Digital Reading | March 26, 2020

Opera and Worldreader partner to bring free books to students in Africa during the Covid-19 pandemic


Oslo, Norway and San Francisco, California. 265 March 2020 –  Opera, one of the world’s leading browser providers, and international nonprofit organization, Worldreader, are partnering to support students in Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic, by offering access to free books.

According to UNESCO, “As of late Tuesday [17 March], over 850 million children and youth – roughly half of the world’s student population – had to stay away from schools and universities due to the Coronavirus outbreak  Nationwide closures are in force in 102 countries and local shut-downs in 11 others. This represents more than a doubling in the number of learners prevented from attending educational institutions, with further increases expected.”

School closures can result in significant learning loss for students. In response to this global health crisis, UNESCO is supporting the implementation of large-scale distance learning programmes and recommending open educational applications and platforms that schools and teachers can use to reach learners remotely.

For youth, reading can support literacy skills, 21st Century Skills, work preparedness, self-help, and health education while also offering the opportunity to visit worlds beyond their own while their own worlds are limited by social distancing.

Even in low-resource communities, basic phones can provide access to books. Of the approximately seven billion people on Earth, more than six billion have access to mobile phones.

“When considering how to mitigate learning loss in a pandemic, it should be a top priority to address supporting reading skills and engagement with books, bridging the gap until schools are in session again,” said Rebecca Chandler Leege, Worldreader’s Chief Impact Officer. “Opera and Worldreader have been partnering since 2015 to provide access to free ebooks particularly in Africa, and through our partnership, we enable millions of people to read free ebooks.”

Throughout Africa, mobile data is very expensive and the Opera Mini browser is massively popular in Africa due to its ability to reduce web page sizes and save up to 90% of their mobile data, said Jørgen Arnesen, Head of Marketing and Distribution at Opera. “We believe that millions of children and students can benefit from our extended partnership with Worldreader, and access educational online content while the COVID-19 outbreak lasts.”

For older students and young adults, Worldreader offers the free web app, available for mobile phones via the Opera Mini web browser. It features hundreds of books for learning and pleasure, in categories including Learn, Health, and Career. Over 100,000 people already read from it each month, with new readers joining every day.

The Worldreader app gives readers access to one of the largest catalogues of free ebooks available. In 2019,  nearly one million out of the 1.6 million people in Africa read free digital books thanks to the availability of the app via the Opera Mini browser.

According to the 2019 edition of the Global Digital Report, there are more than 437 million internet users in Africa, presenting a great opportunity to increase online reading, particularly when one in five internet users in Africa chooses Opera browsers every day.

The Opera browsers offer unique features and capabilities such as data savings, a free VPN and ad-blockers. The low bandwidth required on the Opera Mini browser means that readers use less data when accessing the Worldreader app – which is vital for youth in remote communities with slow networks.

Digital solutions are key to keeping students reading while schools are out of session. With the Worldreader app, youth can maintain reading skills, learn new subjects, and enjoy the escape books provide during this pandemic.


About Opera Software

Opera is a leading global internet brand with an engaged and growing base of over 350 million monthly active users. Building on over 20 years of innovation, starting with our browser products, we are increasingly leveraging our brand as well as our massive and highly active user base in order to expand our offerings and our business. Today, we offer users across Europe, Africa and Asia a wide range of products and services that include our PC and mobile browsers as well as our AI-powered news readers, Opera News and Opera News Lite, and our app-based microfinance solutions.

About Worldreader

Worldreader believes that readers build a better world. As an international NGO, Worldreader works with partners globally to support vulnerable and underserved communities with digital reading solutions that help improve learning outcomes, workforce readiness, and gender equity. Combining 21st-century technology, a library of culturally-relevant digital books in 52 languages, and integrated support – Worldreader helps millions of children and youth across the Global South read. Over the past 10 years, Worldreader has reached more than 13 million people in communities where paper books, including storybooks and textbooks, are scarce. Worldreader supports programs in five regions (East and West Africa; Latin America; the Middle East and North Africa; and South Asia) while readers across 47 countries benefit from our digital library. Since 2010, Worldreader has distributed over 40 million digital books to readers around the world.


Alejandro Vizquez
Senior Communication Manager

Melanie Wise, Sr. Director, Global Marketing & Communications