Better Readers, BetterWorld: How a Wireless Company Supports Literacy

As library-centric folks, it's pretty much a given that we care about literacy. We know its impact: how it increases earning potential, decreases inequality, and breaks the cycle of poverty.

We also know the sobering statistics around illiteracy. According to UNESCO, there are 740 million illiterate people worldwide. Librarians strive to decrease this number every day though literacy programs for both adults and children.

While librarians are making significant progress in closing the illiteracy gap, they can't do it alone. Fortunately, they have allies in the public and social sectors. Nonprofits, such as Worldreader, Room to Read, and 826 National support reading and writing on both a national and international level.

Government organizations, like UNESCO and the National Institute for Literacy, provide data and resources around literacy.

The passion for literacy education has also spread to the private sector. BetterWorld Wireless, a mobile company and TechSoup donor partner, is on a mission to bridge the digital divide and improve literacy in Africa.   

From Phones to E-Readers

BetterWorld Wireless has partnered with nonprofit partners for its Phone for Phone project. The idea is simple: for every customer who switches to BetterWorld Wireless, a person in need will receive a free mobile device.

The devices are loaded with content from trusted and knowledgeable partners who understand local culture and needs. The company says that these devices will "break the cycle of poverty and empower their life."

Worldreader is one of those nonprofits, and thanks to BetterWorld Wireless' early customers, the nonprofit was able to provide 50 e-readers to 50 students at the Oltikampu School, located in rural Kenya. The Amazon Kindles the students received are loaded with thousands of digital books.

Worldreader curates the collection of loaded e-books around cultural relevancy, language, educational purposes, and interest. They've built up a large library of e-books by African authors, for example, because students will be more likely to first read a book they can relate to — and stick with it.

Why E-Readers for Africa?

According to the Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality, 50 percent of schools in Africa have few or no books at all. But while donating physical books to Africa might be well-intentioned, it isn’t exactly practical.

Colin McElwee, founder of Worldreader, explained to CNN why books don't work well in Africa: "You can't actually get the right books to the people you want to get to, at the time they need it. It's very expensive and highly inefficient."

Furthermore, carrying a large load of books is a burden for Kenyan students, who often have to walk long distances to their school.

Kindles are lightweight and slip easily into a bag so they can be transported between home and school. Rather than lugging around several books, the students have an entire library in their hands.

The BetterWorld Wireless Donation Program at TechSoup

The BetterWorld Wireless donation program at TechSoup provides access to discounted mobile services and devices to public libraries. Your staff as well as family members of staff can also participate in the BetterWorld Wireless program.

You can request access to a customizable BetterWorld Wireless mobile service plan at a 5 percent discount. You can also request a donated smartphone in combination with a one-year plan. To learn more, visit the BetterWorld Wireless donation program page on