Opera and Worldreader expand access to free ebooks for children and students in Africa during the COVID-19

Opera, one of the world’s leading browser providers, and international nonprofit organization, Worldreader, are expanding the access to ebooks for children and students via the Opera Mini browser during the coronavirus outbreak. Starting this week, Worldreader will offer a new selection of ebooks to Opera Mini users as well as a  brand new web app designed for children. 

The regular version of the Worldreader app provides ebooks for young adult readers. It features hundreds of books for learning and pleasure, in categories including Learn, Health, and Career. Over 100,000 people already read from it each month, with new readers joining every day. The new app BookSmart from Worldreader, offers a wide variety of ebooks dedicated for children. Both apps can be accessed from the Opera Mini browser, after tapping on the Worldreader speed dial icon. Once accessed, users will be able to click on a banner taking them to the new children’s app, BookSmart. BookSmart is also available at www.worldreader.org/booksmart-app/.

“When considering how to mitigate learning loss in a pandemic, it should be a top priority to address supporting reading skills and engagement with books, bridging the gap until schools are in session again,” said Rebecca Chandler Leege, Worldreader’s Chief Impact Officer. “Through mobile technology we are able to support the distribution of ebooks and attend the needs of millions thanks to the massive reach of the Opera Mini browser in Africa.”

According to UNESCO,  as of 24 March 2020, 82% of the world’s learners have been shut out of traditional schooling and education programs due to social distancing.

School closures can result in significant learning loss for students. In response to this global health crisis, UNESCO is supporting the implementation of large-scale distance learning programs and recommending open educational applications and platforms that schools and teachers can use to reach learners remotely.

Promoting literacy since 2015

Since 2015, Opera and Worldreader have successfully promoted literacy worldwide, with greater attention in Africa to enable millions of people to read free books. However, there are several barriers in certain African communities to access online educational materials, especially when schools are shut down. 

High data costs, basic phones, and slow mobile networks, are some of the main difficulties for accessing educational online content. 

“Throughout Africa, mobile data is very expensive and the Opera Mini browser is massively popular in Africa due to its ability to reduce web page sizes and save up to 90% of their mobile data”, said Jørgen Arnesen, Head of Marketing and Distribution at Opera. “We believe that millions of children and students can benefit from our partnership with Worldreader, and access educational online content while COVID-19 outbreak lasts.”

According to the 2019 edition of the Global Digital Report, there are more than 437 million internet users in Africa, presenting a great opportunity to increase online reading, particularly when one in five internet users in Africa chooses Opera browsers every day. 

“The low bandwidth required on the Opera Mini browser means that readers use less data when accessing the Worldreader app – which is vital for youth in remote communities with slow networks,” said Chandler Leege.

Digital solutions are key for keeping children and youth reading

For children and youth, reading can support literacy skills, 21st Century Skills, work preparedness, self-help, and health education while also offering the opportunity to visit worlds beyond their own while their own worlds are limited by social distancing. 

The Worldreader app gives readers access to one of the largest catalogs of free ebooks available. In 2019,  nearly one million out of the 1.6 million people in Africa read free digital books thanks to the availability of the app via the Opera Mini browser. BookSmart offers children and their parents books curated especially for them.

Digital solutions are key to keeping students reading while schools are out of session. With the Worldreader apps, children and the youth can maintain reading skills, learn new subjects, and enjoy the escape books provide during this pandemic.