When the Power Goes Out

Submitted by Monica Grover

Lagos, Nigeria – It seemed like an ordinary day in Lagos—the power had gone out.

Before the video storytelling workshop began, I had a chance to learn more about the facilitators from Communicating for Change, GFC’s regional implementing partner for the workshop. The focus of today’s workshop would be video editing with Final Cut Pro. While talking about the video-editing process prior to the start of the workshop, my conversation with the facilitators circled down the path of exploring the daily challenges of life in Lagos.

One of the facilitators spoke passionately about Lagos’s infamous power outages. He said they stifled his creativity and, at times, prevented him from working. He said, however, that the infuriating power outages did force him to use his time more efficiently. He asked me to imagine how much work he could get done if his lights and his access to the Internet weren’t constantly flickering in and out of service. He lost a business deal because he couldn’t gain access to the Internet for an entire week.

I felt guilty. Guilty because of the luxury we are provided in the US. We complain if it takes us longer than five minutes to connect to the Internet. Could we in the US imagine a disruption to our Internet service for an entire week? I didn’t say much, though. I listened.

“You pay for the air you breathe in Lagos,” said another facilitator. I found it insightful to learn about the struggles that someone of approximately my age also working in the digital media realm faced while living in Nigeria. He described the high cost of living in Nigeria and said that this past year had been especially difficult because of the recession.

This made me think. When trying to create a video storytelling and sharing program for young girls served by our grantee partners KIND (Kudirat Initiative for Democracy) and GCC (Girl Child Concern), how do we ensure that the girls have adequate access to the Internet? How do we ensure that the girls have access to the right tools to complete a project we’ve asked them to participate in?

With inconsistent Internet access and a low-speed Internet connection, how can the girls be expected to upload a video to YouTube? Uploading video requires a great deal of bandwidth, and the girls don’t have the high-speed connection that many of us in the US are afforded. Have we set up expectations that are unrealistic?

It is possible to upload a video to YouTube in Lagos. The girls have already uploaded a short clip, but what would take 10 minutes on a high-speed connection in the US might take an hour in Lagos. One of the issues that came up during the workshop was the need for more equipment. One of the facilitators likened the lack of enough computers and equipment to taking someone out to the middle of the ocean, saying “Swim,” and then leaving. He had a point.

We’ve asked our partners to participate in this project. We’ve extended to them this opportunity. But do they see it as an “opportunity” if adequate resources aren’t provided for them? Where do we find more resources? Or do we just expect our partners to be more “resourceful?”

One last thing the facilitator said was “Nigerians are adaptable. We can adapt to our environment. I watched a movie when I was a very young child that impacted me tremendously. The message of that movie was ‘be friendly to your environment and it will provide you with what you need.’” What matters, at the end of the day, is what you do when the power goes out. How resourceful can we be with limited resources?

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