World Book Day Revisited: Mobile Changes Everything

When we covered UNESCO’s World Book and Copyright Day here last month, we invited educators and their students to create and share e-books with a free online tool made available through our Matuto™ Literacy For Life partnership. But what about students who don’t have access to any books – electronic or print? 

For the hundreds of millions around the world who do not read because they lack access to text, mobile technology may be turning the tide on illiteracy. In conjunction with World Book Day, UNESCO, together with Nokia and Worldreader, published a study showing the effectiveness of mobile phones in promoting literacy in the developing world. Consider this: of the 7 billion people on Earth, 6 billion have access to a working mobile phone 

The study surveyed 4,000 respondents in Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Uganda and Zimbabwe and demonstrates that even where books are scarce, mobile technology is filling the gap.  Most people in Sub-Saharan Africa do not own a single book, and schools in this region rarely provide textbooks to learners.  The report, Reading in the Mobile Era, yielded many interesting findings, including this one: fully one-third of the respondents read stories to their children from mobile phones.  

UNESCO’s report is intended to provide a roadmap for governments and organizations that aim to promote literacy, incorporating recommendations on how to provide outreach and training, and how to lower the cost and technological barriers to mobile reading. The report also points to strategies that expand mobile reading and, by extension, the educational, social and economic benefits associated with increased reading. 

The educators we talk to every day are working tirelessly to promote literacy – whether in their own classrooms or on a broader scale through apps and other large-scale innovations. It’s exciting to be reminded that these efforts can be accelerated — and in some cases made possible for the first time — by technology. 

You can download the report here, and access more materials and language versions directly from UNESCO.

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