Access to quality, curated digital training material is critical in building the next generation of African photographers and videographers. Too often, African nations are seen through a foreign lens, while those able to tell their own story with authenticity lack the skills to do so. For film, it is important to cultivate an industry that stimulates consumption of domestically produced movies and keeps the production revenue within countries such as Ghana and Nigeria. Canon’s Miraisha Programme has been working in emerging markets since December 2014 to deliver skills training in photography, videography and print to help local people establish their businesses and careers.
Photographs and videos are visual media, so just providing students with access to Canon’s high-quality training materials via expensive, two-dimensional paper manuals and handouts is less than ideal. Also, using the Internet has not been realistic due to the low speed, poor reliability, variable quality and the high cost of data connectivity.
Canon commissioned the Canon Training Hub, hosted on the Blu Network platform, which was originally piloted at a week-long Canon “Film and Photography Excellence Programme” at Nairobi’s Kenyatta University in Kenya. The purpose was to bring free, fast and focused access to digital training material to hundreds of Kenyan film and photography students via their mobile devices and laptops.
To create the Canon Training Hub, the Blu Network team curated over a thousand articles and hundreds of videos, presenting them in a consistent and easy-to-use fashion to those attending the workshop. The BluPoint Hubs then ensured the content was available on all devices without the user incurring data charges and at faster than 4G speeds. The content originated from diverse sources including the Canon Professional Network, Canon’s Companion mobile app, and the Canon YouTube channel. The training material covers areas ranging from the basics of digital photography, Canon core technologies, to advanced tips and tricks from pro-photographers.
At Kenyatta University, one of Kenya’s top universities, it was not surprising to see almost total penetration of smartphones among the students and teachers. However, while photography students have invested in the technology in their pockets, their friends and family may not have. One Kenyan filmmaker, Biko Nyongesa, was extremely excited by the revolution to access audio-visual content on even basic handsets – often ridiculed as “mulika mwizi” (only useful as a torch). “Now my Grandmother will get to see my films”, he said.
In fact, such basic handsets have been given a new lease of life thanks to Blu Networks’s innovation in delivering web content to feature phones. Canon’s large library of web-based learning material was converted automatically to video and audio, allowing access on Bluetooth feature phones as well as over FM radio. In addition, presenting content audio- visually is much more appealing to those with a visual memory – great for photography students – as well as those cultures with an oral tradition – perfect for Sub Saharan Africa!
The workshop was a great success amongst both students and the Canon team. For students the ease and speed of access was a revelation and the ability to store videos and documents on their phones to take away and refer to later was invaluable. The students’ concern about large data costs when accessing this multimedia content were overcome, as all interactions were free. Some students even returned on days without course sessions, so they could get more information from the Canon Training Hub. The Canon team gathered daily feedback from students via the BluPoint Hubs, so were sure that students were learning faster, and became more confident that the programme would have greater sustained impact.
The impact on the students was immediate and very impressive. Our team could deploy digital content in a way that would have been unthinkable without the use of the technology supplied by Blu Network.
The application potential for learning is huge and as Canon moves more and more of its content into the digital arena, its vital we take account of those for whom access to the web is either limited, expensive or both. Blu Network resolves this challenge.
– David Preston, Strategic Operations Director, Canon Emerging Markets.
Following this start, Canon has extended use of the Canon Training Hub beyond Kenya to training programmes in Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Uganda. The range of content has grown, as has the use of automated assessment, marking and evaluation tools, which give immediate feedback to students and tutors. By moving away from very expensive expert led, paper based training events to a facilitator led programme supported by the BluPoint Canon Training Hub, the reach of the training programme has been significantly increased. The Miraisha Programme has trained more than 3000 workshop participants since 2015. Hundreds of them as well as the local trainers have reaped the benefits of downloading and accessing digital training materials via the Canon Training Hubs powered by Blu Network.
Canon has further extend the Miraisha programme. Firstly, by training additional Canon Certified instructors and facilitators to lead programmes using the Canon Training Hub. Secondly, through developing a French language based content to support Miraisha in Francophone Africa.
Canon Europe is the EMEA arm of Canon Inc., a global provider of imaging technologies and services, and one of the world’s most well-recognised and loved brands. Canon Europe has operations in around 120 countries, employs approximately 19,000 people across the region, and contributes about a third of Canon’s global revenues annually.
Founded in 1937, Canon has been a leading name in imagery for the past 80 years and is dedicated to helping people constantly re-imagine what is possible through imaging. From cameras to commercial printers, business consultancy to healthcare technologies, Canon enriches lives and businesses through imaging innovation.
Canon is growing the positive power of imaging technology and services. By delivering social and environmental benefits through their people and products, Canon are powerfully demonstrating a commitment to their philosophy of Kyosei: living and working together for the common good.
Further information about Canon Europe is available at: www.canon-europe.com
Blu Network is a social impact company spun out of research from The University of Southampton in 2015. The ground breaking Blu Network platform consists of a cloud based system supporting on the ground BluPoint Hubs, which are low energy (solar powered) Micro-Servers that locally cache web content, apps and documents ensuring that even in areas of limited connectivity and electrical supply, digital content and services can still be accessed. The solution uniquely adapts content, so it can be shared over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and FM radio, which means it can be accessed via any mobile or computer device. Also, because the material is cached locally users can reliably access the materials without airtime costs and at incredibly fast speeds. The solution can work with a single BluPoint Hub or as a self- repairing network of BluPoint Hubs that effectively create a pop-up solar powered Intranet over a wide area. Content can be periodically updated remotely using the Blu Network cloud based platform which also gives acurate visibility on usage data and any locally uploaded materials such as surveys and other digital items.
Deployments of the solution to support education, health and commercial activities have been made in South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Zambia and the UK.