UNESCO and Pearson release new round of case studies featuring digital innovations in support of skills development


On International Literacy Day 8 September 2017, UNESCO’s Education Sector launched its first batch of five case studies as part of the UNESCO-Pearson Initiative for Literacy: Improved Livelihoods in a Digital World. Today, the literacy project launches its second batch in the case study series.

The case studies explore how inclusive digital solutions can help people with low skills and low literacy use technology in a way that supports skills development and, ultimately, advances their livelihoods. In this second batch, the focus is particularly on health, livelihoods and environmental services for low-literate users.

Each case study reveals how the digital solutions were designed with users, the skills needed to effectively use the solutions, the reach and result of usage and, most importantly, the key lessons learned and recommendations for developing other inclusive solutions.

Inclusive digital solutions providing services for health, livelihoods and sustainable agriculture

From Nepal, the case study for Medic Mobile presents an integrated mobile solution to improve maternal and neonatal health through connecting patients with community-based care and frontline health workers, many of whom are low-literate and not digitally skilled. A baseline and post-training survey has shown an increase in digital skills amongst the users. The 950 community health workers using the solution are serving nearly 300,000 people of the Himalayas.

The case study for the MIRA Channel solution by ZMQ Development illustrates how maternal health can be improved and child mortality lowered through a mobile healthcare extension service, which consists of edutainment and health information specifically aimed at low-literate pregnant women and mothers in India, Afghanistan and Uganda. Around 850,000 women, children and adolescent girls have been reached to date. Since the majority of the mothers using MIRA Channel had little to no prior experience using mobile phones, adolescent children or siblings who generally had more experience in using mobile phones were included for assistance and later as target users of the solution. Such peer-to-peer skills support is widely seen amongst low-literate communities using digital solutions.

The Khushi Baby case study involves a wearable technology for maternal and child healthcare in India. The service supports effective tracking of maternal and child healthcare data by community healthcare workers – often low-literate and with low digital skills – and generates data for district-level decision-making related to health administration. The data also drives continual improvements in the evolution of the solution. Through the service, more than 50,000 child vaccinations have already been tracked among 10,000 mothers and children.

The 3-2-1 Service by Human Network International (HNI) and Viamo is an audio-based local-language service that provides on-demand access to livelihoods information, even where there is no internet. The service is being used in 14 countries, mostly in Africa, with eight million unique users making more than 80 million information inquiries. While the audio format enables even low- or non-literate users to gain access to vital information, text-based messages are also available to support literacy practice. A rigorous user-centred process is followed to ensure that the content is relevant, context-specific and engaging for the target audience of each country.

The Nano Ganesh service by Ossian Agro Automation Private Limited provides a mobile-based remote control and monitoring system for irrigation water pumps in India, which saves water and time for around 400,000 farmers. Even low-literate users can practice environmentally-friendly and sustainable farming using the service, which is largely audio-based and requires basic mobile phone skills and numeracy. Ossian Agro’s approach involves training farmers and local technicians on pump installation and usage – sometimes via live video demonstrations – thereby introducing digital support skills to the whole community.

The collaboration between UNESCO and Pearson is part of the Project Literacy movement. Project Literacy brings together a diverse and global cross-section of people and organizations to help unlock the potential of individuals, families and communities everywhere with the vision that by 2030, no child will be born at risk of poor literacy.

The case studies are available for download from the UNESCO-Pearson Initiative for Literacy: Improved Livelihoods in a Digital World page. More information about UNESCO and literacy