UNESCO and Pearson announce partnership to promote inclusive digital technology solutions for improved livelihoods


London 25 May 2017 – Pearson today announces a partnership with UNESCO to promote inclusive approaches to digital innovation. As part of Pearson’s flagship social impact campaign Project Literacy, this cross-sector research project aims to spur the development of more accessible technologies to benefit low-literate and low-skilled youth and adults.

Today, approximately 758 million adults, including 115 million youth worldwide, cannot read or write, which results in a severe lack of skills needed to benefit from digital technologies.

After issuing a call for case studies this past January, UNESCO and Pearson received 130 submissions from innovators in 60 countries around the world. 14 of these case studies have been selected for inclusion in the project, UNESCO-Pearson Initiative for Literacy: Improved Livelihoods in a Digital World.

UNESCO’s Chief of the Section for Youth, Literacy & Skills Development Borhene Chakroun said, “The number and diversity of submissions we received illustrate the many ways in which digital solutions can improve livelihoods and help people participate more effectively in a knowledge society."

Pearson’s director of global social impact programmes, Jennifer Young, said of the partnership: “We are looking to other sectors for promising and proven solutions – whether they’re in agriculture, health, energy and the environment, or government services – so we can generate new ways of thinking about the challenge of closing the global literacy gap.”

Below are the finalists that together illustrate a broad range of digital solutions.

For improved healthcare, Chipatala cha pa Foni links local communities with government health systems through a toll-free health hotline operated by trained health workers and a tailored messaging service. HearScreen is a smartphone application used in 25 countries for early detection of hearing loss, which can be administered by community members with low literacy and digital skills. Khushi Baby combines mobile health, wearable technology and cloud computing to produce a holistic solution for maternal and child health in India.

MIRA Channel offers health edutainment on feature phones to engage and educate semi-literate rural women and connects them with nearby public health centers. In rural Nepal, Text Messaging with Community Health Volunteers is a suite of web- and SMS-based tools for community-based care coordination by frontline health workers, often with low-literacy levels and training themselves, reminder messaging for mothers, and a cloud-based dashboard for district health officials.

In addition to digital health information services, agricultural e-services include the Talking Book Program, a provider of agricultural and livelihoods education through audio content and an innovative player solution for underserved communities; 3-2-1 Service, which serves local-language audio-based information to low-literate users on their mobile phones in a number of African countries; and Crop Specific Mobile Apps that deliver agricultural videos and advice to farmers’ smartphones though a novel offline distribution model.

For government engagement from the ground-up, the finalist is Mobile Vaani, a phone call-based, community-media platform for offline populations in rural areas, used for community mobilization and social campaigns. In Mozambique, MOPA empowers any citizen to report waste issues to the Maputo municipality and receive feedback through a participatory digital reporting and monitoring platform.

For greener living and climate change services, the Nano Ganesh mobile phone-based remote control and monitoring system for agriculture water pumps supports sustainable consumption of resources for low-literate farmers. Small-scale fishers, many with low education levels, can more sustainably manage their operations through a co-designed suite of mobile apps called ABALOBI. In Guatemala, the Farmer Training App helps low-literate users to track and share their farming practices, and access training modules.

Migrant people, including refugees, can be particularly vulnerable in their host countries. The Hello Hope/Merhaba Umut service by Turkcell supports Syrian refugees in Turkey with real-time translation, language learning and information on essential services, via automated or human intervention.

Based on these case studies, the UNESCO-Pearson initiative will develop specific guidelines for technology providers, technical and financial partners, and governments to create more inclusive, accessible and usable digital solutions and policies with the ultimate goal of helping close the global literacy gap by 2030 and meeting a major commitment of the Sustainable Development Goals.


Kasia Reardon
Media and Communities Manager (UK)
+44 (0) 207 010 2336

About Pearson

Pearson is the world’s learning company, with expertise in educational courseware and assessment, and a range of teaching and learning services powered by technology. Our mission is to help people make progress through access to better learning. We believe that learning opens up opportunities, creating fulfilling careers and better lives. For more, visit www.pearson.com.

About Project Literacy

Project Literacy is a global campaign founded and convened by Pearson to make significant and sustainable advances in the fight against illiteracy so that all people - regardless of geography, language, race, class, or gender – have the opportunity to fulfill their potential through the power of words.