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City Profiles

A look at pre-Internet Christmas ICT

December 25, 2009  »  VideoNo Comment

Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas” actually is a fine example of using ICT to spread information. The project can be considered an ancestor of today’s viral video. Although the lyrics paint Africa in a poor light – a place without food or water and a countryside full of “clanging chimes of doom” – it was an effective way to encourage Westerners to provide assistance. However controversial or open-ended (ie. insinuating that all of Africa was facing a drought) the lyrics may be, we must remember that the song was not intended for an African audience.

Who knows for sure if it was the emotional appeal of the lyrics and performers or just the catchiness of the tune that drove sales, but either way, “Do They Know It’s Christmas” raised millions of dollars for Ethiopian NGOs. The British hit single sold over 3.5 million copies in the UK and nearly 1 million copies in the United States. The project raised a substantial amount of money for Ethiopian NGOs in sales dollars alone, but it also brought attention to the famine of 1984. The subsequent Live Aid concert a few months later (imagined by the same two men that organized the Band Aid group) raised upwards of $100 million in international aid and was viewed by 400 million people across the globe. All in all, “Do They Know It’s Christmas” successfully spread crucial information and paved the way for future humanitarian projects later in the decade. Had the Internet (and online pay systems) existed, even more money could have been raised, although it’s debateable whether the funds actually benefitted Ethiopians. That story, however, is beyond the scope of this article.