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Mobile Movies goes off the beaten path to take entertainment and information to rural areas

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In Vietnam, it’s not that easy to find tech projects that are addressing what people need in the countryside. Certainly, there has been a ripple effect of ecommerce companies impacting the countryside since it’s hard to find certain certain products so far out in rural areas where big supermarkets are scarce. But that’s just a byproduct of a city-centered business. Where are the true countryside startups?

In a recent post on my Facebook, I called for support for an Agriculture Hackathon project that I am working on in Vietnam. It was followed by huge support from friends and the tech community. So clearly, the interest in addressing problems in the countryside is there. But the projects are few in number. There are several fundamental causes, including that technologists are mainly in the cities, the countryside is rough, and coordinating innovation in big bulky industries is a daunting task. That is why a unique startups like Mobile Movies is compelling.

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Mobile Movies is a scalable startup with a social mission. The core idea is the team will give agents portable cinema kits and train the people to handle them. These kits are used to show kung fu movies, public health videos, and promo videos. Many of the topics center around health, education, the environment, and fun stuff for kids and communities. Mobile Movies wants to bring these videos to communities far away from the cities, where people – especially villagers – might not have access to films and videos.

Mobile Movies partners with local NGOs and organizations to find and employ agents that can be trained to teach and set up the cinema kits. Then, these agents – usually single mothers who need a job where they can be with their children constantly – will travel around to neighboring villages and show videos. The project requires that its agents have had at least a primary school education, and oftentimes the cinema kit workers will be living in the local community they serve.

At each rural viewing, there will be between 50 to 100 people watching the movies, ranging from children to adults. The project plans to employ up to 3,000 people across Vietnam in order to reach between nine and 12 million people.

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Since Mobile Movies brings videos to the countryside, it’s also an opportunity for brands to be seen in areas where advertising has little scope. Mobile Movies partners with companies like Lifebuoy, a soap company, which would like to get more people washing their hands. Mobile Movies has also partnered with Microsoft and Unilever. Mobile Movies also works closely with local governments.

Growing this project to its goal will take years, but it’ll have a significant impact on access to information, entertainment for people in rural areas. In turn, brands will be able to reach out to areas largely untouched by their TV or newspaper ads.

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(Editing by Steven Millward)

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