UNESCO Reading in the Mobile Era

Reading in the Mobile Era: A Study of Mobile Reading in Developing Countries

About the Report

For centuries, limited access to text has been a barrier to literacy. Reading requires books. Without them literacy remains out of reach.
Millions of people do not read for this one reason. Today, however, this barrier is receding thanks to the spread of inexpensive mobile technology. Basic mobile phones offer a new, affordable and easy-to-use
Portal to reading material. Mobile phones and cellular networks are transforming a scarceresource into an abundant one.

While UNESCO research indicates that hundreds of thousands of people in countries like Ethiopia, Nigeria and Pakistan are reading on mobile devices, very little is known about these readers. This information gap hampers efforts to expand the footprint of mobile reading and realize the educational and socio-economic benefits associated with increased reading. Drawing on the analysis of over 4,000 surveys collected in seven developing countries and corresponding qualitative interviews, this year-long study explains the habits, preferences and demographic profiles of mobile readers in seven developing countries.

The report paints, for the first time, a detailed picture of who reads books and stories on mobile devices and why. This information points to strategies to expand mobile reading and, by extension, the educational and socio-economic benefits associated with increased reading. By painting a picture of how mobile reading is practiced today and by whom, it offers insights into how mobile technology can be leveraged to better facilitate reading in countries where literacy rates are low, an advance literacy and learning in underserved communities around the world.

Mobile Reading Survey: Key Findings

1. Mobile reading opens up new pathways to literacy for marginalized groups, particularly women and girls, and others who may not have access to paper books
2. People use mobile devices to read to children, thereby supporting literacy acquisition and other forms of learning.
3. People seem to enjoy reading more and read more often when they use mobile devices to access text.
4. People read on mobile devices for identifiable reasons that can be promoted to encourage mobile reading.
5. Most mobile readers are young, yet people of various ages are capable of using mobile technology to access long-form reading material. More can be done to encourage older people to use technology as a portal to text.
6. Current mobile readers tend to have completed more schooling than is typical.
7. There appears to be a demand for demand for mobile reading platforms with text in local languages, level-appropriate text and text written by local authors.

The report was created through an ongoing partnership between UNESCO, Nokia and Worldreader and is part of a two-paper series on mobile reading. The other complementary publication, Reading without Books, reviews mobile reading initiatives around the world, identifying their strengths and weaknesses in order to steer the development of future projects. Cumulatively, the two publications explain how mobile technology can empower readers and further literacy in developing countries and beyond.

Read the Full Report by UNESCO: Reading in the Mobile Era.