Smartphone designer Alain Capo honoured for contribution to literacy

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West African innovator and technology-telecommunications company owner Alain Capo has been announced the winner of the World Literacy Award for his outstanding contribution in the individual category.

An Ivory Coast entrepreneur, Capo invented the country's first locally-designed smartphone.

Capo's smartphone allows people to communicate in the 17 different languages spoken in the Ivory Coast and another 50 other West African languages. He was awarded at a special ceremony held at Oxford University, Oxford, UK, today as a part of the 2023 World Literacy Summit. Five hundred literacy specialists, 40 ambassadors and high commissioners were present during the presentation.

“It’s an amazing honor to receive this award and the global acknowledgment of the work in literacy as we increase access to education and literacy for all," Capo said. Today, forty percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is illiterate, and tens of millions of people face enormous challenges in life because they cannot read or write.

World Literacy Foundation CEO Andrew Kay said the World Literacy Awards "puts a spotlight on people and organisations doing exemplary and innovative work in the literacy sector." "We know the past 24 months have highlighted the need for communities to unite for literacy," he said. "The pandemic has caused serious disruption in the lives of people in sub-Saharan who can’t read and write, particularly those from low-income homes with limited access to books, education resources and online learning tools.” 

Capo's smartphone uses an operating system called "Kone” which enables illiterate people to speak into the phone to communicate in one of the many other regional dialects. World Literacy Council chair, and one of the 12 international Literacy Award judges, Dr Tony Cree said "Literacy is the ticket to learning, opportunity and empowerment." "Thanks to the World Literacy Awards today, we honour and celebrate the achievements of these extraordinary people and organisations in their efforts to advance reading levels, giving every young person the foundation for a better life." 

Through his work in telecommunications and technology and his advocacy for literacy, Mr Capo is a role model to other innovators in Africa. His long-term vision is to continue fighting illiteracy on the African continent and provide low-cost, simple-to-use digital tools to bridge the reading-writing gap. "I’ve seen, first-hand, the inequalities of education worldwide, and it inspired me to step up and make a difference,” Capo said.

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