By Peter High. Published in Forbes
Last September, Tesla and SpaceX Chief Elon Musk provided $15 million to the Global Learning XPRIZE. The goal is to develop methods to teach the 250 million children who do not have access to primary or secondary education the means to teach themselves to read, write, and do math within 15 months. While programs exist to build schools and train teachers, they cannot scale fast enough to meet demand.
Illiteracy has long precluded individuals from joining local economies, but as our world increasingly becomes hyperconnected, this preclusion is greater than ever before. Consider an illiterate child in the developing world. A decade ago, illiteracy may have prevented them from running a farm in their local community. Today, ubiquitous connectivity, digital commerce platforms, and innovations such as Estonia’s e-Residency program means that an illiterate child will instead be locked out of opportunities at a global scale.
A Radical Solution
While technological progress may have made the problem of illiteracy more acute, it may also hold the solution. “The genius to solve these problems resides in the crowd,” says Matt Keller, Senior Director of the Global Learning XPRIZE. “And technology enables XPRIZE to reach the crowd.”
Founded by Peter Diamandis, XPRIZE is an nonprofit “innovation engine” that uses gamification, crowdsourcing, and incentive prize theory to provide incentives for competition and bring about radical breakthroughs that solve global grand challenges. After a number of successful competitions – most famously the $10 million Ansari XPRIZE that catalyzed the private space race.
The Global Learning XPRIZE challenges teams from around the world to develop open source and scalable software that enables children ages seven to ten in developing countries to learn basic reading, writing, and arithmetic without adult assistance within the aforementioned time constraint of 15 months. Hundreds of teams from over 40 countries registered to compete, and last year, five finalists were selected.