Mobile phones can bring literacy and numeracy to millions in developing countries
UK start-up begins anti-poverty journey with crowdfunding bid
Glasgow-based Klik2learn is developing Journey2BasicSkills, a digital app that uses computer games graphics to teach the basics of literacy, numeracy and English.
It is to launch a pilot project to deliver the course to learners in remote parts of Uganda and in rural and urban communities in India over a six-month period. Thereafter, it plans to roll-out the programme across India and Africa.
The app is being developed in consultation with a range of partners including UNESCO, with content provided by City College in Glasgow. The World Literacy Foundation has pledged to provide low-cost, solar-powered tablets to people without smartphones or tablets of their own.
It will be delivered by Blupoint, a Southampton University spinout company that specialises in providing connectivity to non-digital environments.
The project is the brainchild of Ann Attridge, a former schoolteacher from the Isle of Skye, who developed Journey 2 English, a ground-breaking digital English language qualification available through smartphones, which is being used by refugees from Syria and Iraq in the UK.
She has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to raise the £35,000 needed to recruit additional programmers and actors to record voiceovers in the various English dialects necessary to deliver Journey2BasicSkills to a global market.
Ann, who has a post-graduate degree in linguistics, is developing the digital course in response to demand from overseas and UK customers.
"More than 700million people worldwide are affected by illiteracy which impacts on employment, poverty, gender equality and civil rights," she said. "There will never be enough classrooms and teachers to meet the need and books aren't the answer if you can't read.
"Mainstream publishers in English language teaching are still grappling with digitisation and they don't have any solutions for this sector. The most advanced provision for this level is a 10 year-old set of A4 books with a boxed CD rom set.
"There are some literacy apps available for early years' learners but there's nothing that combines literacy, numeracy and basic English for adult learners.
Ann added: "Our ultimate goal is to get people who are marginalised through lack of basic skills into a position where they can pursue further study or get employment. In India a basic competence in English can increase your earnings over a lifetime by 35%."
The app uses similar technology to Journey 2 English, an interactive language course that combines games with a wide variety of interactive activities, a digital notebook, in which students and tutors can communicate, a voice recorder so that they can share audio files and a discussion forum on which they can practice their language skills.
It helps non-native speakers learn English within three months and, by passing a final test, they can gain a qualification, equivalent to a National 4, validated by the Scottish Qualifications Authority .
During the pilot project, a free version of Journey2Basic Skills will direct learners to a level that is appropriate to them, classified by the Common European Framework from A0 (no literacy skills) to A1 and A2.
Ann, who left her job as an English teacher at Portree High School in 2010 to take up an Enterprise Fellowship with the Royal Society of Edinburgh, said: "The greatest need for this is in India and Africa and we will work with existing partners there and Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) to develop the content and publicise the outcomes. They will enable us to bring a degree of localisation to the product, which is vital.
"Developing Journey2BasicSkills with our partners at City College combines several lifetimes of experience in this field, lots of ingenuity, creative thinking, use of technology and a deep understanding of pedagogy. It's a challenge which we're not underestimating. All I can say is that we'll know if we've got it right after the pilot.
She added: "Whether or not we go down the validation route is for discussion later. We have to consider what certification, if any, is actually relevant to people in their own countries."
A spokesman for the World Literacy Foundation said: "There is a huge number of pupils with a need for basic literacy, numeracy and English at complete beginner level in Uganda but there are devices available to consume digital content.
"In addition, we know of only a couple of higher-earning private schools with internet access for teachers only, but there is none for the main schools we work with. This project promises to significantly improve access to learning in large parts of Africa where there is currently none."
The rewards-based crowdfunding campaign offers investors a range of options. Contributions start at £10 up to £2,000 or more.
Details of the crowdfunding campaign are available at https://www.kickstarter.com/