Literacy, the ability to read and write, is an inherent marker and crucial measure of a population’s education as well as the foundation for success in every area of an individual’s life. The skills attained through literacy and education are integral to the ability to serve as a highly-functioning member of society. From a historical perspective, literacy levels for the world population have risen drastically in the last couple of centuries. While only 12% of the people in the world could read and write in 1820, today the share has reversed: only 17% of the world population remains illiterate.[1]

Albeit this encouraging statistic, there are still many challenges ahead, especially for countries mired in poverty. Such countries have many resource constrictions, and the task of fundamental education development and dissemination takes a large hit, which ends up leaving large swathes of their population illiterate. For example, countries with the lowest literacy rates in the world Burkina Faso (12.8%), Nigeria (14.4%) and Mali (19%).[2] UNESCO’s "Global Monitoring Report on Education for All (2006)”, shows a clear connection between illiteracy, poverty and prejudice against women.

To recognize the efforts of various organizations and communities to promote literacy as well to serve as a continuous reminder to the global community to persevere in this pursuit, UNESCO proclaimed 8th September as International Literacy Day (ILD), on 26th October 1966. ILD had its first celebration in 1967, and it has taken place at a global scale annually, coordinated by UNESCO, countries and partners, to encourage the literacy agenda at global, regional and national levels.

ILD has always had a theme each year that resonates with the current socio-economics scenario prevailing around the world. This year the theme is ‘Literacy in a digital world’. The main objectives are:

• To reflect on what it means to be literate in increasingly digitally-mediated societies;
• To explore effective policies and programmes for literacy skills development in a digital world; and
• To explore how digital technologies can support progress towards youth and adult literacy. [3]

The digital landscape has been rapidly developing over the last decade. The prevalent use of internet enabled mobile phones, tablets, computers and the like, goes into the million-population count. The world is increasingly getting more connected. There are pros and cons to this expansion, the biggest pro being that, with the dissemination of information through these channels being almost instantaneous and relatively low cost, individuals with access to such technology can enhance their skills and bring up their education levels. Services like health and education as well are easily deliverable in an efficient manner.

A downside is that almost half the global population, mostly those that belong to poor countries, do not have internet access, due to the uneven distribution of technological resources among privileged and non-privileged countries. Also, inhabitants of non-privileged countries lack the technical skills needed to access and analyze information from said technology, as opposed to the privileged group who can successfully utilize and apply the knowledge gleaned from these channels.

Based on this, on 7th and 8th September, 2017 a special two-day event will be organized at UNESCO’s Headquarters in Paris, with the overall aim to look at what kind of literacy skills people need to navigate increasingly digitally-mediated societies, and to explore effective literacy policies and programmes that can leverage the opportunities that the digital world provides. The Coca-Cola Company, sharing in the UNESCO vision, also believes that education is the key to socio-economic progress, and so we create, build and encourage educational programs for students of all ages. Our programs focus on building educational infrastructure; mentoring; reading and literacy; scholarships; business-education partnerships; and other local needs.

Coca-Cola Pakistan has furthered the cause of literacy by working with many NGO’s, like partnering with The Citizen’s Foundation (TCF), to build free schools for impoverished children and has also been supporting education for the less privileged through the CARE Foundation and through adoption of government schools, under the Adopt-a-School programme. The Coca-Cola Export Corporation (TCCEC) has set-up an endowment fund (courtesy of The Coca-Cola Foundation) at Pakistan's leading institution of higher education, the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), which funds a 4-year undergraduate education for two students hailing from adverse backgrounds.

Rizwan U. Khan, General Manager, The Coca-Cola Company, Pakistan & Afghanistan, stated, “Supporting education has been a pillar of Coca-Cola Pakistan’s corporate social responsibility programme for over 12 years. From establishing 2 schools for less privileged children in partnership with The Citizens Foundation, to adopting 6 government schools, to setting up an endowment fund at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, to supporting education sector NGO, CARE Foundation, and still other activities, Coca-Cola Pakistan has continually expanded its outreach in this vital area.And now the Coca-Cola Book Bank initiative takes our mission further forward, creating an excellent opportunity for the public to also participate in this noble mission through donating books on International Literacy Day and thus working to make education available to all.”

Coca-Cola Pakistan also funds the National Volunteer Programme powered by Triple Bottom Line, based in Karachi, which which is a specialized software serving as a connection between the NGOs and interested volunteers, which includes individuals as well as corporate entities. The Coca-Cola Company has earned its social license by ‘giving back to the communities’ and this NVP is another addition to the existing CSR portfolio of The Company. “The National Volunteer Programme is a technology-based initiative that will place corporate and other volunteers where they are most needed, and where their specific skills and personal interests will be perfectly matched with the needs of beneficiary institutions,” explains Zohare Ali Shariff, Executive Director of Triple Bottom Line. In addition, it also aids in developing linkages in civil society and the stakeholders involved. 


Individuals and companies who are interested in getting involved with National Volunteer Program can follow them on Facebook page

To donate books for our Coca-Cola Book Bank please contact us on cpakistanpac@coca-cola.com

[1]Literacy - Our World in Data
[2]"Global Education Monitoring Report". Unesco.org. Retrieved 2017-04-04.
[3] Literacy in a digital world