Last week Thursday I had the opportunity to meet and speak with Mike Trucano, the go-to guy for technology in education policy across the globe at the World Bank. (Read his blog on all things related to ICT use in education here. ) From what I understand, he is involved in the “knowledge sharing” aspect of the World Bank. That is, instead of providing financing to ICT projects in education, he lends his expertise to projects through support and advise. Most commonly, countries interested in incorporating technology will ask him what types of hardware they should invest in, and Trucano will try to get policy makers to ask what he sees as more important questions: what about training, content, evaluation?
One point that excited me about his lecture was his description of how mobile phones are being used to disseminate reading material to adolescents who previously did not have much access to printed books. This was something I noticed in Fez, Morocco: there was one bookstore that sold novels in Arabic that would appeal to teenagers. Of course there might have been more, the point is that you couldn’t just walk on down to the local library and check out a bunch of fun books to read. You had to do some serious searching. Granted, there was a lot of religious and instructional material readily available, but again, nothing I would have picked up as a teenager. The desire to read is there though, as a few Moroccan friends of mine asked borrowed the few novels I did have in Arabic (being the first Twilight novel and the Egyptian novel The Yacoubian Building).
In any case, Trucano described how teenagers in South Africa are sending each other novels via their mobile phones and are reading and even writing responses (commonly in the form of fan fiction) on their devices. Everyone I knew in Morocco had access to a mobile phone, if not their own personal device, so it seems like an exciting and realistic way to get engaging reading material to anyone who wants it.