A recent report of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) says that there are a lot of people around the world who don’t read. The reason for this is that they do not have access to books. Reading requires books and without this people will not be able to practice their reading skills. This may not be a major problem in the Western world but in developing countries where the income of individuals is low, getting books is not a priority.
One solution that UNESCO discovered is that technology can be used to reduce illiteracy. In countries like Ethiopia, Nigeria and Pakistan hundreds of thousands of people are reading with the help of mobile phones. The advances made in technology have pushed the price of mobile phones so low that almost anyone can afford to buy a unit. In fact, of the estimated 7 billion people living on Earth today more than 6 billion already own mobile phones.
In Nigeria for example the illiteracy rate stands at 40 percent with one library available for 1.35 million people. Mobile phones however are widely used in the country as a mode of communication and can be used by people to read. The agency said that “While mobile phones are still used primarily for basic communication, they are also – and increasingly – a gateway to long-form text. For a fraction of the cost of a physical book, it is often possible to access the same book via a mobile device.”
While the internet has helped a lot in spreading information and can let anyone access hundreds of thousands of books online it still isn’t the best solution. One problem with the internet is that not everyone has access to it. Data shows that in the entire continent of Africa only 7 percent of households are connected to the internet. This is a very low figure compared to the 77 percent of Europe.
This brings us back to the mobile phone which is already being used by lots of people right now for reading. A research conducted on more than 4,000 people in seven countries which includes Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan and Zimbabwe shows that they are reading books on their phones that cost as low as $30. Lead author Mark West, of UNESCO, said that “A key conclusion from this study is that mobile devices can help people develop, sustain and enhance their literacy skills. This is important because literacy opens the door to life-changing opportunities and benefits.”
A mobile phone however is just a tool that can be used to help fight illiteracy. While people can read books using this device it’s a different story altogether if they understand what they are reading.