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Sport and development in the big wide world of digital media


Sport and development in the big wide world of digital media

Digital media offers the opportunity to connect individuals from across the world to share knowledge, resources and contacts. At the very least individuals and organisations can take ownership of their story and advocacy campaigns, and at its best it can contribute to redefining the way the development sector partners and cooperates globally.

“Social media is an important thing for us because in Gaza the crossing is always closed, so we can't show our art and our skills. It's so important for us, and without media how will we reach the world? How will our art reach the people?”

This is a quote from Mohammed Aljkhbeer on the importance of social media to his organisation Gaza Parkour. It is just one example of a sport and development organisation embracing the opportunities provided by digital media - websites, blogs, e-resources, social media, video, sound and images.

But it’s not all about pretty pictures or heart-racing action videos. One of the most exciting things about ‘new’ or ‘digital’ media is the democratisation of knowledge. By this we mean that knowledge is becoming more open source - available to everyone with an internet connection. With the rise of MOOCs, blogs, podcasts and knowledge sharing communities like, people have more information available to them than ever before. We are truly in the information age.

Perhaps here is where the greatest opportunity lies as we, the sport and development sector (and the wider development sector in general), attempts to foster new partnerships to tackle the social issues we face today. One of the key elements of the Sustainable Development Goals is the the need to unite government, civil society and the private sector if we are to rise to the challenge in the coming 15 years. Goal 17 specifically addresses the necessity for effective partnerships to achieve the goals. Digital media provides this open playing field for people to share knowledge, resources and contacts, and most importantly it ensures the conversation is global.

One of the key criticisms of the development sector is its argued ‘global giving north to south’ focus – a one way conveyer belt of knowledge, finance and resources with little or no feedback loop from those receiving the development. Digital media at the very least gives people a voice like never before, as we see so clearly in the case of Gaza Parkour. Their message is not filtered through the lens of a journalist or international development organisation. They are able to largely take ownership of the image they project and the community they connect with.

There’s obviously issues with the new digital age that go beyond this article such as copyright and intellectual property laws and ensuring equal access to technology for example, but it continues to redefine what we mean by ‘partnership’ and ‘cooperation’ in a globalised and increasingly connected world. People often make the almost romantic claim that sport is a universal language enabling people to exchange ideas, feel empathy and ultimately, implement positive social change – our task, is to see if that translates into code on a computer. How very romantic? I think so.

Photo credit: Tyson Cecka


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Mark James Johnson


Wednesday, October 28, 2015 - 00:00