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Mobile phones found to help boost literacy rates in developing countries

The report from UNESCO found that access to mobile devices encourages people in developing countries to read full-length books and stories through their phone.

Image: WorldReader/Facebook

ACCESS TO BASIC mobile phones can help boost literacy rates in developing countries and could potentially six billion people in the world, according to a new report from UN education agency UNESCO.

The report, called Reading in the Mobile Era, found that hundreds of thousands of people in developing countries with access to this technology is allowing them to read more.

In countries where illiteracy rates are high and books are rare, large numbers of people are now reading full-length books and stories on “rudimentary small screen devices.”

The report found that:

  • More than one third of study participants read stories to children from mobile phones. 
  • Women read almost six times more text on mobile devices than men.
  • Both men and women read more cumulatively when they start reading on a mobile device.
  • Many semi- and neo-literate people use their mobile phones to search for text that is appropriate to their reading ability.

More than 774 million people worldwide, including 123 million youths, cannot read or write, the lack of books and reading material contributing to this problem. Yet the report found that while books are scarce, mobile technology is common with the International Telecommunications Union estimating that six billion people have access to a working mobile phone.

The report recommends improving the diversity of mobile reading content to appeal to specific target groups such as parents and teachers, initiating outreach and training to help people use mobile phones as reading material, and lowering costs and technology barrier to mobile reading.

UNESCO’s report was carried out in seven developing countries: Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

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Quinton O'Reilly

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