Technology and Mother-Tongue Literacy in Southern India: Impact Studies Among Young Children and Out-of-School Youth

Daniel A. Wagner, C.J. Daswani, Ronilla Karnati

Abstract


The present research began with one main question: How can new technologies be effective for poor and illiterate children and youth in developing countries? We addressed this question through a research-based implementation project in India that included the development of local language multimedia software for literacy; a built-in, user-friendly interface; and the use of existing computer infrastructure. Two studies were undertaken in Andhra Pradesh state. One included a sample of youth and young adults who had never gone to school (or dropped out early) in peri-urban Hyderabad, and the other was composed of young second- and third-grade school children in rural West Godavari district. Based on a short-term intervention program, research results demonstrated a modest positive impact on the learning rate in reading with both groups of learners (when compared with control groups without the multimedia intervention). The fndings provide support for the view that information and communications technologies for development can assist in promoting literacy among the poorest of the poor. In addition, the present results support the view that the digital divide, as it evolves over time, will only be narrowed when content-based solutions are sensitive to, and built on cultural
and linguistic diversity.

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