author: Mark Belinsky
date: 2010-11-17 21:52:17+00:00
title: Tech Teens in Kazakhstan
A student of mine named Genghis Kahn raises his hand and declares that he wants to do a media project on why adults need to learn technology. He explained that in the 21st century, these tools are really important and if the people in the city of Atyrau want to move forward, they’re going to have to learn them.
I recently traveled to the glorious nation of Kazakhstan to help students create a number of public service announcement videos on the topics of their choosing and to teach them how to use new media tools to broadcast their stories both to their communities and to the world. This trip was possible thanks to the people at IREX and their wonderful Tech Age Teens program. My first time in Central Asia, I was excited to see what the topics would be like and what the focus of youth might be.
When discussing the media and technology sphere in Kazakhstan, I was impressed that all of the kids watched videos on their rather sophisticated phones. They showed them off, mostly Nokias, but all with big screens and video capabilities. Asking how they get videos on their phones, they all responded as if this was a ridiculous question. With attitude, they said with "miniUSB" and "bluetooth." They calmed down when they found out that they weren’t yet using GPRS or MMS or other such tools. I was impressed that the kids watched videos on a number of local and international sites. From YouTube to mail.ru and a number of Kazakh sites (KazTube.kz, Kiwi.kz, xit.kz).
Distribution proved to be a bit less of an evocative question than I thought it might be. When I mentioned that sites like Blogspot are blocked in their country, the response was not more than a slight shrug. They didn’t know it or take notice.
The topics of their videos really impressed me. They included drug abuse, helping pensioners, preventing religious extremism, the need for proper childcare, and how English lessons can improve ones life. Even though two days is a short time frame to produce videos, the kids were dedicated and hard-working and every one of them not only produced their first movie, but they then presented them in front of a room of their peers and parents at a public event.
At the event, I was interviewed by a reporter from the local Atyrau paper. His tool? A Nokia n97. I’m hoping that there continue to be more trainings of this type throughout the country. Not only are they desperately needed, but it’s not long before the skills and tools of these youth surpass the older professionals there. I look forward to seeing what comes next.