Global ed­u­ca­tion

Finweek English Edition - - IN BRIEF -

You get what you in­cen­tivise’. This is one of the core be­liefs driv­ing XPRIZE, a global or­gan­i­sa­tion which de­signs in­cen­tivised prize com­pe­ti­tions that spur in­no­va­tion and tech­no­log­ica l ad­vance­ment.

The Google Lu­nar XPRIZE, for ex­am­ple, aims to “open a new era of lu­nar travel” by de­creas­ing the cost of ac­cess to the moon and space. The Global Learn­ing XPRIZE, on the other hand, is seek­ing to solve a more down-to-earth hu­man prob­lem – ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion. The com­pe­ti­tion is chal­leng­ing teams to de­velop open-source and scal­able soft­ware that will en­able chil­dren in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries to teach them­selves el­e­men­tary read­ing, writ­ing and arith­metic skills – es­sen­tially em­pow­er­ing them to take charge of their own ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion.

Matt Keller, se­nior di­rec­tor of the Global Learn­ing XPRIZE, says that more than 300 teams from 60 coun­tries – in­clud­ing 75 en­tries from Africa – are cur­rently com­pet­ing for the juicy $10m (R116mn) Global Learn­ing XPRIZE.

“XPRIZE had been look­ing to do an ed­u­ca­tion prize for sev­eral years be­cause we be­lieve that a root cause of poverty, conf lict and in­equal­ity is the lack of ac­cess by hun­dreds of mil­lions of chil­dren world­wide to qual­ity learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences,” he ex­plains. “Be­cause we be­lieve that tech­nol­ogy presents op­por­tu­ni­ties for scale that tra­di­tional means do not, we be­gan to de­sign a prize based on the belief that chil­dren need ac­cess to learn­ing, and that tech­nol­ogy al­lows that ac­cess at scale.”

The top five en­tries will re­ceive $1m (R11.6mn) and ad­vance to the next phase, where their so­lu­tions will be field-tested in ru­ral vil­lages in East Africa over 18 months. The team whose so­lu­tion yields the great­est pro­fi­ciency gains in read­ing, writ­ing and arith­metic (mea­sured against a con­trol group) will re­ceive $10m.

With the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s im­pres­sive track record of pro­duc­ing break­through ideas and so­lu­tions, ed­u­ca­tors and en­trepreneurs alike are un­doubt­edly keep­ing a close eye on this par­tic­u­lar prize.

“The XPRIZE model is suc­cess­ful be­cause the com­pe­ti­tions are open to all in­di­vid­u­als and groups – re­gard­less of ex­pe­ri­ence or ex­per­tise – who have great ideas, the pas­sion to solve a grand chal­lenge and the means by which to do so,” says Keller. “Even the teams that don’t win help to pro­vide tech­nolo­gies and ideas that are adopted by oth­ers.

“Whether it was tech­nol­ogy pro­duced to cre­ate a car that would go 100 miles on a gal­lon of gas or ideas that went into de­vel­op­ing a bet­ter way to clean up oil spills; what comes out of an XPRIZE is of­ten far greater than what we an­tic­i­pate.”

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