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Study Reveals Mobile Reading Revolution In Developing Countries

Posted by Business in Ghana on May 5, 2014

Findings show how mobile devices are unlocking literacy potential-

UNESCO publishes largest study of its kind, revealing that underprivileged men and women enjoy reading and are increasingly taking to their mobile phones to do so  
  Top book searches include Harry Potter, Animal Farm, Romeo and Juliet and Twilight,       Romance is the most popular genre, followed by religion

 23 April 2014 _ In celebration of World Book Day, UNESCO, in partnership with Worldreader and Nokia, today released the results of the largest survey ever to be undertaken on mobile reading in the developing world, revealing that mobile devices can significantly help to enhance people_s literacy skills.

Nearly 5,000 people across seven developing countries _ Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan and Zimbabwe _ were interviewed as part of the research, which discovered that women and girls in particular are benefitting from having a new way to access books, reading on their mobile phones up to six times more than men and boys.

The study also showed that parents regularly read to children using mobile phones, that the vast majority of people enjoy reading more now than they did before they could read on handheld devices and that mobile reading often reverses people_s negative attitudes towards reading.

Key findings from the study include:

  • On average, mobile readers in developing countries are primarily male (77 percent). However, women read for longer periods of time, spending an average of 207 minutes per month reading on their mobile phones, compared to men (just 33 minutes)
  • 62 percent of respondents reported that they enjoy reading even more since they discovered mobile reading. As a result, they are generally reading more as well (62 percent)
  • One in three respondents said they read to children from their mobile phones and a further third of the respondents said they would do so if there were more child-friendly reading material made available to them
  • 13 percent of the respondents said their primary reason for reading on a mobile device is because it_s affordable
  • 60 percent of respondents cited lack of content as the primary barrier to mobile reading. Only 18 percent noted concerns around cost, while half claimed they never worry about cost
  • When asked about their intentions to engage in mobile reading in the future, 90 percent of respondents said they intend to spend more time reading on their mobile phones in the next year
  • The most popular and clicked on genre is romance, followed by religion
  • Harry Potter, Romeo and Juliet, Animal Farm and Twilight were among the top searched books between April and June 2013
  • Kwame Nkrumah: The Great African, Nnedi Okorafor: The Girl with the Magic Hands and Ravinder Singh: Can Love Happen Twice? were among the top read books between April and June 2013

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,_ said Mark West from UNESCO, author of the report.

While mobile phones are still used primarily for basic communication, even the simplest of phones are a gateway to long-form text. Since 2012, Worldreader has helped pioneer new opportunities for mobile reading in developing countries by promoting a mobile app to distribute relevant content to users in parts of Africa and Asia. The organisation has plans to broaden its efforts and provide more than one million people with access to free e-books on mobile phones by the end of 2014.

David Risher, CEO and co-founder of Worldreader, commented: _World illiteracy can be attributed in part to the fact that people have access to a very small number of books, or none at all in some areas of the world. Yet in places where physical books are often scarce, mobile phones are plentiful and there are more mobile phones on the planet than there are toilets or toothbrushes. Children and families have already read more than 1.7 million books via Worldreader _ helping them attain a more prosperous, more self-reliant future._

_Recent data from the United Nations shows that of the estimated seven billion people on Earth more than six billion now have access to a working mobile phone. If every person on the planet understood they can turn their mobile phone into a library, an estimated 6.8 billion people would have access to books,_ stated Elizabeth Hensick Wood, Director of Digital Publishing and Mobile Platforms at Worldreader.

She continued: _This study shows that mobile reading is not a future phenomenon but a right-here, right-now reality. Worldreader_s free mobile reading app _ which averages nearly 200,000 users per month _ is evidence that there is high demand for mobile reading in areas that lack access to paper books. We now have two years of data proving that people are spending hundreds of hours a month reading short and long form texts using basic feature and Android phones. As part of this research, we interviewed dozens of these individuals, ranging from students to teachers to parents, but they all told a similar story: they do not have access to printed books, they are thrilled to now have thousands of free books on their mobile phone and they are now reading more than ever._

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