22.05.2014 - UNESCO Office in Santiago

New UNESCO Report: Reading in the Mobile Era

In countries where physical books are hard to come by and illiteracy rates are high, mobile technology is being used to facilitate reading and improve literacy, says UNESCO.

Millions of people do not read for one reason: they do not have access to text. But today mobile phones and cellular networks are transforming a scarce resource into an abundant one. Drawing on the analysis of over 4,000 surveys collected in Ethiopia, Ghana,  India, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan and Zimbabwe and corresponding qualitative interviews, this report paints the most detailed picture to date of who reads books and stories on mobile devices and why.

Yet the report – the first ever study of mobile readers in developing countries – cites data showing that where books are scarce, mobile technology is increasingly common, even in areas of extreme poverty.

“This report calls attention to what is currently an underutilized potential – this is a cost-effective vehicle to improve education,” said Mark West, Section for Teacher Development and Education Policies at UNESCO and one of the authors of the report.

Also, females read far more on mobile devices than males (almost six times as much according to the study); both men and women read more cumulatively when they start reading on a mobile device; and many neo- and semi-literate people use their mobile phones to search for text that is appropriate to their reading ability.

The study is intended as a roadmap for Governments, organizations and individuals who wish to use mobile technology to help spread reading and literacy. Mobile technology can advance literacy and learning in underserved communities around the world. This report shows how.

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