The Talking Book: Audio Education for Ghanaian Women
A Talking Book is an inexpensive, portal audio device that broadcasts informational programs to populations in the developing world with low literacy rates. The messages can be replayed, at a speed that can be controlled. They are often in native languages. It is also durable, uses battery power, and can withstand rain. This makes it more accessible to low income populations who may not be able to buy radios and who have no access to electricity. It has already been implemented in rural Ghana. The device was created by Cliff Schmidt, who founded a charity called Literacy Bridge in 2007, which aims to increase literacy levels in the developing world.
The Talking Book Program provides several programs on such issues as health, family planning, entrepreneurship, and agriculture, which are downloaded and distributed. The messages are delivered in the form of songs, soap operas, and interviews. The Talking Book has already been used in sixteen villages, and is facilitated by local agents who update and share the programs. They also ensure that the residents understand how to use the device. Once communities are through with the programs, the talking books are updated and sent back to the village. Residents can provide their feedback to the facilitators, who then use this information to improve the programs. This is made possible by the fact that the data is stored on microSD cards, which can save hours’ worth of audio. The device can also be programmed to include multiple choice quizzes and other educational applications.
The listeners learn from the education provided and implement these lessons in their daily lives. For example, this has assisted women in particular to start small scale enterprises that benefit their families as well as their local communities. Similarly, it has improved nutrition and raised the standard of living. Several farmers who have used the Talking Book have won awards for best produce. The device has been largely successful. Literacy Bridge has raised millions of dollars from donors with the hopes of spreading its devices worldwide, including covering a wider range of issues, such as Ebola.