• Alysa Salzberg

An admirable education goal raises questions about internet access

Hundreds of millions of people around the world are illiterate. A lack of access to books written in one’s native language may be a contributing factor, since studies show that it’s easier for children to learn to read in the language their family speaks at home. Thanks to the Global Storybook project, people around the world can access stories and digital books in over fifty languages, at no cost.


It’s a noble cause and will be beneficial for many. But the project doesn’t seem to address an important condition to using their learning materials: internet access.


According to the most recent statistics, about 58% of the world’s population has regular internet access. This already implies a significant number of people who don’t have internet access, and even that 58% of the population isn’t evenly distributed around the world.


North America and Northern Europe, for example, have an internet penetration rate (that is, internet access to and use by the general population) of 95%. Africa has a lower internet penetration rate, with only 40% of the continent’s population regularly online.


The internet penetration rate also varies from country to country. There are more internet users in Kenya than in South Africa, for example. And while we tend to think of Asia, home to countries like India, China, and Japan, as very a connected continent, North Korea is the country with the least internet penetration in the world.


The internet has brought the world together and given so many of us access to invaluable sources of knowledge and learning. But is it the only way to completely eradicate illiteracy? Until everyone around the globe can get online, that answer doesn’t seem to be a positive one.


Read on to learn more about Global Storybooks’ nevertheless very noble and worthy project.


And to help fight global illiteracy, consider donating to a charity (like one of these) that provides print books to populations in places with little or no internet access.



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