Back in 2014, XPrize launched a new competition designed to tackle illiteracy in the developing world. Like all XPrize competitions, the Global Learning challenge was aimed at solving a big problem by offering up serious prize money to technology teams all the world. In this case, the problem to be addressed is the fact that hundreds of millions of children around the world cannot read, write or do basic arithmetic. The competition has now been whittled down to five finalists.
Entrants to the Global Learning XPrize were tasked with creating scalable software solutions that can help fill a huge gap in children's education. In the words of XPrize CEO Peter Diamandis at the time, 250 million kids around the world can't read, write or do basic arithmetic, with many of them living in the developing world. He says it would require more than one and a half million teachers to meet their needs.
So the idea behind this competition was to inspire ideas for open source software that children can use autonomously as learning tools. The competition drew a total of 198 teams, which a panel of 11 experts have now reduced to five finalists.
Chimple from India is building a learning platform that uses explorative games and stories to teach children reading, writing and maths skills, while Kitkit School from the US is using a game-based approach. Robotutor from the US is tapping into speech recognition and machine learning technologies, CCI (also from the US) is building instructional programs and team onebillion (UK/Malawi/Tanzania) is using adaptive learning modules that can respond to different children's needs.
All of these teams have been awarded $1 million to go on building their software and are required to make it open source, so anyone can build on it. They will now have their solutions field-tested by around 4,000 children from 150 villages in Tanzania. Those kids will use Google Pixel C tablets to put the programs through their paces over around 15 months, with the team whose program enables the greatest proficiency gains at the end to receive the $10 million grand prize in April 2019.
"Our five finalists are developing the most promising software solutions to enable children to teach themselves basic reading, writing and arithmetic, as determined by our panel of expert judges," said Matt Keller, senior director of the Global Learning XPRIZE. "As we move to the final field testing phase, we are one step closer to scaling transformative technology solutions that foster child-driven learning and provide a world-class education for all."