More than 200 experts from Ghana and six other countries on Wednesday converged in Accra for a two-day WorldReader fourth West Africa Digital Reading Summit focused on exploring the power of Mobile Phones for Education.
Organised by WorldReader, a non-governmental organisation that has pioneered the field of digital reading, the summit brings together educators and educational administrators, African publishers and partner organisations working to expand access to digital reading.
It is being held on the theme: “The Power of Digital in Learning: How Communities are harnessing mobile Technology and Digital Reading to Promote Continuous Learning”.
In a speech read on his behalf at the opening session, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, Minister of Education, said the forum provided the platform to engage with each other in an open and constructive dialogue about digital reading and how to help boost the culture of reading in Africa and get more of the youngest pupils reading at grade level.
“We must bear in mind that it is the skill of reading that will help them do well in all their subjects and ultimately the final examinations in school,” the Minister said.
He said the interactions that young children have with books and with the adults in their lives were the building blocks for developing strong reading and writing skills.
“There is also a substantial amount of research that highlights the critical role of early experiences in shaping brain development,” he said.
Dr Prempeh said the use of basic technology like mobile phones and e-readers can ensure access to relevant content all over the country.
“Digital books can be cheap to distribute and with combined efforts from the government, NGOs and the private sector we can help make exciting things happen,” he said, adding that stakeholders must work towards access to digital books for everyone regardless of their circumstances or background.
He expressed the hope that the campaign would contribute to the government’s aim of promoting a reading culture through modern technology.
Dr Prempeh reiterated government’s commitment to developing 60 digital libraries throughout the country, out of which 50 would be housed in physical structures whilst the remaining ten will be mobile libraries.
He said the project was in line with government’s commitment to promote reading and literary skills particularly among children.
The technology involved in digital libraries will further enhance the realization of these objectives, the Minister said.
Mr Colin McElwee, WorldReader Co-Founder, said literacy was transformative as it increases earning potential, decreases inequality, improves health outcomes and breaks the cycle of poverty.
“The innovators in this room represent a new hope for expanding literacy in Ghana and beyond,” he said.
Mr Julien Burns, Interim Director Communications Worldreader, said by bringing together educators, publishers, government officials and cultural infleuncers, Worldreader hopes to build a digital reading movement that will give more children and families the opportunity to become readers.
He expressed the hope that at the end of the two days of exchanging of ideas and building partnerships, participants would return to their schools and organisation with a new set of tools to impact positively on the outcomes.
In Ghana, Worldreader is working in 61 schools and seven community libraries and have impacted the lives of over 17,400 active readers by providing 6,849 devices delivering over one million books.