Tuesday, November 05, 2013

BPN 1668: Entrepreneurs in e-Culture



Thanks to mobiles and social media, digital culture projects can rope in a wide range of audiences and contributors locally and globally. Five winners of e-content in the category of e-Culture and Tourism were recognised by the bi-annual World Summit Awards, held recently in Colombo.
Here are my key takeaways from the innovative projects, and recommendations from the winners of these projects who presented their findings to an audience of ICT innovators and creators.

Verkami is the leading crowdfunding platform in Spain for cultural and creative projects. Artists can get in touch with their public, build audiences and fund their projects. In two years and a half, more than 1,300 projects have been completed, thanks to contributions from 160,000 cultural consumers, raising more than 6.2 million Euros. The platform claims a sustained 70% success rate (3 out of 4 projects raise the funds they are looking for).

Enajori from India is the first online monthly bilingual magazine from the state of Assam. Online content includes local music, cinema, literature, wildlife and tourism, as well as e-novels. It is enabled for mobile users also. There is a children’s section and participatory components such as Photographer of the Month. The site’s book catalogue lists publications dating back to the year 1849. The site already draws an estimated 250,000 readers each month, after less than three years of launch.

Southeast European Culture Portal from Serbia was established in 2003 in Belgrade as an online platform for culture and art in Serbia and the region. The site has daily updated news about events, cultural policies, open calls, debates, Photo Galleries, Artists’ Gallery, blog, as well as profile presentations of artists and cultural institutions.

Gorilla Highlands from Uganda is an interactive electronic book about southwestern Uganda developed using Apple’s free iBooks Author software. The landscape and people are presented through text, videos, and an extensive audio phrasebook in two local languages. The focus is not just on the famed gorilla habitats but tourism, culture and employment in general. A free Gorilla Highlands paper booklet has also been published.

Jumièges 3D from France offers a 3D tablet-based experience to view existing and prior architect models of historical monuments such as the Abbey. Mobile augmented reality, on site or through a free app, drives the visitor into the glorious past of the Abbey through different views and points of interest. This can be extended to other countries and monuments as well.

Here are the key takeaways for creative entrepreneurs from the ensuing discussion after the above presentations- 
  1. The mainstream media focuses more on entertainment than culture – leaving the culture field wide open for innovators to use the breadth and depth of digital media and mobile tools.
  2. Creative teams can be assembled from across the globe, thanks to the power of the Net. For example, Uganad’s Gorilla Highlands project has team members in Solvenia, Germany, Ireland, UK and Uganda.
  3. For a sustainable business model, look for where the money is. For example, in cultural tourism, there may be more paying customers in the form of tour operators than government departments.
  4. Go local, go global. Thanks to the Internet, global diaspora can be tapped as audience, contributors and even sponsors, as the Assamese portal Enajori shows.
  5. Crowdfunding models work well even during hard economic times. Verkami’s contributions are specially relevant in Spain today where budget cuts are slashing cultural programs.
  6. Don’t ignore offline strategies. Though the online model has much allure and scale, interesting and deep connections can open up through offline interactions also, such as through meetups and conferences.
  7. Build a community of volunteers. Volunteers can often contribute as much (in some cases even more) than paid contributors for e-content. Learn how to engage and inspire volunteer teams.
Jumièges 3D was declared the overall winner.

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