Creating videos to uplift communities
The WP9 (digital tech, inequality and migration) Team of the Migration for Development and Equality (MIDEQ) project collaboratively worked on designing an intervention that would enable people living in South Africa to have a platform for their voices; to share knowledge and to learn from one another’s lived experiences. This would be done through the production of high-quality videos. The positive feedback (see also video interviews here) provided by the participants is testament to the overall success of the initiative.
The benefits of using digital technology
“The main idea was to create videos where migrants are sharing peer-to-peer opportunities for their growth”, explains Maria Rosa Lorini, who led the initiative. Maria Rosa’s primary focus at MIDEQ is on digital technologies that can reduce inequalities. MIDEQ hub is a global project that aims at reducing the inequalities faced by migrant populations living in the global south, by enabling development in their host country as well as their country of origin. “There’s potential in your new country; your personal development, the development of your community, but also the possibility to develop your home country, because you are sending home money, and bringing home new technology and skills. You are uplifting not only your own life but the life of your family and your community”, explains Maria Rosa.
Maria Rosa and her team designed and facilitated a two-week intensive digital skills and video training for people who are not originally from South Africa. The initiative involved people from diverse backgrounds and nationalities, living in Johannesburg and Cape Town.” Using a co-design participatory approach, the initiative had three phases. “It is important to work with migrants, not for migrants” Maria Rosa emphasises.
The risks of the digital world
The first phase of the initiative aimed to understand how migrants interact with technology. A digital survey was conducted to collect information during the pandemic, when face-to-face activities where not deployable.
The next phase aimed to understand how participants understood the inequalities that exist in the digital space, and how they can effectively address and reduce the existing inequalities. Face-to-face interviews and focus groups were conducted in the two main South African cities; “We asked questions like how are you using technology? What difficulties are you facing? Are you using it to keep in touch with family? For business purposes? Or to integrate into a new culture? Are you using it for religious reasons? Usually, it was a combination of all of these,” says Maria Rosa.
The research highlighted that many underestimated the potential risks that can come with using digital technologies. These include giving out personal data, or sharing information that might be personal or confidential, or even potential border surveillance.
Maria Rosa notes that there are also personal risk factors that can result in the misuse of digital technologies. Certain digital technologies like Instant messaging apps can make it easier for families back home to place incessant pressure on people on the move. For example, a woman who migrates without her husband can become victim to controlling behaviour from her partner.
Putting research into action
In the final phase, Maria Rosa and her team designed and facilitated an intervention with local tech developers, to conduct the two-week digital skills and video training.
The intervention involved 20 participants in Johannesburg and 12 participants in Cape Town, at the Scalabrini Centre. The first week of the final phase (intervention) was theory-based and primarily focused on online safety and security, where the second week was more practical and included technical training like shooting, sound, editing and lighting techniques. Each section was led by a trained expert.
Maria Rosa says that good-quality videos can be made in the comfort of one’s home; using free software! This is an accessible way for people to share and freely access knowledge. At the end of the training, participants showcased the videos they had created, where they chose to share tips and advice on various topics, for other non-nationals living in South Africa to learn from.
Reflections from participants
Participants highlight their experience of the training as positive and highly beneficial. Lydia from the Democratic Republic of Congo speaks of the unexpected opportunities that came her way after she learned to effectively curate videos. “I wanted to do it for my business. I am a baker. I wanted to improve my marketing. It helped me a lot! People from my community now send me photos to make videos for their birthdays. Word spread and I even made a video for someone in Dubai, who asked me to make a promotional video for his restaurant.”
Jong-Seong noted the accessibility and practicality of the training “The most interesting thing that I learned is that you don’t need fancy equipment to make quality videos”. Jong-Seong plans to use her knowledge to raise awareness on an issue close to her heart. “I would like to start making videos to raise awareness on mental health”. Pascale who wanted to learn to create videos with a specific goal says that “I wanted to make videos because I am part of a church, and I am running a project on building a community centre so one of the activities that was required of me is to make a video and speak about the project so that I can get funding. But learning and understanding digital safety turned to be the most interesting thing for me. Being able to use internet safely was very empowering, especially because I have children”. Jonathan, who has experience in video making but wanted to improve his skills echoed this sentiment: “I learned quite a few things, some of which I did not know before, namely online and digital security, which is an incredibly important one. There was information that really stood out for me, which is connecting to public Wi-Fi. That really is important in terms of protecting yourself so using VPN apps is incredibly important” says Jonathan.
The way forward
The training ended with a panel discussion and an informal launch presentation of the first videos produced (Migrant videos from South Africa – UNESCO Chair in ICT4D). All relevant stakeholders which helped build on the ongoing research (see Technology, Inequality and Migration – UNESCO Chair in ICT4D), were invited to comment and explore different ways to continue co-designing digital interventions, that can usefully address migrant-defined inequalities. Recent follow up workshops and videos produced, highlighted the increased level of digital skills among participants.
MIDEQ is funded by the UK government under the UKRI Global Challenges Research Fund scheme, and the work package on digital tech and inequalities is led by Prof G ‘Hari’ Harindranath and Prof Tim Unwin, at the UNESCO Chair in ICT4D at Royal Holloway, University of London.