December 28, 2014 | Written by: Maamar Ferkoun
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While high levels of literacy are taken for granted in developed nations, people in large swaths of the developing world, particularly rural areas in India and Africa, are deprived of basic things such as education, access to libraries, bookstores and the means to access information anytime and anywhere.
Though many developing nations suffer from substandard IT infrastructures that are barely able to provide rudimentary online services, the use of mobile devices in these nations has grown by leaps and bounds. Mobile literacy applications provide a host of services such as translation, email and other applications that can run on mobile phones and require low bandwidth.
A notable example is the work done by Worldreader, an education and literacy charity providing a 2G network mobile application that freely gives access to thousands of books. This app can be accessed by biNu, a software platform for accessing cloud-based apps and Internet services. According to the biNu website:
“The biNu platform enables super-fast, data-lite access to the Internet via a cloud-based virtual smartphone server connecting to a lightweight mobile app. biNu’s efficient data protocol and caching deliver display output to the phone in a highly compressed format that minimizes mobile network bandwidth. This allows rich content to be displayed fast, even on slow 2G networks.”
As in biNu’s example, moving much of the processing to cloud servers from the phone itself is important since many people in these countries do not have the latest smart phones and high speed connections.
Many other organizations that advocate for literacy are now providing Internet-based services at low cost, and some educational institutions are dispensing low-cost online education curriculum for mobile users. For example, you can take workshops under the guidance of instructors through joint community educational programs that cater to remote users through mobile phones.
There are also free informal educational materials now available on the Internet that assist in various fields of expertise. These can be accessed by email, blogs and web searches to provide other means to foster literacy, increase awareness and reduce isolation.
While the advent of cloud computing has brought about definite benefits in some areas, there also remain challenges. For instance, Internet connectivity dependency can act as an impediment to increasing literacy in developing nations. While a farmer in rural Africa can use his 2G mobile phone to access a host of services, he is still dependent on the network coverage and network availability.
Additionally, many larger companies do not view literacy programs targeting developing countries as a high priority because they are not immediately profitable, and so they have been slow to adopt a common strategy and standards. Non-governmental agencies or national bodies whose sole purpose is to promote and deliver literacy programs are the ones picking up the slack here.
Differences in literacy levels are the results of a geographical segregation between agrarian, rural areas and the urban industrialized world. Cloud technology such as that advanced by Worldreader can assist in improving literacy and education even in the poorest and remote areas, thus reducing this divide.
Do you know of other initiatives to utilize cloud to improve literacy? Leave a comment below or reach me on Twitter @MaAsiaPacific to continue the conversation.