$15M Global Learning XPRIZE
Written by Sue Gee   
Thursday, 25 September 2014

A crowdfunded challenge from XPRIZE to create tablet-based open source software to provide basic education in reading, writing and arithmetic aims to bring literacy to over 250 million children around the world.



XPRIZE is an educational nonprofit organization which manages large-scale, high-profile, competitions in order to "bring  about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity".

This video sets the scene for the latest contest which challenges teams from around the world to develop open source and scalable software that will enable children in developing countries to teach themselves basic reading, writing and arithmetic.



Details of the competition are summarized in a document that starts by explaining why this competition is needed. While achievement of universal primary education by the year 2015 was one of the eight United Nations Millennium Goals, there are still 57 million children around the world who have no access to any kind of primary schooling and another 250 million kids who have some schooling but still lack basic literacy and numeracy.

It goes on:

Technology-based learning enables children to learn at their own pace in their own space. This is particularly important in impoverished communities where children—especially girls—are expected to contribute to the work of the family or may not have a safe school environment.

The Global Leaning XPRIZE is therefore looking for a software solution, essentially an Android tablet app, described as

"adaptable, child-driven learning" that "has the potential not only to reach tens of millions of more children, but also to dramatically reduce the time it takes to learn".




The prizes on offer are five prizes of $1M to the top five teams whose entry "shows the most promise for effective learning of reading, writing, and numeracy" and a Grand Prize of $10M to the one of these that "generates the greatest aggregate learning achievement and the most valuable advances in educational software.

The competition is open to individuals and pre-formed teams and has a timeline stretching over four and a half years. Registration is now open and teams have until March 31, 2015 to register and pay the registration fee of $500.

After registration has closed teams will have 18 months, until September 30, 2016 to develop their solutions. Semi-finalists will be announced in 1st Quarter of 2107 followed by a "Team Summit for Semi-finalists to convene and/or team up".

The rubric states:

XPRIZE encourages Teams to merge, reorganize, collaborate and/or share technical assets during the course of the Competition in order to create the most effective Entries with the highest likelihood of winning a Prize, subject to the terms and conditions in the Competitor Agreement.

Once the semi-finalists submit updated entries, the judges will choose five finalists. Their apps will then undergo an 18-month phase of field testing in the developing world. The Grand Prize Winner will be announced in early 2019.

After the competition is over the winning technology will be will be open-sourced for iteration, sharing and future development. According to the FAQs:

If XPRIZE can prove that children can teach themselves and each other how to read, write, and do basic math, the breakthrough in how the world thinks about how children learn would be explosive.  From that moment onward, we believe that governments, international institutions and individuals from around the world will invest in technology proven to help children learn how to read. The end result of a successfully designed and operated prize is the creation of a new industry or industry-catalyzing technologies.


In order to promote XPRIZE is looking to raise $500,000 through a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. Every dollar contributed is actually worth $2 as philanthropists Dick & Betsy DeVoshave pledged to match all contributions up to a total of $250,000 USD. Contributions start at $10 and for $100 you get early access to the software at least 18 months in advance of its general open source release.
Click on this infographic to see the perks on offer:




The Indiegogo campaign runs until November 6, 2014

This XPRIZE seems to be well worth getting involved with - either to spread the word as an advocate or to participate as a software developer in the competition. Universal literacy is a problem to which an open source Android tablet-based app could well be the solution.    



More Information


Global Learning XPrize

Global Learning XPrize Summary

Global Learning XPrize on Indiegogo

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 25 September 2014 )