Social video broadcasting in Africa

Posted on September 25, 2016 12:04 am

25More than 300 million people in Africa have access to Internet according to the latest data.More than 80% of them access the internet via their mobile phones or devices like Tablets.As a result, social media has entered what is likely to be a wildly popular new phase with the advent of live video streaming apps.Several apps allow people to broadcast live video and sound from their phones to other people. Some apps allows viewers to interact with the broadcaster in the form of text messages by tapping on the video.On the surface, making everyone a broadcaster is a grand idea just like Google’s blogger site made anyone with a gmail account a blogger. What if you could see through the eyes of a Kaizer Chief player in Moses Mabida stadium? Or watch the sunrise from a hot air balloon in Maasai Mara in Kenya?And it is true, live stream video from anyone around the world, has the capacity to bring the experience of ordinary people around the world, in raw and undiluted form, to anyone on social media.The idea is not necessarily new. For example, Ustream has been providing a live streaming service for almost ten years. The Arab Spring movement showed the potential of live stream video to great effect by broadcasting demonstrations, live action, and interactions with the police. As immersive an experience it was, the problem with Ustream was that it wasn’t integrated with social media platforms and so discovering what was going on and reaching a large audience was difficult.Other companies like Twitter recognised this problem and solved it by buying Periscope. Twitter and Facebook have both recognised that video is is the next area of growth in social media. Although YouTube owned by Google has long been held up as the service at the top, it is far less of a social platform than what likes of Periscope intend to be. From that perspective, Twitter is aiming at taking the lead in this space over its competitors.

From a coder point of view, the problems facing these services however, are substantial. Already, the technical issues are surfacing with difficulty in viewing the livestreams because of the demand. Very few of the livestreams currently play, and simply say loading before changing to ended. Some of them, at least, offers the option of watching the recorded version. The cost of providing this service will be substantial and it is certainly not clear how those in the business will be able to monetise the service. From an African user’s perspective, broadcasting using the phone’s cellular data is likely to limit the length of the streams and certainly have the mobile network providers seeing a surge in demand.More challenging however, will be the social problems that a world of live streams. Encouraging millions of Africans with phones to broadcast what is going on around them to the rest of the world is going to raise enormous privacy issues. Already, videos available in Africa suggest the potential direction this service could take as people race to the bottom in search of viewers. As in many other cases, social media has.All in all, these are early days for such platforms in Africa and it is possible that the owners were forced to release the service early because of the launch of rival service.A South Africa based social video broadcasting services has been reported to have raised another $3 million in funding, it is clear that as a service it is effectively dead when compared to Twitter’s Periscope offering. Twitter has already moved to block others from having access to information from Twitter vital to its social networking service. Despite the problems, video is going to be the future of social networks. Mainstream media have yet another challenge to face with this new service and it is unlikely that they will deal with this any better than they have dealt with the rising challenge of Video on Demand and Online Tv stations.As they say, everyone is capable of becoming their own version of a mainstream media producer but for every serious project that is created, there will be the pet videos. On social video broadcasting sites in Africa, pet videos abound along with curiously a preoccupation with fast food.

Contador Harrison