Global Learning XPRIZE: $10M to be awarded for literacy software

Nearly 200 teams from 40 countries took part in the latest XPRIZE contest.After 15 months, a winner is to be announced from the five finalists.The winner gets the money — and a mandate to get tablets into the hands of impoverished children all over the world.Los Angeles – The challenge was to develop software that could easily be downloaded onto tablets that poor children around the world could use to teach themselves to read, write and do simple arithmetic. The incentive was $10 million for the winner.

Nearly 200 teams from 40 countries around the world jumped at the chance to become the latest winner of an XPRIZE. That’s a coveted international award funded by future-looking entrepreneurs, billionaires and philanthropists who have banded together with the goal of making the world a better place through technology.After 15 months of building software, putting it on tablets and having thousands of children in 141 remote villages in Tanzania test it, judges narrowed the competition for the XPRIZE For Global Learning to five final teams from New York City; Pittsburgh; Berkeley; London; and Bangalore, India.
The winner, to be announced Wednesday, will take home both the money and a mandate to develop plans for putting that cash to work getting tablets into the hands of children in impoverished places all over the world. And by Thursday the winner must upload to the internet the code created for the technology so anyone can have free access to it.All five finalists developed functional software that will go on the web, said Emily Musil Church, XPRIZE’s executive director of prize operations. It was an accomplishment, she acknowledged, that stunned both her and other XPRIZE leaders who fretted for a time that no one would be able to pull it off.”Are you sure about this?”
“From the beginning we weren’t sure any would work at all,” she said, adding with a chuckle: “All our experts said, ‘Are you sure about this?'”While it was a tough decision to pick a winner from that field, she said, some technology did rise above the others. Not that any XPRIZE competition is easy.”Our specialty is making sure we frame the problem in a way that is audacious but at the same time achievable and really advances the field,” said XPRIZE Foundation CEO Anousheh Ansari, who funded the first prize, also for $10 million, for private space flight. Elon Musk put up the money for this one.The Ansari prize’s winning team of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and aviation pioneer Burt Rutan needed nearly a decade to accomplish their space-travel goal, but they created a new industry by sending their privately piloted SpaceShipOne into space in 2004.Since then the XPRIZE Foundation has funded more than a dozen other prizes for those pursuing such innovations as making water for drought-stricken areas by heating air in shipping containers, creating sensors that allow people to track their health in real time and developing advanced ways to study ocean contamination.