The new animated videos will be helpful tools in a variety of educational settings, like this.
A team from the University of Illinois has found a new way to provide developmental aid to foreign countries: by producing animated educational videos that people around the world can watch as many times as they want on their cell phones.
The initiative, called Scientific Animations Without Borders, takes advantage of the widespread availability of cell phones in the developing world. According to recent research, nearly 60 percent of the world's 2.4 billion cell phone users live in developing countries.
With these animations, the Illinois team has developed an approach to sustainable development education that reaches a much larger audience than traditional methods – and at a fraction of the cost.
They are working on building a library of educational videos that can be distributed around the world via e-mail or through the sustainable development website, SusDeViki.
A different paradigm
“This is a very different paradigm from some other current development projects, where U.S.-based educators are flown to another part of the world, interact with people in the field for a few weeks to several months, and leave,” said professor Barry Pittendrigh, a member of the Illinois team. “From a financial perspective, this is a much cheaper way to do international development.”
Animation reduces the costs associated with making a video on a particular topic, and gives the videos themselves near-universal appeal.
The process of producing the videos is fairly fast and cheap. Communicating primarily via e-mail, aid workers, farmers, entrepreneurs and an animator collaborate with the Illinois team on the videos. Once the content is approved, the collaborators produce two scripts: one to be read by a narrator and the other describing the actions the animated character is to perform. The animator then builds the animation in stages with input from the collaborative team.
Once a video is complete, the voice-over narration can be swapped out to match the language of a particular country or region.
"The way these animated videos are designed, they can be easily adapted to other cultures,” said Julia Bello-Bravo, leader of the project. “We are also capturing indigenous knowledge and putting it into the video, so when they see the video it is familiar to them.”
From insect control to making butter
The first animated videos developed by the Illinois team demonstrate safe insect-control methods that are already in use in some regions. The scientifically validated techniques make use of local plants or widely available materials – such as black plastic sheets, ashes, or plastic bags – to control or eradicate insect pests from cowpeas, a staple in many parts of Africa, Asia and Central and South America.
“In Mali they are using this technique and it’s very effective, but in Burkina Faso, for example, there are not many people using this technique,” Bello-Bravo said. “If we can show these animated videos in different parts of West Africa where this tree grows, we can get the information to many, many more people.”
Other videos demonstrate how to boil or treat water to avoid exposure to cholera, and step-by-step instructions on how to make shea butter, which can be sold at local markets.
Future videos will touch on other agricultural or health issues, such as bed bugs, lice or malaria, and will target viewers in the developed and developing world.
This story was provided by InnovationNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience.