Digitally Assisted Diffusion of Innovations

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Commonwealth of Learning (COL)

PCF4 // Development can be described as changing one’s actions to produce better results. Diffusion of innovations (DoI) research shows that communication factors are more important predictors of an innovation’s adoption than its efficacy (Nutley et al, 2002:19). Thus, how one shares knowledge is critical for improving people’s lives. // Audiovisual content is recalled four or five times better than material heard in a lecture, and nine times better than written material (Fraser and Villet 1994). In the diffusion approach, in which trainees train others, only a subset of the required knowledge reaches second-generation learners (in one case, 14%), and some of the information is distorted (Röling et al (1976:162)). Video offers first and second generations of learners the significant benefits of seeing and hearing 100% of a message during in-person training, and on demand later. It facilitates DoI best practices, such as using local change agents, opinion leaders, languages and content. // Whether the application is in the field of health, agriculture, education, or any other sector, increasing the effectiveness of information sharing through video offers exciting possibilities to expand the impact of development programs beyond the limitations of in-person training. A solar cooking case study in Nigeria will inform points of discussion. // Content from audiovisual training materials is recalled four or five times better than heard material, and nine times better than read material. // (Fraser and Villet, 1994) // For several years, I have focused on how information and communication technologies (ICTs) can practically benefit impoverished communities in rural Africa. While working with telecentres in Nigeria, I noticed that text-based information in CD-ROMs, websites and emails were under-utilized, even when the source was personally known to the centre staff. This is not unique. In her research on the impact of ICTs for development in Africa, Thione (2003, p.66) reports that even information that communities request tends to remain unused. However, I noticed that the youth at one telecentre watched the only available music video daily. I began noticing the difference between my assumptions and preferences, as a member of a text-based culture, versus those of people from a more oral culture. For example, I used the Internet to search for information for the telecentre, and copied text-based resources to the hard drive for offline viewing. The telecentre staff did not review these resources. They primarily used the Internet for email, which they typed slowly, even if they had taken a typing course. My touch-typing skills surprised them. Also, they did not use their local languages on the computers. Their software and much of their writing was in English, the official language, although local languages are spoken almost exclusively. They had a Yoruba font to support their accents, but had not installed or used it. Later, when I asked for a written translation of an English video script, the project members referred me to a Yoruba expert after hours of struggle; writing Yoruba is much more difficult than speaking it. All of these experiences piqued my curiosity about the impact of audiovisual mediums versus text as tools for informal adult education and community development in Nigeria. This led to a joint solar cooking/video project with these telecentres. // The impetus for the project began when the Ago-Are Information Centre and Fantsuam Foundation asked for help learning how to solar cook. I sent them four-page illustrated instructions for building and using a cardboard solar cooker, which I had successfully implemented. My contacts were personal friends to whom I provided email support. The necessary materials were available for under $5 US. The instructions were never fully implemented, although they confirmed their interest in solar cooking and requested I continue supporting them. // This intrigued and sobered me. If literate, educated people did not successfully use textual material to implement solar cooking, what would help them better? To test whether a video would be more effective than text alone, we collaborated on a solar cooking and video training project. While the project was too limited to fully answer this question, the initial results were encouraging. New videographers picked up camera and editing skills easily, and the amateur videos quite effectively trained people how to solar cook. // If audiovisual materials indeed communicate more effectively than text, then a great deal of development information could achieve better results if it was delivered differently. Studies show that “we retain 10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear, 30% of what we see, 50% of what we hear and see, 70% of what we say, and 90% of what we say and do” (Pike 1989, p.61, emphasis mine). In development contexts, content from audiovisual training materials is recalled four or five times better than heard material, and nine times better than read material (Fraser and Villet 1994). Ninety-two per cent of primarily illiterate farmers in Peru liked watching training videos because “it was like ‘actually being in the field’” (Fraser and Villet 1994). Multimedia content is also more relevant than text for many developing countries (Spence 2003, p.76). Centre de Services de Production Audiovisuelle (CESPA) in Mali uses culturally adapted visual pedagogy principles developed by Manuel Calvelo, and trains people to use educational videos for community outreach. // Text, radio, and verbal presentations are prevalent ways of sharing development information. If one retains only 10% of what one reads and 20% of what one hears, impacts when using these mediums are significantly curtailed. Adding audiovisual materials increases retention rates to 50%. When interactive training methods are used to prompt the learners to say what they have learned, retention increases to 70%. It reaches 90% when one explains the lesson out loud while practicing it. This is particularly encouraging for “train the trainer” programs. New technologies make creating and distributing multimedia content easier and less costly, and reduce or remove obstacles posed by limited access to bandwidth, electricity grids, and broadcast networks. In the North this is seen through the multiplication of amateur videos, video blogs and podcasts. In the South, it is time to take another look at development communications, their effectiveness, and the potential of video to improve development impacts at the individual and community level. // This paper uses the lens of diffusion of innovations (DOI) research to analyse how development communications can support programs such as introducing solar cooking. Strengths of DOI include its history, wide applicability (from marketing to health interventions), breadth of communications activities (from building awareness to persuasion to diffusion), and international relevance (Rogers 2003, p.59, 93-94, 102-105). This paper proposes ways that diffusion of innovations can be improved by the thoughtful incorporation of video. DOI also provides a valuable model for designing the most effective video content. Therefore video and DOI strengthen each other. This will be explored through the solar cooking case study. // Paper ID 158