CUP South Africa (CUP SA) has partnered with NGO Worldreader to make content for schoolchildren freely available across sub-Saharan Africa. Worldreader has developed an e-reading app, hosted on cloud-based mobile application platform BiNu, which enables “feature phones”—those without Android or iOS operating systems, typically Nokias, which are widely used across the continent—to be used as e-reading devices.
Niall McNulty, digital publisher at CUP SA, described the development as “genius”. “Anyone with a phone now has an e-reader if they download the BiNu Worldreader app,” he said. In 2013, Worldreader had 330,000 monthly active users, reading 650,000 books on mobile phones.
CUP has made 390 e-books available via the app, including titles from Cambridge African Language Library (CALL)—a primary reading series for children produced in a selection of the most widely used indigenous languages across Zambia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Malawi, Uganda, Tanzania and Swaziland. The series dates from the late 1990s, and has recently gone out of print. It will be available via the Worldreader project later this month.
McNulty said Worldreader was excited to be offered the content. “One of its target groups is young children, and it didn’t have much material—and the [CALL series] has a rare combination of languages.” The project, which does not make money for CUP, although funding from Worldreader pays for the text conversion costs, offers books to users for free, in digital format, for a three-year period. The programme is CUP SA’s first project with a technology NGO; such organisations are increasingly active in literacy projects on the continent. McNulty said CUP would “definitely” consider similar projects in the future.
CUP is currently running a distribution trial with Bookly—another project using basic mobile phones to promote literacy, though only available in South Africa—in an attempt to make teen fiction in indigenous South African languages available in e-book form. The Bookly app, runs on mobile social network Mxit.