Mobile learning holds immense potential for enhancing education and literacy in Africa. Recognizing this potential, Cambridge partnered with the NGO Worldreader to bring educational content to schoolchildren across sub-Saharan Africa. The initiative focused on utilizing widely available feature phones as e-reading devices through an innovative e-reading app developed by Worldreader.
In sub-Saharan Africa, there is a need for accessible educational content, especially for young children. While feature phones are widely available across the continent, they traditionally lack the advanced functionalities of smartphones. The challenge was to leverage these feature phones for educational purposes and provide diverse language content to address the needs of children from different linguistic backgrounds.
Worldreader developed an e-reading app hosted on the cloud-based mobile application platform BiNu, transforming feature phones into e-reading devices. Cambridge recognized the ingenuity of this development, as it meant that anyone with a feature phone could now have an e-reader simply by downloading the BiNu Worldreader app.
Cambridge made 390 e-books available via the app to contribute to this initiative. This included titles from the Cambridge African Language Library (CALL)—a primary reading series for children produced in several indigenous languages across Zambia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Malawi, Uganda, Tanzania, and Swaziland. The CALL series, dating from the late 1990s, was particularly valuable due to its range of languages.
Worldreader was excited to receive this content, as it significantly bolstered the material available for one of its target groups, young children. While the project did not generate revenue for Cambridge, Worldreader funded the text conversion costs, and the books were made available to users for free.
As of 2013, Worldreader had 330,000 monthly active users who read 650,000 books on mobile phones. This partnership with Cambridge further expanded the reach and impact of mobile learning in Africa. By making the content available in various languages, the initiative promoted literacy and respected and fostered linguistic diversity.
Furthermore, this project showcased the potential of mobile learning and e-reading in contexts where traditional resources and infrastructure might be limited. It represented an innovative use of technology to make education more accessible and inclusive.
The success of this partnership between Cambridge and Worldreader indicates the potential for similar initiatives in the future. Cambridge has expressed its willingness to consider similar projects, and there is an opportunity for other publishers and organizations to join in these kinds of collaborations.
As technology continues to evolve, expanding such mobile learning initiatives can transform education in Africa. Future projects could look at ways to integrate interactivity, assessments, and personalized learning experiences to further enrich the educational content available on mobile platforms.