Project Literacy Partners with UNESCO to improve tech literacy

How can technology solutions be more inclusive, accessible and usable?

How can technology solutions be more inclusive, accessible and usable?


UNESCO, in partnership with Project Literacy, is seeking innovative and existing digital solutions to help include low-skilled, low-literate youth and adults in the information society and improve their livelihoods.

In the digital age, more than ever, literacy is the critical first step in the lifelong learning journey to improved quality of life, livelihood and work.  Information and communication technology (ICT) is fundamentally changing the way people live and work, learn and socialise. For many it enables a host of services – including administrative, health and agricultural – to be delivered in a more accessible and efficient way. But what about those who do not possess the skills necessary to access these services and fully participate in society?  

There are 758 million illiterate adults in the world, including 115 million youth. But lack of skills needed to benefit from digital technologies – from basic literacy and numeracy, to digital literacies and higher-order skills – is not confined to this group. In Europe, for example, an estimated 20 per cent of adults lack the literacy skills they need to function fully in a modern society. ICTs linked with livelihoods, work and social participation are enabling millions of users, but equally exclude hundreds of millions because they are low-skilled.

How can technology solutions – outside of education – be improved to be more inclusive, accessible and usable for low-skilled, low-literate youth and adults, and those who cannot read or write? How can digital solutions better provide an entry point for this group of people into digital economies, and, in the process, help them further develop their skills? What barriers need to be lowered to best acquire literacy?

UNESCO and Project Literacy have partnered to investigate, document, and share a number of innovative cases that have begun to answer these questions. Based on this study, UNESCO will develop specific guidelines to inform the work of digital solution providers, implementation and donor agencies, development partners, and governments who create policy conditions for greater inclusive use of technology.

This partnership seeks to show how, by taking a more inclusive approach, technology can contribute to helping all youth and a substantial proportion of adults achieve literacy and numeracy by 2030 – a target of the new Agenda for Sustainable Development.

How can digital solutions be improved to be more inclusive, accessible and usable for low-skilled, low-literate youth and adults, including 758 million people who cannot read or write?
How can inclusive solutions better serve the 45 per cent of European citizens considered not sufficiently equipped with the basic level of digital skills to functional fully in today’s information society?
How can digital solutions better provide an entry point for low-skilled and low-literate people into digital economies where, as a result of the development of their skills, their livelihoods are improved?

Inclusive digital solutions could allow for voice instead of text interaction, ranging from simple IVR to the latest advances in audio computing and natural language processing. Their interfaces could use icons and emojis to provide support for low-literate users. They could leverage artificial intelligence chat bots to provide first line support to low-skilled users.

The study is looking beyond the traditional education lens to link the use of inclusive digital solutions with improved livelihoods and lifelong learning. The five focus areas are e-Health services; Agricultural extension services; e-Administration/e-government services; e-Services for migrant people, for example, those fleeing conflict and crisis; and “Green”/environmental services, such as more sustainable consumption and production patterns.

Find out more about this exciting initiative and how to submit case studies at the UNESCO website.

20 Feb 2017 - 18:28

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