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The Literacy Ledger Reflections, findings, stories and the lowdown

Harnessing the Power of Digital Reading to Overcome Development Challenges in Kenya

May 16, 2019 By

The 2019 Global Digital Reading Summit

Worldreader’s 2019 Global Digital Reading Summit was a huge success thanks to all who participated, from the esteemed speakers and delegates, to Worldreader’s global board members and generous volunteers. Nearly 150 invited participants from across sectors in Kenya and around the world filled the conference room at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Upper Hill in Nairobi on May 8th.

From left to right, Dr. Anastasia Mirzoyants-McKnight, Dr. Amit Thakker, Ms. Kate James, and Dr. Amarendra Prasad Behera discuss the role of digital reading in achieving SDGs by 2030.

The theme of the day was Disruptive Technology. Sustainable Solutions: Digital reading as a cross-sectoral approach to the SDGs. The focus of the presentations, panel discussions, and brain trust sessions was how digital reading and content are key to sustainability.

Speakers at the Summit

Select speakers included Mr. Joseph Wakaba Mucheru, Cabinet Secretary, Minister of ICT, Kenya; Chris Capossela, Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President of Consumer Business for Microsoft; Lawrence Njagi, Chair, Kenya Publishers Association; Ben Andoh, Group Head at Ecobank; Kate James, former Chief Corporate Affairs and Global Marketing Officer at Pearson; Dr. Amarendra Prasad Behera, Joint Director at Central Institute of Educational Technologies (CIET), Government of India; and Dr. Amit Thakker, Executive Chairman at Africa Health Business.

Opening remarks from Cabinet Secretary Mucheru

Addressing the audience, Cabinet Secretary Mucheru, commented that mobile phone penetration in Kenya stands at 106%, which “presents a huge opportunity for digital reading and advancement in our society.” He went on to say that “Kenya has a largely youthful population and these are the primary data consumers. There is an opportunity for local content that promotes our culture and values to be imparted through digital platforms – and this includes using the platforms to read and acquiring knowledge that can be used for nation building.”

Cabinet Secretary Mucheru kicking off the Summit at the start of the day.

Secretary Mucheru and Worldreader CEO David Risher were interviewed by Kenya news teams during the event. Coverage from KBC can be seen here.

Brain Trust sessions

Brain Trust sessions involved thinking about bold and innovative solutions to address big questions.

The Summit gave participants a chance to network and share ideas in “Brain Trust” sessions, a departure from the typical conference format, that brought together representatives from across multiple sectors including healthcare, education, child and youth development, gender, publishing, government, and more. Sessions included:

  • Behavior Change for Social Good – Digital Content and Reading Adoption
  • Digital Literacy and Reading for Youth Opportunity
  • Positive Gender Transformation through Digital Reading
  • Digital Reading – A Cross-Sectoral Approach for Early Childhood Development

In these sessions, participants worked together to generate new ideas for tackling the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 3, 4, 5, 8, and 17. Recommendations from the sessions were presented at the end of the Summit.

Power Reading sessions

“Power Reading” sessions throughout the day highlighted the impact of digital reading. In the first session, Ms. Sharon Makena and Mr. Brian Mugiira, students from the Kaaga School for the Deaf in Meru, Kenya (accompanied by their teachers/interpreters) read favorite stories to the audience from their e-readers. The audience’s rousing sign-language applause demonstrated what a special moment this was for both the students and the listeners.

Chris Capossela’s closing keynote

Chris Capossela addressing the audience in his closing keynote.

In a closing keynote, Chris Capossela, Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President of Consumer Business for Microsoft, shared what Worldreader and Microsoft have in common. Despite the profound differences in structure and size, both organizations share a dedication to inclusion, a willingness to take risks or “business model bravery” to achieve impact, and a focus on the customer (or in Worldreader’s case, the reader) at the center of their organizational ecosystems.

Read for Change 2030

The Summit closed with a call to action. Worldreader asked participants to commit to helping build a digital collection of stories inspired by the SDGs, written by youth for youth, called Read for Change 2030. The collection will empower and equip youth with the information required to understand the Sustainable Development Goals and the role that they can play in improving the state of our world. The collection will focus on five SDGs related to improving educational, economic, gender, and health outcomes, and strengthening partnerships for greater impact. To support Worldreader’s work in developing this collection, contact us at development@worldreader.org.

Worldreader staff and board members celebrate the success of the Summit as the day comes to a close.

We are thankful to all of the attendees of the #DRS2019 for making it such a success, and we look forward to capitalizing on the energy and urgency of the Summit to collectively further scale our impact.

Please visit the DRS2019 Gallery to view more photos of the day.