Local content required to reach online African audiences

Increased internet penetration in Africa will cause a demand for local content

Local content producers such as bloggers, artists, photographers and journalists have taken advantage of the internet to reach out to new audiences. Yet a new study by Internet Society says there is not enough local content and Africa is still in need of more.

“Much of the international content and many of the services available are relevant in many countries worldwide - this is true of social networking services, educational access, and, of course, entertainment. However, we also note the importance of locally created content, both for the relevance of the content in the local context, as well as for the opportunities provided to the creators for earning a living and creating jobs,” the report titled Promoting Content in Africa said.

The report reiterated that the availability of local content, especially in local languages, might push more people to adopt connectivity.

“Content is most relevant when it is in the local language - this applies in particular to international content and services, but also to local content that may not be available in all languages in a country,” the report stated.

“An increased focus on local language content can engage Sub-Saharan users in all aspects of the internet, including websites.”

However, the report showed that most languages are not supported by major platforms. Even some popular languages are not prevalent. Africa has to think of ways to make the internet relevant to its people by adopting new ways to incorporate local languages.


Education and news sites blazing the trail

E-learning and local news sites have been the biggest source of local content on the continent. For e-learning, the shift from hard copy books to students interacting with devices has pushed the need for local content in many African countries.

Wesley Lynch the CEO of Snapplify, a company that helps publishers digitise, says skills are the biggest hurdle.

“For publishers there is simply a lack of skills. They face a lot of problems in financing digitisation but also do not see much reward because there are not making much sales with the few e-books they have,” Lynch told IDG Connect during the Innovation Africa conference held in Nairobi in September.


Lynch added that smaller publishing houses face expensive outsourcing fees to digitise their content. In Kenya news sites such as Tuko News, Nairobi News, Hivi Sasa and the Nairobian, among many others, have successfully dealt with the need for local news by covering stories not featured in the traditional media outlets.

But there is little to say about other types of media such as video, audio and photography. Capital FM is one if the stations that has taken online content productions seriously.

“Video is becoming increasingly important for online platforms and we have seen this growing interest over the last two years. Capital FM has acquired new and loyal fans through our locally-produced shows. There are people who prefer the video format to articles and they have connected with the content we are creating,” Ken Macharia Online Content Producer at the station told IDG Connect.

In Africa research suggests that there will be a 55% increase in video consumption by 2019.

According to Ericsson’s Mobility Report for Sub-Saharan Africa 2015 [PDF], Africans are already moving towards accessing video content online.

“As more of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population become owners of smart and digital devices, new modes of content consumption are increasingly being explored. Viewing habits are moving away from conventional devices. In Nigeria for instance, 51% prefer to watch TV and video at their convenience, while 56% want access to video content across all devices,” the report said.

Independent video and audio producers should take note that the continent will have 720 million smartphone subscribers [PDF – pg 6] and this holds promise for content distribution.


Hosting content locally

According to an Internet Society report [PDF] in 2015, the cost of connectivity is high due to some content being hosted offshore.

“Lowering the costs of accessing locally relevant content by hosting it locally is likely to benefit a broad set of stakeholders, since overseas hosting can result in the ISPs shifting some of their additional international transit cost burden onto customers in the form of higher prices or data caps,” the report noted. 

This was demonstrated in Rwanda where content developers saved US$111 dollars per year by hosting their sites overseas, but had a damaging effect overall as it imposed US$13,500 to Rwandan ISPs in transit costs per year, a cost that makes internet access expensive.

The report added that: “Local hosting of locally relevant content could consequently initiate a positive cycle of lowered costs for access, which could spur an increased demand for, and supply of, local content.”

Local hosting of content results in faster access to high quality content. Services such as VoIP and video streaming need a fast and reliable network service for it to be consumed quickly and local hosting could also solve this issue.


Great opportunities

The internet offers a great opportunity to create content at a lower cost than traditional radio and television and its canvas is broad. Anyone with a great idea can easily launch his or her channel through a website.

Promoting Content in Africa suggests that the low availability of local content sets up a great opportunity for local entrepreneurs.

“At the same time as providing developers with income, local content can help to address local needs for information, coordination, entertainment, and other internet services, through apps and websites,” the report said.

Local developers and content creators know the kind of content that is needed and its relevance.

Macharia from Capital FM said: “The market for independent video producers is still small but growing. In Kenya, consumers are driving the demand for local content. Most of the popular online and TV shows are local productions so we will continue seeing more productions being churned out. But as the demand grows, so does the standard and quality of the productions so the very good producers will always get outlets to air their shows.”

Even major media players have recognised the growing influence of digital media. Entrepreneurs can jump in and create jobs and opportunities and most of all get more individuals online.