These Smart Partnerships Could Scale Reading Across the Globe
Telecommunications companies and digital distribution companies are uniquely positioned to scale reading across the globe
How? Because they have direct access to billions of people who are active users of their network.
That’s why, for nearly a decade, Worldreader has partnered with telecommunications companies (telcos) and digital distribution companies to bring millions of books to under-resourced communities. Through these partnerships, we’ve helped telcos and digital companies give their users content they love. And, these partnerships helped us reach millions more readers with life changing books. It’s a win-win.
The world is in the midst of a reading crisis. This could be our best bet
More than 393 million children don’t have basic literacy skills by age 10. We’re on a mission to address this crisis using digital books and technology, and making them widely available. That’s where telcos and digital players come in.
5.2 billion (66.6%) people worldwide already own mobile devices and 4.6 billion (59.5%) of them use mobile internet. And the numbers keep growing every day. Mobile internet costs are also steadily decreasing globally. This is happening even more rapidly in some Global South regions. In 2020, over 316 million people started using the internet for the first time.
Here’s the most exciting part: many people living at the base of the pyramid can now afford internet-connected mobile phones. Companies like Jio, India’s largest telecommunications network, are making them increasingly affordable. As a result, Worldreader has the opportunity to reach hundreds of communities who wouldn’t otherwise have access to books.
Our partnerships have already enabled millions to have access to books and read
Starting in 2012, we partnered with biNu, a startup who built apps that turn low-end Nokia feature phones into smartphones. And, in just a year, we engaged almost 500,000 readers worldwide through the Worldreader app.
Building off our learnings and success with biNu, we then started working in Africa with Opera, the popular mobile web browser. Opera placed our reading app as a bookmark on their browser, encouraging millions of their users to start reading. Since 2015, over 7.6 million people have read via the Worldreader App on Opera Mini browser.
Last year marked the start of our work with Jio, our biggest partnership yet. We’ve worked with Jio to make our BookSmart app available through its Jio Phone app store. Together, we’re planning on bringing free children’s books to 150 million households in India through the BookSmart app. In the past 12 months alone, we’ve already reached 3.5 million homes.
In addition to our work with Jio, we’ve been collaborating with MTN, Ghana’s leading telco, and KaiOS, a mobile operating system for affordable phones, to bring children and youth reading and learning materials during the pandemic and beyond. As part of our partnership, we’ve put together weekly book collections designed to engage MTN’s users and keep them reading more.
These partnerships work because they are a win-win
In short, there’s a unique synergy between Worldreader’s mission of creating wide access to digital content and telcos’ / digital companies’ objective of increasing digital consumption.
As mobile internet providers, telcos generally want their audience to be as engaged as possible – the more time their audience spends enjoying their services, the better. Worldreader is perfectly positioned to make that happen thanks to the breadth of curated books on our reading apps.
At the same time, our goal at Worldreader is to put our digital library in as many hands as possible. And telcos make that possible through their massive audiences.
Once this alignment in our missions is identified with a potential telco partner, it then becomes about how we can synergize around common goals and scale up.
“At Worldreader, we believe in the power of cross-sectoral partnerships in scaling affordable access to digital reading. We co-create with our partners in alignment with SGD 17 – Partnerships for the Goals”, said Bhanu Potta, Global Executive Product Leader.
A closer look at our partnership with Jio and why it works
Jio is India’s leading telco. It distinguishes itself by catering to bottom-of-the- pyramid users through its affordable Jio Phone, low cost internet packages and, as a result, has been significantly contributing to the Digital India mission. The mission was launched by the Indian government to make the country more digitally empowered and to boost economic growth from bottom up. In doing this, Jio is constantly in search of locally relevant digital content and services for its users to engage with.
Finding such content has proved to be challenging, though. Conventionally popular content players are focussed on the affluent audience and their content doesn’t quite meet the needs of Jio users. That’s where Worldreader steps in. Our digital library is able to provide locally relevant Hindi and English storybooks that results in high engagement among homes with children and consequently allows us to provide access and impact at large scale. It‘s a perfect match.
“Jio is proud to be partnering with Worldreader to bring a rich collection of digital storybooks to hundreds of millions of homes across India,” says R V Balasubramaniam Iyer, Vice President of Reliance Jio. “Our partnership is contributing to the Digital India Mission through the combination of Jio’s affordable, world-class 4G mobile network and phones with Worldreader’s engaging, relevant content.”
Over the past year, we’ve been effectively collaborating with Jio to help children and parents from under-resourced households across India develop essential reading skills. The BookSmart app available in the Jio Phone app store gives teachers, parents, caregivers and young children easy access to a library of expertly curated and age-appropriate story books. The books are mapped to learning outcomes from language development, science, social studies and social emotional learning. We purposefully designed the BookSmart app on Jio Phone for under-resourced communities. It is easy to use, light and optimized for low internet speeds while keeping data costs low.
With Jio’s help, we hope to build lasting reading culture across the country through our well-curated digital library, reading promotion sessions via Jio Meet, and more, while helping users become more digitally savvy and empowered to read to their children.
Are you a telco looking to make an impact? Get in touch
In the coming years, we plan to continue working with telcos while building on our partnerships with digital networks. We’re also looking to other large, non-telco distribution channels to collaborate on ways to build reading habits among children and youth around the world.
Through our partnerships, we’ve already helped 19 million people in 48 different countries read. And, with a little more help, we’re hoping to reach hundreds of millions more across the world.
Are you a telco or a company with a large digital network looking to make an impact? Partner with us and empower your audience through the benefits of reading. Get in touch at email@example.com