In locations such as South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, children, teens, and adults do not have access to education. Many are illiterate, and cannot make use of books and other learning material. While some technologies, such as inexpensive laptops and tablets have been proposed to address the educational needs of this population, the devices are too expensive, require some degree of literacy, and are difficult to implement in resource poor areas. However, cellular phones have significant penetration in the world’s poorest countries, since they provide a means to make a living. In essence, they comprise a global, untapped computer network.
In his solution, Andrew presents a cellular phone based technology called EduCell that develops and distributes educational material using a method called PhoneCasting. PhoneCasting allows someone to write their own educational program using their phone and distribute it to other devices. EduCell consists of a piece of software that that runs small multi-lingual “scripts”, easily developed by local teachers in developing countries. Scripts are then assembled with multimedia to create interactive modules that teach reading, writing, arithmetic, etc. Modules can then distributed (PhoneCasted) to millions of other phones via an Internet server, or pre-loaded, at no cost. The benefits of the PhoneCasting technology are significant: neither software programming experience nor knowledge of English is required to produce content, which democratizes software development. This would, for the first time, make basic literacy and educational material accessible to hundreds of millions of cellular phone users, and their children, around the world.