Former Amazon.com senior vice president David Risher has co-founded Worldreader, a new nonprofit organization exploring the ability of e-readers to improve literacy and education in the developing world.
The Wall Street Journal reports Worldreader has tested its program by distributing Kindles (Amazon.com e-readers) to students in Accra, Ghana. The organization plans to roll out more Kindles in schools across Ghana this fall. Students are given their own personal Kindle, pre-loaded with a number of books, which they can use at school and at home. Worldreader staffers plans to study whether owning a Kindle leads students to read more books during the course of a year, and whether or not their reading proficiency gets a boost over time.
"It's important that this be positioned not just as an educational aid, but as something that can be used for personal pleasure," says Risher. "The long-term idea is that technology will ultimately help create a real culture of reading in parts of the world where that's not been possible before."
Risher believes that e-readers, like cell phones, are central to technological development and educational advancement in countries like Ghana. Especially in rural areas, where there is no infrastructure for desktop computers and landline phones, devices that are portable, require little power, and use the universal GSM network are bringing previously isolated communities into the modern age.