Colin McElwee has a degree in Economics from the University of Manchester and a MBA from ESADE Business School. Colin has extensive for-profit and not-for-profit experience around the globe. He was an economist for several Brussels-based lobbies to the European Commission. Colin was also the Global Marketing Controller for Scottish & Newcastle where he oversaw Formula 1 sponsorship and product distribution to over 150 countries. He co-founded Worldreader in 2010 with the vision of creating 100's of millions of readers in sub Saharan Africa. Worldreader now also has operations in India, Jordan (for refugees) and South America.
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Worldreader is creating a future where everyone can be a reader. Using low-cost technology, such as e-readers and mobile phones, a personalized digital library, and a worldwide network of corporate and non-profit partners, Worldreader helps millions of people reach their potential. It offers a collection of more than 42,000 digital books from over 400 publishers in 43 languages, including Kiswahili, Hausa, Afrikaans and English, contributing to local heritage and identity.
Worldreader's overall goal is to contribute to eliminating poverty, reducing inequality and improving prosperity. Since 2010, Worldreader has reached over 7 million readers with a monthly readership of over 500,000. In 2017, readers spent 29 million hours reading from Worldreader's mobile phone library and e-readers – equivalent to reading Tolstoy's War and Peace over 900,000 times. The organization's Worldreader Kids programme combines a custom app on mobile phones with digital and community outreach. It has reached 203,000 families in India and helped 7,000 caregivers read more than four times every month with their children.
In primary schools, partner Pencils of Promise tested 1,000 students and found those in Worldreader's programme doubled their weekly reading time. Students with e-readers and teacher support achieved 6-times greater word recognition than controls. Worldreader's Ghana District Scale project aims to reach 45,000 primary school students in Ghana by 2020, empowering an entire school district and serving as a large-scale proof-point for the adoption of digital reading. In libraries, Worldreader's LEAP project serves all 62 Kenya National Library Service branches. Since June 2016, e-readers in the libraries, each holding 200 local and international books, have been checked out over 500,000 times. The organization aims to serve library systems in Ghana, Uganda and Zambia next.
Adult women read 207 minutes per month, which is 6-times more than men, on their mobile phones using Worldreader apps, according to UNESCO's Reading in the Mobile Era report. Over 150 African publishers have attended Worldreader's capacity-building Digital Reading Summits. In total, Worldreader has distributed over $1.5 million to more than 400 local publishers for digital rights, strengthening local publishing ecosystems and local culture.