'Multimedia' is the word used to describe the combination of different digital media like text, graphics, photographs, animation clips, video, voice, and music and sound effects. The benefits of multimedia methods of information delivery are anonymous. People have both visual (sight) and auditory (sound) capabilities for processing information, and multimedia products take advantage of both to convey information and knowledge in an effective manner. Materials produced using a combination of these media are generally more attractive and easy to follow than single medium products. They enable complex ideas and procedures to be presented in a simplified way, and allow the projection of more complete and rounded concepts and models. The potential benefits of 'good practices' can be shown visually and illustrated with step-by step instructions that can be followed even by those with poor literacy skills. Multimedia products are more effective in delivering messages and lead to better learning and retention. As they are electronic, they can be reproduced and used to deliver information and knowledge consistently and economically to different locations and interests, with a flexible schedule, regardless of the availability of qualified teaching or extension staff.
An important complementary approach that can be used to link with and enrich multimedia products is the use of 'alternative media'. Alternative media in the sense used here refer to traditional ways of communicating from person to person and community to community like songs, dance, storytelling, poetry, street theater, drama, and puppet plays. These methods have been used over centuries to convey information and knowledge from one community to another and one generation to the next. They entertain and are familiar, and can be especially successful in reaching a broad range of people and and more remote communities. The 'products' can be developed locally to suit local needs, but they usually only reach a small audience. However, by capturing the plays, songs and other products electronically – on film, on tape, in photos – and including them in a multimedia product, they can be shared far more broadly and used to enrich the multimedia product itself.
The multimedia approach itself is 'hi-tech', but can be made very user friendly with the right equipment and software. Even inexperienced local NGOs can develop useful multimedia products for themselves with only a small amount of training. These local products – on anything from agriculture and livestock, through health problems and sanitation, to eco-tourism, gender and equity – can be collected centrally to provide a pool of resources for use in telecentres, schools, colleges and other community learning / Information centers. This is the approach that IMCO is starting to develop. Read more on this Shared Knowledge of Issue 14 – Click here .