Worldreader

Year: 2016 Geographic Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

Criteria Met:
  • Catalytic
  • Discrete
  • Mid-Implementation
  • Unexpected
About the Project
The Situation
The Roadblock
ORA Response
The Situation

Worldreader is an organization dedicated to making digital books accessible to people around the world in order to mitigate barriers to literacy and improve quality of life. Primarily targeting readers in sub-Saharan Africa, Worldreader uses relatively affordable technologies including e-readers, mobile phones, and tablets to bring literature to those without ready access to physical books.

After building a digital collection of books compatible with e-readers, in 2011, Worldreader was approached by a technology company that offered to support the organization’s first mobile phone application. Eager to capitalize on the technology that was already in the hands of so many – the mobile phone – Worldreader partnered with the company to grow its reach. Over the next several years, Worldreader invested in further developing the app, formatting books for mobile distribution, and increasing the number of mobile app users on the technology company’s platform.

By making books available on mobile phones, it expanded Worldreader’s impact greatly – reaching 900,000 new readers via the technology company’s platform. It soon became clear that mobile reading was here to stay, and Worldreader was at the forefront of that movement. To date, the organization has served people in 54 countries, providing them with over 45,000 book titles in 43 languages.

The Roadblock

After investing countless staff hours and significant funding in the mobile app for this specific technology company’s platform, in late 2015 they received news that the technology company was facing financial trouble and could be shutting down. While Worldreader had now built reading apps for several other mobile platforms, this one housed Worldreader’s single largest collection of digital books with 28,000 titles connected to 900,000 readers. These users were also the most dedicated group of mobile phone readers.

The dissolution of their partner technology company would mean abandoning Worldreader’s original mobile reading app, the thousands of digital books that lived there, and, most critically, the hundreds of thousands of readers who relied on the platform for materials.

ORA Response

In order to continue providing uninterrupted service to the 900,000 readers who accessed digital literature through the co-developed mobile phone app, Open Road provided a $100,000 charitable grant to Worldreader. This grant allowed the organization to migrate app users to an alternate reading platform, and also provided the necessary funding to reformat and transfer the thousands of digital books from the original mobile app database to a more permanent Worldreader collection.

This will greatly expand the potential for mobile reading and allow Worldreader to continue to positively impact the lives of the ever-growing number of people with access to mobile phones worldwide.

To learn more visit: Worldreader

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