Mobile Reading And the Future of Literacy And Development

Mobile Reading

A couple of months ago, UNESCO put out the report, Reading In The Mobile Era: A Study of Mobile Reading In The Developing World.  It polled 4,000 mobile users in Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan and Zimbabwe.

Approximately 775 million people worldwide can not read or write.  Illiteracy creates social and economic barriers for many people, especially in the developing world.  Things many of us take for granted like reading street signs, medication labels and job applications can be problematic for those who are illiterate.  This is why literacy is a human rights issue.

Mobile reading has become a game changer.  Here are some key findings from the report:

– Two thirds of illiterate people globally are women and are less likely to own a mobile device.  However, women that do own mobile devices are more likely to read on them than men.  Put simply, if women had more access to mobile devices and ICTs in general, we could significantly combat illiteracy.

– One third of mobile device users are reading stories to their children on them.  Many of the survey respondents said there is a need for more digital friendly children’s literature.

– While most of the mobile reading market demands English language literature, there is also a need to provide more access to literature that is written in local languages by local authors.

– Most governments are not utilizing the full potential of mobile devices to improve education and literacy.

– It’s suggested that publishing companies should consider digital first content strategies to reach new readers in these growing markets.

– Sixty-two percent of survey respondents said they usually don’t like to read, but having access to a mobile device and the ability to read on them has made them want to read more.

– The cost of an open copyright ebook is usually two or three cents (USD).  The cost of a paperback book is around US$10.

– Physical, printed literature is much more difficult to distribute, especially in rural areas. Digital literature is an easier, cheaper and quicker way to distribute.

– Six billion people have access to mobile devices; 4.5 billion people have access to a working toilet.

If the last finding doesn’t tell you the real impact of mobile reading, then we don’t know what will!

Click here to read the UNESCO report, Reading In The Mobile Era: A Study of Mobile Reading In The Developing World


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