The Story

In developed countries, sleek tablets and e-readers have replaced large, heavy textbooks. In the Philippines, however, even the cheapest electronic models cost more than a family's monthly income. Smart, the country's largest telecom, wanted to make textbooks more accessible using the only gadget most Filipino families own: an analogue mobile phone. The company turned these phones into low-tech e-readers for students in an initiative called TXTBKS, which was launched in four partner schools with around 800 students.

Digital textbooks for those in need  

To create TXTBKS, Smart, with help from authors and publishers, condensed official school texts into 160-character text messages and replaced the phone’s contact list with a table of contents. Using a SIM reader and SIM writing software, the company then programmed the texts into the inboxes of thousands of inactive surplus SIM cards.

The Results

Teachers noticed that their students participated more in class when using TXTBKS. One child psychologist attributed this to the kids' exposure to technology – a first for many of them. The Department of Education in the Philippines is currently studying the adoption of TXTBKS on a nationwide scale. STRYBKS, an offshoot for use in local orphanages, made its international debut in South Africa in June 2014.