Having tasked technologists with challenges as diverse as Ted Talkin' artificial intelligence and bringing Star Trek's iconic tricorder to life, XPrize has now turned its attention to an equally ambitious task. Millions of children around the globe don't have basic literacy skills, presenting a problem that cannot be solved without some big picture thinking. Launching today, the Global Learning XPrize offers US$15 million in prize money for the development of software that teaches children these vital skills in the space of 18 months, without the presence of a teacher.
"Two-hundred and fifty million children from around the world cannot read, write, or do basic arithmetic and many live in developing countries without regular access to schools or teachers," says Peter Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of XPrize. "It would take over one and a half million additional teachers to meet this unserved need. It is clear this traditional approach will not scale."
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XPrize's vision for shaking up education begins with a six-month team registration phase. Over the following 18 months, the teams will work toward developing open source software that can be used autonomously by children around the world as learning tools. A judging panel then picks out semi-finalists, who are afforded a month to fine-tune their approach.
Five finalists are then selected and each awarded $1 million with their solutions implemented across more than 100 rural villages in developing countries. With 3,000 English speaking children putting the software to the test, the team whose work results in the greatest proficiency gains in reading, writing and arithmetic are awarded the grand prize of $10 million.
All five finalists will have their solutions open-sourced, a mechanism that XPrize hopes will trigger a revolution by enabling the world unprecedented access to tools that can educate the youth, literally at the touch of a button.
In addition to the $15 million in prize money (already in the bank), XPrize is looking to raise $500,000 in crowdfunding to build a global community around the project, along with helping fund the field trials and testing. Perks range from $10 website credits to $25,000 ambassador packages that grant entry to future XPrize events. You can head over to the Indiegogo page if you'd like to get involved.
Diamandis outlines the goals of the Global Learning XPrize in the video below.