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With cell-sized video, Obama speaks to AfPak's mobile millions

BY Nancy Scola | Friday, December 4 2009

We might be computer obsessed here in the United States, but in much of the world, mobile is king. The White House and State Department have been doing an impressive job recognizing that if they're to use digital media to reach target audiences outside the United States, than cell phones and other mobile devices can be a direct line into the pockets and lives of the members of those desired audiences.

Case in point: Obama's recent speech laying out his strategy for the war in Afghanistan. There's a benefit in having citizens of the region hear the President's words directly, but only a sliver of the populations of Afghanistan and Pakistan go online via computer. "Looking at data on," reports the White House blog, "we don’t have a lot of traffic coming from Afghanistan and Pakistan because Internet penetration in the region is relatively low at 2% and 11% respectively. However, mobile penetration is much higher. 52% of the 177 million people in Pakistan have at least 1 mobile device and 30% of the 28.4 million in Afghanistan." To get at that audience, they took a minute-long segment from the President's address that was specifically targeted at everyday Afghanis and turned it into mini videos, complete with local language voiceovers, that can be sent around via cell phone.

The tiny size is a perfect fit for a cell phone screen, and voiceovers eliminate the problem of scrunched, unreadable subtitles. The White House's mobile video clip aimed at the citizens of Afghanistan is available in Arabic, Dari, Urdu, and Pashto (the last of which is the clip up above). Curious what exactly Obama is saying to the people of Afghanistan? It's available in English, too.