Trucano, M. (2012) An update on the use of e-readers in Africa EduTech, March 16
Michael Trucano’s excellent World Bank blog here reports on the use of e-readers in Africa, based mainly on a Kindle-based project from an NGO called WorldReader.
Dust and breakage were a problem. Most low cost e-readers are just not robust enough for climatic and usage challenges by children in Africa. (Incidentally, this is a problem the very lost Aakash tablet has run into in India).
However, WorldBreaker has a number of other lessons that it has learned from this project, some of which are in fact recurring themes in many ICT projects in developing countries:
- lack of cheap content: not enough African-originated material; traditional book publishers are not willing to make texts available for free; need for a rights business model that allows for low cost use ($1 a book?) – to date only 250 African books are available for this project
- need for support from local education officials
- need for support from teachers
- a need to give reading a higher social currency in many local cultures, especially those that have very strong oral traditions
- dedicated ‘face time’ in schools
- buy in from local support structures at the community level
- funding to scale up from a pilot to a mid-sized project that can transferred eventually on a larger scale across countries.
Despite these difficulties, there are signs that the project is encouraging greater reading, especially in Grades 4-5.
This project also reminds me of Professor Fred Litto’s project, ‘Escola do Futuro‘ in Brazil in the late 1990s, where he created one of the first open source models for books in Portuguese for Brazilian schools. This project is still running successfully almost 20 years later.
Thanks to Stephen Downes for directing me to this. See also:
Sorrel, C. (2010) Kindle comes to classroom in Ghana Wired Gadget Lab, March 16
Bertelsmann Stiftung (2011) Worldreader brings e-readers to Ghanaian classrooms Future Challenges, July 11
Sniderman, Z. (2011) E-Readers in Africa: Non-Profit Brings Thousands of Books to Ghanaian Children Mashable Social Media, January 26