At Work: Communications - Medium and message

Indira Das-Gupta

ActionAid UK used the internet to let activists from five countries take part in a conference held in Canada.

ActionAid had considered broadcasting international conferences online previously, but had found the technology too expensive.

When it eventually became more affordable, Simon Wright, manager of the charity's HIV/Aids campaign, saw the potential of using the internet to allow local community groups to speak in real time with delegates at an Aids conference in Toronto, which took place last month.

The charity used existing computers and Skype software, which allows free calls to be made through the web. It invested £2,000 in new equipment such as webcams, microphones and speakers.

"Some of the discussions were a little clunky because it was the first time certain participants had been involved with something like this, but others were really inspiring and useful," says Wright. "We felt it was a worthwhile exercise because it allowed people in the developing world to have meaningful participation."

ActionAid also had a booth at the conference, and the Indian health minister Anbumani Ramadoss used its webcam for an impromptu talk with people with HIV and Aids 8,000 miles away in the Indian city of Hyderabad. Edited highlights of the conference, known as advocasts, were later placed on the web for supporters.

"Those who are interested in development would rather see the people whose lives we are trying to improve than read some dry policy report compiled in London," says Wright.

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