizen” and “Active Member” of one world global family. We have recently talked with Siraj and here is the conversation:

* RV: What prompted you to open a video channel in Bangladesh where most internet users do not have access to speedy internet to be able to view videos easily?

SS: In 2001 I first published video content online when I was working with Drik Multimedia. I was strongly encouraged by Dutch web-cultural activist “Alfred Marcle” and “Tetsuya Amono” of IRFF. Later, during my stay in Japan I planned an online documentary titled “Grassroots Voice” on AIDS reality. Gradually my confidence grew and started to publish full documents for online distribution.

Like other pioneers I also faced the challenge of slow internet. But my wife Matsuzaki Misuzu (who produced Bangladeshi content in Japanese language ) gave me courage and Afsan Chowdhury (Prominent Journalist and Development Practitioner in Bangladesh) and Brian Shoesmith have inspired me a lot to open an online video channel. As my target groups were limited to activist, development and media practitioners, I was confident that they will take the trouble to watch my video even in the presence of slow internet speed.

* RV: How many viewers you have on an average?

SS: Every month approximately 47000 people watch our videos.

* RV: How are you funding your documentaries?

SS: There is no official funding for our documentaries. I have to depend on my personal income to produce the documentaries. However I also receive volunteer support from my students and technical support from the mother organization Machizo Multimedia. We have also received a couple of grants – $2500 from Panos South Asia in 2005 and $10000 from Ars Electronica of Austria in 2009 for the 80+1 project.

A photographic video presentation covering 81 markets of Dhaka via 80+1

* RV: How social media impacts your activities? 

SS: Social media gives me confidence as it can brake the barriers of the traditional big media. It is a powerful tool for interactivity, and it enables reaching target audience at low cost beyond the censorship limitation.

As a online media practitioner, my motto has been “Multimedia for Development” and being specific: “Local Content, Global Voice ”. I always try to find the way to involve, inspire and encourage the people with media presentation.

I believe, the purpose and voices of the world are same as we are the people of the same world. We may speak different languages but the visual language, desires and expressions for whatever purpose are same and these can be called “Joy and Happiness/peace”. To fulfill the purpose one must unite Information technology with opportunities which can ensure a global understanding with sharing of information, view, idea and experiences.

Save Savar from polluted water

* RV: Do you have plans to accommodate user generated video contents or participatory videos to cover more areas?

SS: Yes. But considering the reality of new media in Bangladesh, a group of people have to produce the quality local content with basic new media and content production skills. I would like develop such groups through school networking.

* RV: So far you have concentrated on videos for awareness raising and advocacy. Could you please let us know on what other fields video can create an impact especially in the developing countries?

SS: According to my experience there are now a lot of video contents online which are being distributed via social networking sites. Although the quantity is high, the quality is low in most of the cases. It is difficult to get the right videos and information from the sea of junk contents. Moreover, as most of the contents are English based, it is difficult for non English speaking local people to understand. So the requirement is to produce quality local contents in local language with the involvement of local people. Online visual media easily can attract and educate the citizens, particularly the youth.

Being a citizen of a developing nation, I keenly feel the difference between developed and developing nation. People need to be sharp on public maters, public service and public mind. If new media can create the notion, “I am for other”, instead of “other for me” the society can change. Otherwise it would be difficult for a developing nation to be free from misuse of public money, misuse of public property and misuse of public opportunities.

There is the need of a ethical , “Good Citizen” online platform where videos containing the story of the vision and efforts of the people of the developing world will be published.

Once the Shankhari Bazar was famous as the place of art. The traditional Shankha industry is now struggling for survival.

* RV: What are your future plans?

SS: My plan is to launch the full phase of “UnnayanTV” online local video sharing Bangla Channel. I would like to arrange countrywide workshop on “Video Blogging, Local Content and Citizen Media” which will be the core base of a countrywide video blogging network on different educational and development issues.

* RV: How Rising Voices can help you in achieving your goal and how you can contribute to the community for citizen media outreach?

SS: It would be a great opportunity for implementing the project if Rising Voices can join as partner. I am looking for a seed fund for starting the project.


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