Mobile Cinemas to boost entrepreneurship and connect communities

From March 2015, the many small towns and villages sprinkled across the picturesque rural landscape of the Nkangala district in Mpumalanga will soon be the backdrop to an innovative technology experiment that will turn 14 micro entrepreneurs into mobile cinema operators.

Funded by the Department of Science and Technology and the European Commission, this consortium driven project called MOSAIC 2B hinges on the creation of new technologies and the development of a robust and user friendly ‘Cinema-in-a-backpack’. The overall project management is in the hands of the company from Kaiserslautern Germany.

The Cinema-in-a-backpack is a mobile, easy to use product incorporating a projector, speakers, a battery and a tablet, which enables micro entrepreneurs to project films, becoming part of their business offering to local communities in far-flung villages.

The MOSAIC 2B project aims to test an alternative and lower cost distribution channel for multi-media content that will offer a secure and viable method for reaching and connecting areas with poor or absent infrastructure. In addition to the development of these technologies, a further goal of this project is to respond to two specific challenges in the SA market. Firstly, the inaccessibility of cinemas in rural areas, and secondly the challenges experienced by entrepreneurs to run sustainable businesses. For that reason, a concept of a micro-franchise model for the ‘Cinema-in-a-backpack’ has been developed that exploits the advantage of the DTN technology to spur entrepreneurial activities in rural areas through this offering that is underpinned by training conducted by the University of Pretoria.

The technology developed during the initial phases of the MOSAIC 2B project, which commenced in October 2013, includes the development of a cost effective delay tolerant network (DTN) through which content is sent to the cinema operators using public busses, in this case PUTCO busses, carrying so-called infostations to bus depots in rural areas. To receive the content the micro entrepreneurs visit their local PUTCO bus depots with their ‘Cinema-in-a-backpack’ at which point the MOSAIC 2B application contained in the tablet connects to the so-called infostations via Wi-Fi and the multimedia content is downloaded. Moreover, this business application, developed by EPI-USE, allows the micro entrepreneur to order, pay for and download the content of their choice and plan and document their screening events (capturing information such as number of audience members, ticket price, other business services offered and more). Lastly, the information collected via the business application is packaged using visual analytics, developed by Centro de Computação Gráfica in Portugal, offering the micro entrepreneurs business intelligence to assist them to optimise their cinema business.

Many of the micro entrepreneurs selected to join the project as cinema operators have expressed their enthusiasm for this opportunity, both as individuals building businesses and as community members recognizing that the need for affordable local entertainment. The field experiment is planned and run by Infusion who will be responsible for collecting the data to optimize the learnings over the next 6 months.

MOSAIC 2B is executed by a consortium of 6 partners – 3 from South Africa and 3 based in Europe – and will end in September 2015 after 2 years.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Programme for reserarch, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no. 611796, as well as from the Department of Science and Technology South Africa under financial assistance agreement DST/CON 0227-229/2013.

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