The WISE Awards

The Talking Book Program

Activity: Empowering people living in the most underserved areas to reduce poverty, disease, and preventable deaths.

Name of the Organization: Literacy Bridge

Headquarter: USA

Geographical reach: Ghana

Number of beneficiaries: 60,000 children

Project Representative: Mr. Cliff Schmidt

Websites: http://www.literacybridge.org

2015 WISE Awards - Talking book with user

About the Project


Through partnerships with local government and non-government agencies, the project produces and records relevant, timely, and practical audio lessons on sustainable farming methods and key health practices. The messages take the form of interviews, songs, dramas, and audio stories that are loaded on to a Talking Book, an affordable audio computer designed for people who cannot read and who have no access to electricity. A series of Talking Books are then distributed by local Community Agents to households within each village in Ghana. 
Context and Issue

Literacy rates in the Upper West communities of Ghana are low (less than 10 percent) with close to 600,000 people living in the country’s remote rural areas. Seventy-seven percent of adults in the pilot program had never attended school, and there is rarely access to electricity or mobile data networks. While similar solutions such as mobile phones and radio programs may work in other countries, the Talking Book Program has proven to be an effective solution for this area because it does not require users to have literacy skills. The program can operate off locally available batteries, does not rely on mobile date networks, and it gives users the ability to listen to messages as many times as they need and whenever it is most convenient for them.
The Solution and Impact

In order to tackle this issue, Literacy Bridge has developed the Talking Book, which is an affordable audio computer designed specifically for people who cannot read and who live without electricity. Local experts easily record their knowledge in an oral form so that it can act like an audio library for people who cannot read. Anyone can then access the information repeatedly, whenever they need to apply it. They can also record their own messages to expand on existing ideas, share new information, or relay feedback to an organization. 

One of the strengths of the Talking Book is that it does not require grid electricity, as batteries that people are already using in their flashlights and radios will work fine in a Talking Book. While radio programs reach many people in one live broadcast, they cannot be replayed or shared with those who are unavailable. Mobile phone access is particularly a problem for women as less than nine percent of the one million women in rural areas of northern Ghana have mobile phones. In addition, those with mobile phones rarely have network coverage in their houses or on their farms, which makes the use of voice calls problematic. 

Currently, the Talking Book Program reaches 40,000 individuals (in about 5,000 households) in 50 villages in Ghana. By working with local experts such as the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and global organizations such as UNICEF, Literacy Bridge ensures the message content is culturally sensitive, geographically relevant, and appropriate.

Future Developments

Literacy Bridge’s future objectives include: 
  • Reducing unit cost and power cost for Talking Books
  • Leveraging other technology platforms when possible
  • Franchising content production and behavior change strategy