Mobile Technology Spurs 'Reading Revolution' In Developing Countries
April 24, 2014

Mobile Technology Spurs ‘Reading Revolution’ In Developing Countries

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

A new UNESCO study reveals dramatic growth in literacy rates in developing nations due to the proliferation of mobile technologies that allow children and adults to read multiple books on their phones.

The year-long study was the largest of its kind to date, and involved some 5,000 people in Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan and Zimbabwe.

The results revealed that 62 percent of respondents are reading more as a result of mobile phone technology.  Additionally, one-third of the study participants said they read to children from their phones, while 90 percent said they would spend more time reading on their mobile phones in the coming year.

“People read more when they read on mobile devices,” the report read.

"The study shows that mobile reading represents a promising, if still underutilized, pathway to text,” it added. "It is not hyperbole to suggest that if every person on the planet understood that his or her mobile phone could be transformed – easily and cheaply – into a library brimming with books, access to text would cease to be such a daunting hurdle to literacy.”

Mark West, author of the report, told The Guardian that the bottom line 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," he said.

Study respondents reported several reasons for reading more on their mobile phones, including affordability, convenience and lack of access to books.

UNESCO cited UN data that show six billion people worldwide now have access to mobile phones.

"Collectively, mobile devices are the most ubiquitous information and communication technology in history," the organization said. "More to the point, they are plentiful in places where books are scarce."

According to the survey, romance was the most popular genre for readers, representing nineteen of the top 40 books read during the study.

Overall, Ravinder Singh's Can Love Happen Twice? was the top rated book among study participants, followed by The Price of Royal Duty and The Bible.

The survey also found that while 77 percent of mobile phone readers in developing nations are men, it is women who spend more of their time reading, spending an average of 207 minutes per month reading on their mobile phones, compared to men's 33 minutes. However, according to the report, women in sub-Saharan Africa are 23 percent less likely to own a mobile phone than a man, a disparity that widens further for data-enabled phones.

Nearly two-thirds (60 percent) of the survey respondents cited lack of content as the major barrier to mobile reading, with one-third reporting they would read to their children from their phones if more child-friendly content was available.

The UNESCO report was a collaborative effort with Worldreader, a non-profit group that brings digital books to readers worldwide, and mobile handset maker Nokia.