Out of Africa: New Broadcasting Tool

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to the emergence of a new generation of African film and television producers is the high cost of air-time. Most African cities still only support a few television networks (largely because of the reluctance of governments to permit more).

And even these few networks often do not broadcast many hours, even in the capital (and even less hours in rural areas).

A new technology is available â'' from a Silicon Valley startup named Qik â'' that permits real-time broadcast over 3G cell phones such as Nokiaâ''s N95. Amazingly, these video-equipped phones can stream video live over the Web.

While people so far have thought of the technology as a way to broadcast live events, Qik could also be used (and this is my idea) to inexpensively broadcast pre-recorded material â'' or live music or theater performances â'' thus permitting artists and media creators in African to bypass a television network system that imposes unaffordable high â''taxesâ'' on them.

The Qik technology is getting interest from both professional media and citizen journalists such as Ground Report.

The chief technical officer and cofounder of Qik is a former Oracle engineer from India named Bhaskar Roy.

Africa remains on the periphery of Qikâ''s radar but Bhaskar is enthusiastic about the socially-conscious and developmental benefits that the technology might deliver. He envisions an army of streaming-videomaniacs, using their cell phones to discipline rogue governments, document abuses against the powerless and instigate reforms in the delivery of public services.

"By streaming human-rights abuses, people with cell phones can help stop them," Roy says.

The technology is contributing to the rise of a "video advocacy" movement that is still on in its infancy in Africa, but is gaining steam elsewhere in the world.


Tech Talk

IEEE Spectrum’s general technology blog, featuring news, analysis, and opinions about engineering, consumer electronics, and technology and society, from the editorial staff and freelance contributors.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up for the Tech Alert newsletter and receive ground-breaking technology and science news from IEEE Spectrum every Thursday.