Building peace in the minds of men and women

UNESCO-Pearson partnership launches case studies of inclusive digital solutions for low-skilled and low-literate people

07 September 2017

On International Literacy Day 2017, the first five case studies – in a series of 14 – of the UNESCO-Pearson Initiative for Literacy: Improved Livelihoods in a Digital World will be released by UNESCO’s Section for Youth, Literacy and Skills Development.

The case study series explores how inclusive digital solutions can help people with low skills and low literacy use technology in a way that supports skills development and, ultimately, improves their livelihoods.

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.

“The case studies uncover the set of skills required and developed through the use of innovative digital solutions and how this increases participation in the knowledge society. For example, we see examples of how low-literate users can be digital content creators and low-skilled community members can become health support practitioners through these e-services,” explains Steven Vosloo, Senior Project Officer for the UNESCO-Pearson Initiative for Literacy.

In Malawi, Chipatala cha pa Foni by VillageReach links local communities with government health systems through a toll-free health hotline operated by trained health workers and a tailored messaging service. 

The hearScreen™ smartphone app, from the hearX Group, is used for early detection of hearing loss. In countries such as South Africa, where numbers of audiologists and health professionals are severely limited, the solution can be administered by community members with low digital skills and literacy.

The Talking Book, a ruggedized audio player and recorder by Literacy Bridge, offers agricultural and livelihoods education to deep rural communities in four African countries.

In India, Crop Specific Mobile Apps by Jayalaxmi Agrotech deliver agricultural and livestock videos, advice and reminders to farmers’ smartphones though a novel offline distribution model.

Also in India, Mobile Vaani by Gram Vaani, is a phone call-based, community-media platform for offline populations in rural areas, used for community mobilisation and social campaigns.

A number of cross-cutting themes have emerged from the initiatives, for example, in many cases, providing training and support to end users is essential, and peer-to-peer learning and skills development can be enabled by pairing low literate users with stronger users. Some of the case studies also monitor usage of the digital solutions through data collection and analysis, which can inform constant improvement of the digital solutions as well as the provision of targeted support for those users who need it.

Mr Vosloo will also present the key findings from a landscape review of 32 digital solutions for low-skilled and low-literate people from around the world, including a focus on the digital competences needed to use the solutions.

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.