Tag: Ghana

Fighting illiteracy with e-books: There’s an app for that

Monday, 28 April, 2014 0 Comments

The San Francisco-based non-profit organization Worldreader distributes e-books in poor countries. Its app, which has more than 300,000 users in the developing world, lets people choose from over 6,000 e-books on low-end mobile phones, and Worldreader says it’s delivered nearly 1.7 million e-books since its launch in 2010.

A new UNESCO study (PDF 1.6MB) based on interviews with 5,000 Worldreader app users looks at reading habits in seven countries — Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe — where the average illiteracy rate is 34 percent among adults and 20 percent among children, and the conclusions are uplifting. Snippet:

280414reading “The tendency of digital reading to increase overall reading is not limited to Worldreader Mobile users. A study conducted by the Pew Research Center in the USA observed that the overall reading consumption of individuals tends to increase following the adoption of digital reading. The Pew report shows that, over the course of 12 months, users reading e-books read 24 books on average, while the average number of books read by non-e-book readers was 15 (Pew Internet, 2012). For champions of literacy this trend is extremely promising, as it suggests that the benefits of mobile reading are exponential and may accelerate literacy development.”

Without a decent educational system, greater access to books won’t necessarily raise literacy levels, but greater access to books can nurture a love of reading and writing and expose readers to unimagined new worlds. UNESCO puts it like this: “While it is true that books, by themselves, will not remedy the scourge of illiteracy, without them illiteracy is guaranteed.” The Worldreader e-book initiative deserves our support.


Kofi Awoonor, victim of Islamism

Thursday, 3 October, 2013 0 Comments

There’s a page on Wikipedia that lists “mortalities from battles and other individual military operations or acts of violence, sorted by death toll.” When it comes to the section titled “Terrorist attacks,” we can see that eight of the top 10 life-destroying atrocities are attributed to “Islamism”. With 67 victims, the 21 September massacre in the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi doesn’t make the top 100, but it is attributed to “Islamism” and among the victims was Kofi Awoonor, the Ghanaian poet and author who was attending a literary festival in Kenya at the time. These lines from his Songs of Sorrow are tragically prescient:

I have wandered on the wilderness
The great wilderness men call life
The rain has beaten me,
And the sharp stumps cut as keen as knives
I shall go beyond and rest.
I have no kin and no brother,
Death has made war upon our house;

When death, in the form of Islamism, made war upon the house of civilization in Nairobi and claimed the lives of children, women and an old poet from Ghana, the liberal elite could not bear to call out the culprit. The perpetrators cannot be called “terrorists”; we must use “militant” instead and rather than blame their religious perversion, the absurd Simon Jenkins writing in the Guardian claimed that shopping malls are responsible for their murderous hatred:

“The modern urban obsession with celebrity buildings and high-profile events offers too many publicity-rich targets. A World Trade Centre, a Mumbai hotel, a Boston marathon, a Nairobi shopping mall are all enticing to extremists. Defending them is near impossible. Better at least not to create them. A shopping mall not only wipes out shopping streets, it makes a perfect terrorist fortress, near impossible to assault.”

Followers of Islam must finally confront and denounce the extremists who kill in the name of Allah. Until that happens, innocents will continue to suffer. Blaming shopping malls, hotels and marathons for the actions of the jihadists offers a cowardly fig leaf for terrorism and insults the memory of Kofi Awoonor, who once wrote: “On such a day who would dare think of dying? So much Freedom means that we swear we’ll postpone dying until the morning after.”


Intrade didn’t predict this

Tuesday, 12 March, 2013 0 Comments

“With sincere regret we must inform you that due to circumstances recently discovered we must immediately cease trading activity on www.intrade.com.” So says the grim sentence that greets visitors to the website of the celebrated online-prediction exchange. Citing Irish law — Intrade is legally domiciled in the blessed land of St. Patrick — it said that it had been obliged to close customers’ accounts. What happened? And what were the “circumstances recently discovered”?

Well, more than a million trades took place on Intrade last year, but just 52,166 this year so far, according to the site’s statistics page, which is now offline. That must have hurt and something grave must have contributed to the fall off the cliff. Bloomberg, using the “irregularities” word, goes there. Missing in action, too, is the Intrade market page on the papal conclave, which begins today. As recently as Sunday, it had been predicting the election of an Italian pontiff, with an implied probability of 47 percent. Cardinal Angelo Scola, the archbishop of Milan, was the clear favorite with an estimated 25 percent chance of white smoke, while Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana followed with 19 percent. Now, alas, the papal electors must get on with the job in Rome without the aid of Intrade, a very worldly enterprise that fell to Earth because of “circumstances recently discovered”.

Rome