Social Innovation: E-Readers Giving Children in Africa Access to Books

Worldreader gives children in the developing world access to digital books through social innovation by using e‑readers loaded with thousands of local and international e-books. It provides children the books they want and need so that they can improve their lives. Unfortunately, half of schools in sub-Saharan Africa have virtually no textbooks. Plus, the cost of buying and transporting books means that often books have to be shared between students in a classroom, which hinders learning and slows development. Now, e-readers have the potential to change things.

Worldreader is a U.S. and European not-for-profit organisation whose mission is to make digital books available to children in the developing world. Since June 2012, it has put over 220, 000 e-books and the life-changing, power-creating ideas contained within them into the hands of 1,000 children in sub-Saharan Africa. These children now read more, read better and are improving their communities. Digital technology and social innovation sharply lowers the cost and complexity of delivering books everywhere. As this organisation makes reading easier and less expensive, the world will read more!

Worldreader works with publishers including Penguin, Random House and Amazon, as well as African authors and publishers to ensure local and international books are available and affordable, if not donated for free. The e-readers are loaded with hundreds of Kenyan textbooks in English and Kiswahili, as well as stories for primary school children. Sporadic internet connectivity in the region means only a small number of books can be downloaded at a time; for downloads to all the devices, the e-readers are taken to Nairobi, where high-speed internet is more readily available. Or, when electricity shortages occur, they can be charged using small solar power packs and generators.

Recently, Worldreader partnered with the Kilgoris Project, a charitable organisation, to bring this social innovation programs to Ntimigom School in Kilgoris, Kenya. The Kilgoris Project and the Ntimigon School aim to provide a superior quality of education than what is currently on offer nearby. The Ntimigon project was launched in June 2011 and so far the project has provided 65 plus e-readers where over 200 students and their teachers now have access to textbooks and story books; and at the same time creating a positive model for other schools in East Africa.

It looks as though technology is the most effective and efficient way to give students in the developing world the access to books. Instead of building a library, technology and social innovation directly puts a library in a child's hand and that library is kept updated electronically. Moreover e-books are far more durable and don't get torn.

Photo Credit:  Worldreader Website

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