I'd like to address specifically the mobile component of this idea - which often becomes embroiled in technical jargon and even risks becoming the central idea itself! Mobile is simply, because of its current reach and projected growth, a very efficient and effective delivery mechanism for a great idea. Without a great idea, it doesn't mean much. The success of its use remains as much HUMAN as it is technical.
E1M has a proven platform and mobile tools to access and engage people at the base of the pyramid and those in the emerging middle class in sub-Saharan Africa via mobile. We run a series of mobile services (mobi-sites) across health, education and livelihoods and our dedicated Community Managers manage daily interaction with hundreds of thousands of users across Africa and keep content valuable and meaningful. Comments, opinions, polls, learning quizzes, user-generated content, expert questions and answers, short courses, peer forums, surveys, diaries....Mobile for Development is no longer ONE WAY push messaging- it is TWO WAY and highly interactive - and E1M specialiazes in low-end devices, which is key given the context of this idea and its target audience.
How do people find these sites? They are listed on some of the most populous social media messaging platforms in Africa; we work with partner organisations who have physical networks and access to communities on the ground to whom they promote our sites; where possible we work in partnership with Mobile Network Operators.
This idea is not only scalable, but the concept of a mobile-based Phonics 'Course' paired with an online community of teachers and experts can be replicated to deliver information and interactive services and peer-to-peer community to the general public or targeted populations (parents, students, frontline health workers, informal entrepreneurs) around any development topic... (financial literacy, maternal health, vocational development, academic studies..)
In some cases digital literacy, or "cell phone literacy"(eg. how to access internet on your phone and get the most out of it) may be required. We don't see this as a long term barrier as mobile continues to become entrenched in our daily lives, but acknowledge that teachers specifically over the age of 35 may need some encouragement and direction to make full use of the devices they own - this is where local partnerships in the field are invaluable. Other population groups, specifically youth, will require little or no intervention to navigate proficiently. We have witnessed peers helping each other to navigate and find 'the best content' or a specific site- and in the process gaining valuable, fun, learning and debate with friends, peers or family.
We also think that there is huge potential for this idea to generate extremely valuable data and feedback from frontline educators and reflect this back to the education research and development community - and mobile is a powerful way of achieving this too!
This idea is really innovative and takes advantage of the current and future technical landscape. Mobile presents a powerful opportunity to address the lack of quality educational resources and access to these by under-resourced teachers. Mobile penetration in Ghana is over 100% and nearly a quarter of the population already has access to broadband speed internet via their phones. The GSMA's latest Digital Inclusion Report estimates that by 2020 3 billion people worldwide will be online via their phones, and that 50% of these users will come from developing nations.
Using the mobile web, in parallel with other traditional channels like radio and SMS, means that the user experience and real value in terms of content and services, can be far more rich and interactive. When carefully designed and developed to meet local needs, "digital communities" can be formed to provide real, long term support to large numbers of teachers, listen to their needs, as well as track long term impact.
Phonics by Phone, as a concept, is only a matter of time - its need is evident and the route to achieving it is clear. The team has made significant progress already. This is an idea that can be taken to scale and achieve great impact!