Worldreader is a US and European non-profit whose mission is to make digital books available to children in the developing world, so millions of people can improve their lives. As of March 2012, they have "put over 75,000 e-books - and the life-changing, power-creating ideas contained within them – into the hands of 1,000 children in Sub Saharan Africa. Those children now read more, read better, and are improving their communities." In many African countries, 80 percent of the population owns a cell phone. Up to now, Worldreader has focused on distributing Kindles to classrooms (the organization’s founder is former Amazon exec , but by making e-books available via cell phones the organization can reach a much wider group of readers.
Worldreader's app was developed by Sydney-based startup biNu. It is currently in beta. The app uses cloud-based data compression technology to enable any Java-enabled phone (non-smartphone) to download e-books and access news websites and Facebook over an ordinary mobile signal. This is a huge step in cost reduction.
biNu is a fascinating project in itself: "With over half the world’s population owning a mobile phone today, but less than half that number having regular access to a computer, we are driven by a passion to help bring the reality of the Internet, along with its economic, educational and social benefits, to everyone." They are basically bringing the internet to regular phones.
"biNu approached this challenge by devising a patented software platform that delivers Internet applications to “low-end” mobiles with almost instant response times and efficient use of network bandwidth."
Although reaching 75,000 students in Africa is just a drop in the bucket, this project is very important because it is significantly lowering the cost of books and most importantly, access to information.