one billion illiterate adults

its an amazing figure, isnt it? almost 1 billion illiterate adults in the world – stunning.

this is the problem that cliff schmidt is trying to tackle – getting information and knowledge to the 1 billion illiterate adults living on less than $2/day in developing countries.  i met cliff via our mutual friend, susan wu.  they know each other from apache software foundation work.

cliff and his non-profit, literacy bridge, “are building the Talking Book Device, a low cost audio player and recorder, for children and adults in the developing world. Children and adults will use the device for literacy learning and knowledge sharing.” it will be an affordable, open source device that can be used by illiterate adults to gain access to information immediately.

basic use cases: think of the value of a 2 min audio program on how to treat infant dehydration for an illiterate mother, or medicine dosing instructions, or maybe how to filter water?  the impact would be immediate and immense. and personally, i see this as addressing some major gaps left by one-laptop-per-child (olpc).

one of cliff’s stories hit me like a brick: on one of his trips doing research for this project, one mother who could not read had told him the only time she felt ashamed of being illiterate was when her child was sick.  she could not remember the doctor’s instructions for how to administer the child’s medicine and she could not read the label. if she had a literacy bridge device, she could have recorded the doctor’s instructions for playback.

i believe that cliff is on to something. i believe in his project.  but unfortunately, the economic crisis has hurt non-profits in a major way. donations have essentially stopped – and literacy bridge needs just about $15K to get to their planned device pilot program in ghana this winter. so i am putting my money where my mouth is – its going to be a tough year ahead for all of us, i dont doubt that. but you are online and reading my blog, chances are, you are better off than most.  most in the US and definitely most in the world.

i decided to give a $500 challenge donation to literacy bridge – and their challenge is to raise $5,000 in 2 weeks.  we are now a few days into the challenge and so far only $25 has come in. literacy bridge needs to raise $15K by the end of december or else they cannot pay for the pilot program. i hope this challenge donation helps jump start the fundraising. it would be shame if a project with such great potential never makes it to pilot.  if this kind of application of technology to a social cause catches your interest, i suggest you visit their website and consider donating anything to help literacy bridge reach their $5,000 goal. even $10. its like skipping only 2 starbucks lattes! 🙂

remember, 1 billion people is ALOT of people who need information and knowledge.

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