One of the greatest challenges in designing applications for developing communities is that potential users may have limited literacy. Past work in UI design for low-literate users has focused on illiteracy as the inability to read per se, with little recognition to other cognitive differences between literate and non-literate users.
In this paper, we investigate the correlation between literacy and cognitive skills for conceptual abstraction using video-based skills training. We performed a controlled experiment that compared 28 non-literate and 28 literate participants from low-income communities in India. Results confirm that both the groups did worse when a skill required generalization from instructional material, compared with the case when instructional material was specifically and exactly tailored to the skill. Literate participants did better than non-literate participants all-around on this learning task. In addition, we found that diversification of examples within instructions helped literate participants in transfer of learning, but did not help non-literate participants. We conclude that ICT UI and content for low-literate users should be sensitive to issues beyond strict illiteracy, to additional cognitive differences among these users.