MasterCard Foundation project & Reading in the Mobile Era

First – I’m happy to announce that the The MasterCard Foundation are officially Caribou Digital’s first major client!  I’ve enjoyed working with them for a number of years, and have a great respect for the team there and the potential of the Foundation to have a huge positive impact in the world.  I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to their dinner event in New York during UN/CGI week these past few years, when I’ve heard testimonies from their scholarship students that show how much they gain from the programme.

Focused on financial inclusion and education opportunities for youth in sub Saharan Africa, the Foundation has a keen focus that means it has the potential for sizeable scale impact.  I’ll be working with the team to understand the role that technology and innovation play in their investment strategy, and will also work in parallel with Dalberg in developing the overall 3-6 year strategy with the management team.  A hugely exciting project and a great group of people to work with.

Very closely connected to this thematically, one of the things that’s always fascinated me about technology and literacy was the chicken and egg situation that internet connectivity brings to quasi-literate users.  Do we need to invest heavily in literacy programmes to enable people to use a largely text-based global body of internet content, or will affordable access to internet connectivity provide the access to content that shows the utility and benefit of literacy to people, creating a strong demand for literacy development and increasing reading?

My hunch has always been the latter, and anecdotal evidence has shown this to be true.  Now a new research report from UNESCO, Worldreader and Nokia seems to suggest that this is true:

“The study shows that mobile reading represents a promising, if still underutilised, pathway to text.  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.”

Fantastic that we’re starting to see some serious research support this theory.  The Guardian has a great summary here, and I owe thanks to the indefatigable Wayan Vota for tweeting the link to the report.  We’ll be publishing the output of the USAID workshop on content I facilitated in March pretty soon, and having seen the early draft of the document I think it ties in very well with the UNESCO report.  It’s great that we’re building a good understanding of the role appropriate content on ubiquitous technology will play in massively increasing literacy globally.

Right.  I’m off to Toronto via Washington DC to start helping people fund projects to do exactly all of the above.  Exciting!