Saturday, May 31, 2008

Literacy for a billion: PlanetRead

One of the most exciting literacy social enterprises that I've run into is PlanetRead. Founded by Indian Institute of Management professor Brij Kothari, the first concept was same language subtitling. When Brij heard I was going to South India, he insisted I visit his team in Pondicherry.

Door signs for Planet Read and BoobboxPlanet Read added subtitles to Bollywood music videos. Hundreds of millions of people now see these videos, eager to learn the words of their favorite videos and becoming literate along the way. They have also done extensive measurements of their impact and see real progress on advancing literacy. Another example of scale, South Asian style!

The team I met were working on multimedia literacy content as part of Bookbox, and were busy using Adobe products to deliver cool ways to learn to read.
They first created original visual story content, and then added different languages. In addition to a print book, they have multimedia content that animates the characters and adds audio narration.

They are already well past doing just Indian languages.

I also watched them use licensed characters from top Asian media properties to create a fresh set of content. I could really see how they are continuing to leverage popular media properties (like the Bollywood videos) to enhance literacy.

I came away from my day-trip to Pondicherry impressed yet again with Indian social enterprise. These groups are even more ambitious and disciplined than the American social enterprises I run into. And, I felt privileged to be able to meet these teams on their home turf. Actually visiting social enteprises and seeing them in action is incredibly exciting.

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