Bringing technology to assist in education in developing countries has become the passion of several organizations. The most well-known project may be One Laptop Per Child, an inexpensive, energy efficient, highly durable laptop for children that can be used in impoverished areas to teach kids not only things like math and language, but also computer skills. But technology is seeping into other areas of education, and that includes using e-readers as text book libraries. Not only is the idea of bringing Kindles into classrooms growing in the states, but also in developing nations. Worldreader, a non-profit co-founded by ex-Amazon.com VP David Risher, is hoping to boost literacy rates by handing out Kindles.
Tonic writes that Worldreader began testing Kindles in Ghana earlier this year. The top-selling devices were donated by Amazon, and the organization equates the e-reader to cell phones in terms of inexpensive technology becoming a ubiquitous part of life in these areas. Cell phones are used for everything from communication to health care, and Worldreader hopes that e-readers can also be as impactful in the education system. Thanks to their low energy consumption, GSM compatibility for downloading reading material, and ability to hold a huge amount of books, journals, articles and more, they could become an ideal tool.
"There's a huge difference between being able to read from a selection of the 10 books that you happen to have -- or that somebody donated -- versus being able to get your hands on a book that you are really interested in," Risher told The Wall Street Journal. "When you combine that with very very low distribution costs for additional books and falling technology prices, these are ingredients for doing something really special. Computers play a great role, but e-readers really solve the reading problem [in a] much more direct and simple way," said Risher. "Making books as easy to get as getting a phone call really does change they way that they think about reading."
Worldreader is raising funds to launch another test run this fall, hoping to show that literacy levels in school as well as an interest in reading outside of school will rise. They're also hoping to get important feedback such as the best ways to keep the devices charged as long as possible and re-charged as reliably as possible (an issue OLPC struggles with as well), and how to get broken e-readers serviced so they last a long time. The Wall Street Journal reports that despite being in its infancy, Worldreader already has eight full-time employees, and an agreement with Ghana to expand the project across the country.
With enough testing, Worldreader will be able to determine what impact the availability of e-readers has on literacy among young people.