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Closing the Door to Illiteraracy

A mother learning English side by side with her daughter

Liu Ying is a divorced mother with a ten-year old daughter who works in an industrial cement plant in Heibei Province, China. When I interviewed her for my documentary SPILLED WATER, she said, "In this digital century, I want my daughter to be well-educated, maybe even become a PhD." Her dream is a bold one, but maybe a bit of a reach due to her economic circumstance. But she acknowledges the power of the internet, and spent more than half a month of her salary to buy a cheap computer to help her daughter learn English.

On the other hand, a Dongzu minority singer in Guizhou has little access to the web because the infrastructure was not available. She depends on her mobile phone to communicate with the outside world. She, too, recognizes the importance of education for her son and wishes that he can have access.

Simply put, it is widely acknowledged that the decline of illiteracy is closely related to the accessibility to the Internet. By opening a whole new world of knowledge for women, it helps to stimulate independent thinking and erode traditions that hold them back. How can we inspire a collective movement to help them recognize their rights and worth? How can we motivate them to dream big and not giving them up as "pipe-dreams"? Most important, how can we persuade the developed world to share their resources and know-how to help the under-developed world to make the internet infrastructure, software and hardware available — like cheap computers, tablets, smart phones, online schools, online banking etc.?

Until we find a way to help women in far away places to connect to the world can they assert their new found freedom to forge changes and improve on the lives of others.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Women Weave the Web Digital Action Campaign. Learn more »


Kadidia's picture

Internet for literacy


For people living in remote areas, the internet is a way to communicate the rest of the world. It has also become a mean to access education.
This document shows that everywhere in the world there is an understanding of the power of the internet to improve one's life trough knowledge.
This is comforting to know. Thank you for sharing with us.

Kadidia Doumbia

Phoenixdocu's picture

Thanks for the feedback

Dear Kadidia,
There is the desire, the acknowledgement, the efforts ... and if only we can harness the resources to help literacy for women in the developing world, it will make the world a better and safer place.

So ... where are those global corporate citizens when we need them?

Kind regards,

gracest's picture

Thank you~

Dear Phoenixdocu,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and excerpts from your documentary.. I certainly intend to watch it now that I have become aware of its existence!
This may be answered in your documentary, but in your fieldwork did you encounter any global corporate citizens that WERE setting a good example of inclusion by offering resources to developing communities? If so who were they, and how can we spread the word about it?

Also-- just an FYI that the link to your documentary Web site is broken. If you have the ability to go back and fix that it might help some readers get to your site quicker :)

Thanks again,


Hi Grace,
My apologies for the broken link on my website It is now fixed and hope you have an opportunity to view my trailer. Also don't forget to watch the 3 web shorts under the ABOUT page.

To answer your question about global corporate citizens' support of education or well-being of their host countries I do not have much information and don't know the scale of their contribution. When I was at the Training School for Rural Women (in my film) I noted Microsoft logo on a plague and maybe Coke too as supporters. I think this would be a great area for Women NGOs to explore and research to advocate for workers who raise their corporate bottom-line. I believe we have the responsibility to put back what we've gotten out of in every society. The media's job is to raise awareness of the issues --- like my doc, and hopefully synergize with others efforts to effect change. That's why I think WorldPulse is a great platform to look at issues from a global perspective and help make changes for the better.

My film is now being submitted to film festivals and hopefully will make it to your town. You can also check on its own FaceBook page : for status and other info.

Thanks again for your kind words and interest.


gracest's picture


Re: the nods to Microsoft and Coke- Indeed, the concept of "corporate social responsibility" has been given higher priority by big corps over the years, as people have become better watchdogs and more conscious consumers, but we have to wonder just how much is being done by these companies and how much is just presented to satisfy public demand ..
Thank you for sharing the links! Best of luck with the process of moving your film forward into the public eye. I intend to watch it.


amymorros's picture


Interesting documentary and timely too. I wish you the best as you distribute it and increase awareness of this subject. I must confess, I do not know the first thing about film or documentaries but I do know this is a compelling subject and that the trailer of Spilled Water makes me want to know more.
It is depressing when we think about the ruling of the many by the few and how those with power simply exploit it and take advantage of it for their own gain. I wish I knew the precise answer of how to change mentalities and corporate control over internet accessibility. I do know your work and the work of many other on World Pulse is key.


Leslie Stoupas's picture

Sharing resources

I agree with you that sharing resources is a necessary and easy first step to helping increase digital literacy in rural and/or underdeveloped areas of the world. Do you know of any current efforts to do this? Sometimes it is easier to expand efforts that are already in place than to start from the very beginning! I wonder, also, if there is a matter of combining traditional education with digital literacy skills to help the young students who are coming into an already advanced technological world. I am looking forward to watching your documentary as well and engaging with more of your ideas!

Leslie Stoupas

Phoenixdocu's picture

Corporate citizens

Hello Leslie and Amy,
Thanks for your comments and kind words. I'm not an expert on global literacy programs or know the workings of global corporate citizenship. But my feeling is as the world seems to get smaller yet the wealth gap seems to get wider, there must be a way to get the BPs and Exxons of the world to invest locally in places where they exploit. I've recently read an article about how BP tries to squirm their way out of settlements for the shrimp fishermen after the Gulf Coast Oil Spill in 2010 — and that's taking place in this country! Imagine that in other countries with a weaker and maybe more corrupt government.

I do know P&G, Levis Stauss and maybe Pepsi have a charity arm in countries when they set up shop. But I don't know the depth and breadth of their contribution to the welfare of the people. But also imagine the possibilities of their contribution to the literacy programs? We all know that education contributes to prosperity and rising standard of living and in turn contribute to equality and peace to all nations. Online education is getting very popular in the west, how can that be implemented in the developing countries where people have no digital access?

Be nice to know or tap into resources of those who's doing the good work.


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