With the 13th annual Meffys now open for entries we are taking a look at some of last year’s winners to find out what the awards meant to them and what they’ve been up to since they celebrated their win.
This week, we speak to Worldreader who’s amazing work bringing digital books and literacy to developing countries using mobile tech won them the Social Responsibility and development award and the Mobile First Markets award.
What did you win the Meffys for?
Worldreader presented its free mobile reading app optimized for inexpensive mobile phones to provide children, families and adults with a library of digital books via devices they already own.
The web-based app is designed to work with any browser, especially Opera Mini, that uses extreme compression technology to offer a fast and data-lite reading experience, even in areas with 2G coverage.
During 2015 Meffy Awards, Worldreader was announced as the winner of The Innovation Award for Mobile-First Market and The Market Award for Social Responsibility. Worldreader was nominated for the Innovation in Education category as well.
Why do you think the judges picked your entry?
The library in the Worldreader app consists of more than 18,000 books across 70 genres and 43 languages. Between the short period that the webb app was launched in April 2015 and the time we submitted our application, the app had already attracted 2.7 million users across Africa, positioning it as the most popular book reading mobile application in Africa.
Worldreader is impacting people’s lives in numerous ways. Charles is a teacher and mobile reader in Zimbabwe. He reads to his class from his mobile phone and cites lack of available printed content as his primary reason for reading on his mobile phone.
In his own words: “We live in a remote area where there are no libraries, and the books I have in my own small library are the ones which I have already read. So this is now giving me a chance to choose from a variety of fiction titles.”
What has you been up to since winning last year?
Our community of readers keeps getting bigger. Now, we’ve got over 4 million active readers enjoying our library from their mobile phones or on an e-reader, with 340,000 of those people being monthly readers.
In March 2016, we launched the Worldreader Android reading application. This Android application includes personalized recommendations, a reading experience tailored to the target markets, encouragement to read for longer through gamification and an option for audio books through the Read Out Loud feature.
In partnership with Pearson, we also started a 2 year early childhood development program in India. The program, Read to Kids (R2K), will promote reading to children, aged 0-6, by providing high quality Hindi and English books on our mobile reading application and skills building for parents on the importance of reading.
What are your plans for the year ahead?
We’ve got lots of exciting plans for the future, some that we’ve already started working on. Here are just two:
Gender Equality: While girls and women make up only 23% of Worldreader lifelong readers, they consume over 66% of content. To reach and empower more women and girls we are developing a global strategy to increase female readership and promote empowering content that will ensure that gender is mainstreamed in all Worldreader programs and interventions.
Refugees: In 2016, Worldreader will finalize its education in crisis strategy in order to expand our efforts and reach a greater number of crisis affected populations and refugees with our reading programs. We’ll also be adding more content specific to the learning needs of these crisis affected populations, including arabic content for refugees affected by the Syrian crisis.
Director, Education and Program Design
Apart from your own, which mobile company, sector or region is most exciting to you right now and why?
Opera is a market leader in the compression of mobile data and is playing a major role in getting more and more people connected, including those with limited access to internet and 2g connection. That to us is extremely exciting.
Which mobile industry figure do you most admire or think is making game changing impact on the industry?
Strive Masiyiwa, founder and executive chairman of Econet is making great impact in the mobile industry. He has consistently been an incredibly strong voice for the use of mobile across sub-Saharan Africa and beyond and runs an admirable philanthropic foundation that benefits thousands.