Deutsche Welle’s trying to use Africa’s mobile-phone boom to spread news by new means

As the fastest-growing mobile market on the planet, Africa is facing huge opportunities — and distinct challenges — in news dissemination.

By the end of the year, it’s estimated that more than three-quarters of the population will be cell phone subscribers, including in places where literacy rates are low and electricity is unavailable. To better serve that demographic, German media giant Deutsche Welle is using over-the-phone voice technology to deliver news.

No Internet access necessary: Just dial a number to access the program Learning by Ear, an educational show for teenagers that mixes news and explainers having to do with health, politics, the economy, the environment, and social issues.

The show’s already available in languages like English, French, Hausa, and Swahili. In the past year, it was introduced in Tanzania and in Niger. The plan is to launch the program in four more nations — Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Liberia — “within the next weeks,” Naser Schruf, Deutsche Welle’s head of distribution for Africa and the Middle East, told me in an email.  By

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