A webinar is an online presentation using special internet software. Participants can log in and hear the presenter’s voice, see the presentation slides and ask questions by typing in a chat box. The power of this tool is that the presenters, the organisers and the audience can be anywhere in the world. This allows voices from practitioners in the field to be heard and their ideas and experiences discussed and passed on. The recordings of the webinars provide a useful resource.
Webinars were first used in RWSN in 2012, in a series organised by the World Bank, which drew on high quality papers and speakers from the 6th RWSN Forum in 2011. In 2014, webinars became a fully established part of how Skat Foundation encourages sharing and engagement between network members. On average 20 webinars are ran yearly, many in English, French and Spanish, on topics including manual drilling, rainwater harvesting, groundwater science, self-supply, water point mapping, and national monitoring.
There has been experimentation with language; in a series on Manual Drilling, English and French were mingled into the same webinar presentation and question & answer. While this allowed the two language groups to come together, the feedback from the audience was that it would be better to do them separately. This was then done in the late 2014 series, which in some ways was more successful, though attendance of the French webinars was sometimes very low.
While Skat will continue to innovate, a comfortable process has been established that enable series of weekly bi-lingual webinars running over 10 weeks. Of course, challenges remain, with sometimes unreliable internet connections and having to training new speakers every week. However, this in itself is having some impact as more and more people are being trained and given experience in presenting to a global audience and responding to questions. Improving communications skills across the rural water sector is essential for attracting support and success that can lead to better services for the rural poor.