Technology has, over the years, come to run our lives.  We rely upon it for anything ranging from healthcare innovation to entertainment.  Even now, you are reading this article that was composed on a computer for you to read on the Internet.  No paper newsletter for you.

It is precisely because technology is so all-encompassing for us that the following statistic is so shocking: 1 billion adults worldwide are illiterate.  Equaling 26% of the world’s total adult population, there are 1 billion people who cannot partake in the reading of this article, which you may be taking for granted.

Technology may have made reading and writing even more accessible in our sphere but in lesser-developed areas, such advancements are not seen.  According to UNESCO, the entire continent of Africa has a literacy rate of less than 60%.  Compare that to the 99% literacy rate in the United States.

However, there is hope.

Numerous organizations are dedicated to eradicating illiteracy. Here are five of the top literacy initiatives worldwide.

1. ProLiteracy

The mission statement of ProLiteracy is a perfect articulation of why literacy should be on the forefront of global advocacy: “…when individuals the world over learn to read, write, do basic math and use computers, the more likely they are to lift themselves out of poverty.”  The organization makes literacy for women in developing nations as a top action addressed by their donations and programs.

2. UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning

UNESCO hosts a “LitBase” website, which chronicles programs worldwide that have been successful in combating illiteracy.  In doing so, UNESCO hopes to have a go-to source for advocates interested in starting or joining the cause.

3. World Literacy Foundation

The World Literacy Foundation was founded in 2003 to promote awareness of illiteracy by bringing together various government organizations and NGOs.  Some of the programs championed by the Foundation include the Write On English writing competition in Azerbaijan, founding the Centre of Hope computer center in Uganda and the USAID-supported Fantastic Phonics computer program.

4. Global Literacy Project

A key program of the Global Literacy Project is the shipment of books and basic educational supplies throughout Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.  The Walk-for-Literacy fundraiser housed at Rutgers University is run through the Global Literacy Project as well.


Founded at the University of Pennsylvania through a partnership with UNESCO, (formerly the Literacy Research Center) has been training teachers and advocates of literacy since 1983. also hosted a summer intensive workshop in Philadelphia for mid-career professionals interested in promoting literacy in developing countries.

Taylor Diamond

Sources: ProLiteracy, UNESCO LitBase, World Literacy Project, Global Literacy Project,
Photo: Vintage 3D