As a researcher who has a particular interest in mobile learning in the majority world, this proposition is certainly interesting. However, I contend that it is ultimately unsustainable at best and at worst paradoxically risks increasing marginalisation. A key issue related to the use of mobile learning in the majority world is the everyday lives of learners. The idea of bringing educational content to marginalised communities means that the complexities of their lives must be taken into account. This is particular true for girls. Recent work at the Institute of Education by Jenny Parkes and Jo Heslop for Action Aid has evidenced how “[p]overty intersects with gendered inequalities in creating barriers to schooling for girls, with girls missing out on schooling because of household chores and childcare, farm work, inability to pay school fees, early pregnancy and marriage.” In this context, the idea that access can be addressed through content delivery alone seems somewhat idealistic.
Although not focused on mobile learning, an early pointer to informal learning in the majority world was Mitra’s “Hole in the Wall”, a kiosk where children could supposedly become computer literate by themselves. In actuality, research undertaken by Payal Arora has shown that a small number of boys usually dominate kiosk use and were very selective with whom they would engage with for peer learning. Thus, even within communities, the members of which are all supposed to benefit, marginalisation occurred. Moreover, without proper embedding into the social context, the kiosks went unused after project funding ended. The risk is that if a similar stand-alone approach is followed with mobile learning projects, similar undesirable outcomes may emerge.