Addressing illiteracy and global poverty
Listening to local voices
In 2006, Amplio's founder Cliff Schmidt had an idea for a low-cost, low-tech device to help share knowledge with rural communities in low-income countries. Specifically, he wanted to bridge the gap for people with illiteracy.
With that goal, Cliff founded Literacy Bridge, a 503(c) nonprofit organization, and began leading the development of the Talking Book, a durable, battery-powered audio device designed for people with low literacy.
When the first Talking Book prototypes were field-tested with school children in northern Ghana, the idea was for kids to listen and read along to improve their literacy skills.
But community health workers and agricultural extension agents had a different idea: They saw the Talking Book as an innovative, portable device for sharing health and agricultural education with underserved rural communities.
Local experts explained that there were too many villages, too far apart. In Ghana, for example, the extension officer to farmer ratio is as high as 1:1500 farmers.
Poor road infrastructure was also a problem, making it hard to reach communities.
When community agents did visit a village to conduct outreach activities, many people couldn’t attend because they were working in their fields. Meanwhile, those who did attend couldn’t take notes or read printed materials due to illiteracy. Instead, they had to remember everything they heard about recommended health behaviors or agriculture practices.
Also, women were far less likely to participate. They were too busy with child care, household responsibilities, and farm work. Traditional social and gender norms created further barriers.
With this local input, the organization shifted its focus to bridging the knowledge gap for people with low literacy.
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In 2017, we changed our name to Amplio Network. Amplio is a Latin verb that means “make wider, increase, extend, amplify.” Our name speaks volumes.
Today, our Amplio Talking Book program has reached over 2 million people in 14 countries. Our technology is helping to improve program reach, message quality, and community engagement across many issues—leading to greater social impact.
Operating in new countries and regions, including Ethiopia, Haiti, and Bangladesh. Launched a suite of self-service products to help our partners more easily and cost-effectively launch and run Talking Book programs.
Selected for the Niger Smart Villages project. Began developing a new Talking Book prototype with a rechargeable battery.
Changed our name to Amplio Network. Partnered with UNICEF Rwanda to deliver health and hygiene messages to 50,000 refugees at Mahama Camp.
Received WISE Award for innovation in education. Partnered with AGRA to deliver Talking Book programs for smallholder farmers in 73 communities in northern Ghana.
Partnered with UNICEF Ghana to reach 49 communities in the Upper West Region with maternal and child health education.
First Talking Book prototypes field-tested with rural communities in northern Ghana.
Achieved the milestone of reaching over one million Talking Book listeners! Partnered with UNICEF and Ghana Health Service on a COVID-19 awareness campaign in Ghana. Partnered with Landesa in Liberia and VSO in Zambia.
In Kenya, USAID's Afya Timiza project used Talking Books to deliver quality health education to semi-nomadic pastoralists. At intervention sites, health facilities saw a 110% increase in the number of pregnant women attending ANC visits.
Partnered with Centre for Behaviour Change and Communication to pilot Talking Books with pastoralist communities in Kenya. Developed affiliate program model.
Partnered with MEDA to provide Talking Books for over 600 women farmers groups, as part of the Greater Rural Opportunities for Women project funded by Global Affairs Canada.
First impact study completed, showing that Talking Books made a significant impact on agriculture knowledge and healthy behaviors for people with low literacy levels. Signed first partnership with World Cocoa Foundation.
Amplio was founded (as Literacy Bridge) by Cliff Schmidt, with the idea that those who are most impacted by global poverty are impeded by illiteracy.
“We can’t wait for the 800 million illiterate adults to become literate. That’s why we took a two-pronged approach—improve literacy and provide knowledge."
Cliff Schmidt, Amplio Founder