Worldreader is a non-profit organization whose mission is to make digital books available to students and their families in the developing world. As of February 2013, Worldreader has distributed 3,000 e-readers with access to over 441,000 e-books across ten e-reader projects in six African countries (Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Ethiopia). Worldreader distributes “Worldreader kits” that contain 50 e-readers, 5,000 e-books, cables, protective shock-resistant polyethylene "skins," zip-around protective cases, book lights, printed training materials, pre-deployment support, shipping to a port in Africa, and post-deployment support. Worldreader deploys e-readers in three different ways:
- e-readers are sent directly to schools and remain in schools over night
- e-readers are sent directly to schools but students are able to take them home overnight, thereby allowing other family members access to e-readers (on average each e-reader reaches 2-3 people in this model)
- e-readers are sent to be used in shared environments such as community libraries. Using this deployment strategy, Worldreader targets underserved schools that cannot afford enough textbooks.
In addition to providing e-readers, Worldreader seeks to build capacity in the communities where it works, providing technical and pedagogical training for project managers and local teachers so that they are able to use the e-readers to maximize student literacy outcomes. Local businesses are also taught to repair e-readers. Worldreader is donor-funded and partner-supported. It works with sponsoring organizations to close the gap between the cost of devices and books, and the price that communities can pay, until costs become more affordable. The initial batch of e-readers were purchased at full price, the following batch was purchased at a discount, and the following was donated by Amazon. Worldreader also has an initiative with Amazon where consumers can donate their e-readers to Worldreader when they upgrade to new ones. Funders or partners who express an interest in sponsoring schools are linked to schools who have expressed a desire to purchase an e-reader kit but do not have the resources to afford one.
In addition to providing access to e-books through e-readers, Worldreader has also partnered with biNu, an App developer based in Sydney. This technology allows e-books to be read on feature phones (basic mobile phones that can run an app that simulates smart phone features), which are widely owned in the developing world. As of January 2013, the Worldreader Mobile app is on 4.5 million phones, mostly in Asia and Africa, and the program hopes to reach 10 million by the end of 2013. Half a millions readers use the Worldreader Mobile app each month. Finally, many of the e-books in Worldreader’s programs are developed by African publishers and authors. Students especially at young ages are more engaged with stories that are familiar to them. Similarly, local schools prefer to work with local textbooks, so Worldreader partners with African publishing partners to make their books available to students on e-readers through the Worldreader Mobile app. Worldreader also provides access to international e-books, donated for free by American and European publishers. Worldreader has opted to pay African publishers, rather than rely solely on donated books, in order to support local businesses.
Click here to see full program profile
Model details2010Not-for-profitLiteracyActiveLong-term projectFree service or product$15,000 per Worldreader kit, $300 per e-reader device (including first 100 e-books per device), $3 per e-book. Once a student has a device, cost of subsequent e-books ranges from "free of charge" to $1
A Worldreader Kit contains 50 e-readers, 5,000 e-books, cables, a protective shock-resistant polyethylene "skin", a zip-around protective case, a book light, printed training materials, pre-deployment support, shipping to a port in Africa, and post-deployment support.8,500
TechnologyTablet or e-readerLearning materials for studentsbiNu (app developer that has developed an app for regular phones that mimics smartphone functionality on low-end feature phones.) Built the Worldreader bookreader apps.
3,000 e-readers have been distributed
The Worldreader Mobile App has been downloaded on 4.5 million phones
Worldreader began in 2010 with a pilot project delivering e-readers to a community center in Ayenyah, Ghana. Following this, Worldreader launched its iREAD program in Ghana, as the first pilot study involving the classroom use of e-readers in the developing world. Worldreader then partnered with two organizations to bring Worldreader programs to The Osborne Memorial Libaray in Maai Mahiu, Kenya, and the Upendo School in Tanzania. Worldreader currently operates ten e-reader projects in six countries. In 2012, Worldreader grew by 400%.
Worldreader's goal is to grow by 1,000% in 2013. Its current top prospects for expanding its programs are in Liberia, Nigeria, and Malawi. Worldreader would begin in Malawi by deploying 1,000 devices. The organization is currently seeking funding to expand its projects to Liberia (currently in proposal phase). In Nigeria, Worldreader's goal is to partner with the Ministry of Education to reach the whole country. Worldreader also has plans to expand its programs to Latin America.
Monitoring & EvaluationYes
Worldreader gauges the impact of its many projects by measuring the number of books read before and after deployment, students’ reading ability, as well as our own ability to provide delivery and support. Longer-term, Worldreader looks for increased community involvement in reading, and ultimately increased literacy rates beyond UN-predicted levels. Worldreader continually conducts research within its own programs, and publishes the results on the “Learnings” section of its website. In March of 2010 it published “E-reader Trial Report OrphanAid Africa School, Ayenyah, Ghana” which was the first study of its pilot project. It is available here: http://www.worldreader.org/uploads/Worldreader Ayenyah Trial Report Mar-2010.pdf Six additional studies are available here: http://www.worldreader.org/learnings/
In short, Worldreader looks at three primary metrics:
- Are students reading more
- Are students reading better
- Are e-readers useful to teachers in the classroom
In order to measure its success specifically, Worldreader tracks the following metrics very closely:
- Number of e-readers distributed to students
- Total number of books available in the Worldreader library
- Statistics demonstrating reading amounts for children
- Evidence of teachers implementing best practices for teaching literacy using e-readers
- Worldwide government partnerships within the Worldreader family
- Worldwide corporate partnerships within the Worldreader family.
In the 2011-2012 school year an external measurement and evaluation firm-- ILC Africa—was funded by the USAID to formally evaluate Worldreader's program metrics. ILC examined their 3 primary metrics (referenced above) by using weekly logs, case studies, direct observation, interviews, focus groups, questionnaires, and standardized test scores to monitor and evaluate the program. Specifically, ILC used the following instruments to measure and evaluate:
- Student Weekly Log
- Teacher Weekly Log
- Case Studies/Success Stories
- Direct Observation
- Key Informant Interview (teachers, admin, WR, volunteers)
- Focus Group
- Individual Student Questionnaire
- Teacher/Volunteer Questionnaire)
- Data Sheet for E-Readers
- Standardized Testing Score Sheet
Worldreader is also rolling out the use of EGRA standardized testing to measure the tangible effects of using e-readers.
Standardized assessment performanceInternal assessment performanceCost effectiveness/value for moneyYes
Internal Assessment Performance - Literacy | See USAID evaluation of iREAD
- Students and teachers who previously had almost no access to books now have an average of 83 books each
- E-readers increased students' hours spent reading by up to 50%: specifically, children in Worldreader's partner school, Kade Primary in Ghana, now spend 4 hours and 15 minutes reading a week, up from 2 hours and 46 minutes at the start of the pilot study
- 1 out of 3 children are actively downloading books of their own choosing