Project Details

A classroom of African school children hold up their e-readers


Making digital books available across the developing world.

Project URL:
Project Twitter: @worldreaders

  • Education
  • Data
  • Mobile

In sub-Saharan Africa a third of adults still cannot read. Half the schools have no books. Many schools in the developing world have no library. As a result, even if children do learn the basics of reading, they have nothing to whet their appetite for more reading, for pleasure, to excite their imaginations and extend their vocabularies.

Worldreader, a global non-profit set up in San Francisco, aims to change all of that by using technology, such as, e-readers and mobile phones, to make hundreds of thousands of e-books available across the developing world.

Worldreader, created by former executive David Risher and his business partner, a former academic, Colin McElwee, has distributed nearly 7,500 e-readers to children in Africa, and more than 1,200,000 digital books to children and families in eleven African countries.

Worldreader Mobile, a reading application that allows books to be read on basic mobile phones, attracts over 250,000 readers a month from all over the world, (especially from sub-Saharan Africa and India), who read close to 20 million pages each month. These cover a wide variety of topics from educational material, health tips (including live-saving information on Ebola), love stories, prize-winning short stories, children’s books, classics and more – all on a device they already own: their mobile phone.

The organisation helps local communities to become more self-sufficient by equipping them to digitise books, as well as to create content of their own and to repair e-book readers. The first evaluations of the iREAD project that launched in Ghana in November 2010, in which children used basic e-book readers, found marked improvements in their English test scores.

Image courtesy of Jon McCormack for Worldreader

Last updated: 09th of May, 2014

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